Thursday, 6 February 2014

Memories are made of this

Memory is a funny thing.  Being a slave to your memories is anything but. 

It is three years since the things I can't get out of my head started.  I couldn't have imagined that they would still be causing me this much distress.  Long story short? A Person who had a grudge against me started to write anonymously to my work place which culminated in them investigating me for supposedly lying about having depression.  I wasn't lying, I became suicidal, I resigned. 

When I put it like that, it doesn't sound like much. It was.  It is. That I could be hated that much is something I really struggle with but not as much as I struggle with the fact that the people I worked with at The Place, who knew my mental health history lifted not one finger to support me or defend me. The Person and The Place threw me to the wolves and stood by whilst they tore out my sense of self.

Until the last week or so, I've not told anyone how The Person and The Place infiltrate my thoughts. It's constant. One or the other, or both, are there when I go to bed, there in my dreams and there during every waking hour.  I relive each moment, I imagine it happening again, scenarios from the past and the potential future play over and over in my head.  I can see it, I can see them. 

I resigned in January 2012.  It was January 2014 before I could even go to the train station near The Place.  As for The Person,  they are still on the periphery.  Being part of my local community is great but it also means it is almost impossible for me to avoid them, although I do try.  

Last week I did an assessment for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).  It seems to fit.  What happened to me wasn't typical of the type of events that trigger PTSD and this in itself makes me feel like a fraud - I haven't be assaulted or witnessed an act of violence, been in a war or earthquake zone, I haven't had a life-threatening illness.  I read this earlier though that I think I can justifiably say is the case:

Harmful intentions
Man-made disasters, particularly those involving deliberate acts of violence, terrorism, or exploitation, seem to cause longer-lasting and more painful emotional consequences than natural disasters. The crucial factor may be that such experiences destroys people’s trust in others, particularly if they involve someone you have depended on.
It was a disaster.  Me and my mental health were exploited by someone with harmful intentions and that experience did destroy my trust in my colleagues and employer who I depended on.  I had depended on them for nearly 9 years. 
I've been signed off work for two weeks due to depression and anxiety. I am so scared that when I go back to work next week, it will be to be told they've received an anonymous letter with allegations that I am faking a mental health condition.   I really wouldn't put it past The Person to do it again, just to fuck with me. I've only been in this job 7 months.  If an employer of 9 years wouldn't back me, can I really expect the current one to? I know the rational answers to all this, but I don't think the fear will ever go away.
Sitting here writing, I can't stop the images of The Person reading this and feeling satisfied at the role they still play in my life. I wish I could cut out the part of my brain that does this and feed it to the wolves. 


  1. Hello. A person we know in common on Twitter pointed me to your blog, primarily because she knows I have PTSD, and, although I am not a doctor, it certainly sounds from your description that you do too.

    My rather marvellous consultant described the condition to me like this: think of the brain as a sorting office. When events happen, the brain parcels them up and posts them in the appropriate place. PTSD occurs when the brain can't properly pack the parcel, so it keeps springing open, and falling off the shelf - that is what the flashbacks and the pervasive thoughts are. The brain constantly wants to recover, so develops all sorts of tricks to try and repackage the parcel so it can be posted - things like avoidance tactics for places, smells and people that can trigger the parcel springing open.

    The problem is that avoidance doesn't ever repackage the parcel, so it carries on falling off the shelf, often in messier ways than previously, because it is getting more and more bashed as time goes on, and harder to package, and that is where professional help has to step in-the brain can't do it alone. Think of treatment as an extra pair of hands holding the string in place to help you finally wrap the blummin damn thing up.

    The two main treatments are CBT and EMDR - the psychologist will assess which is likely to work better for you. As this is a medical condition, it needs a doctor to fix it - a therapist or counsellor may be able to put on a sticking plaster, but you need a psychologist to actually treat it properly. Most Trusts have a dedicated PTSD psychology service, for which you will need a referral. I took a list of my symptoms to my GP, who referred me straight away.

    Please don't think that you are a fraud. A trauma doesn't necessarily have to be one big quick flash event, which is often how the literature describes it. It describes it that way because they are the common causes, and because science is still learning about the effects of trauma. What happened to you on anyone's description is traumatic, and the kicker of PTSD is that it is subjective - what caused mine may not have caused it in you, what caused yours may not have caused it in me... but that doesn't mean that we don't have the same condition. Please go to your doctor and get a referral. If you want it, I'm happy to hold your digital hand along the way - we don't even have to know who each other is, just that we have a sucky condition and sometimes, it helps to know that the thing you are going through is a normal part of an illness and recovery. Take care x

    1. Hello, thank you so much for this.

      I had an IAPT assessment where PTSD was touched upon last week, but it's a 4 month wait for CBT. If I go back to my GP, I hope they'll be able to circumvent IAPT/redirect to a more specialist service.

      I had CBT through IAPT previously but that was for depression and this feels like a very different set of needs.

      Thanks again, hand-holding is much appreciated xx

    2. Yeah, the waiting lists for the general treatments for depression and anxiety do tend to be long, but the good news is they are usually shorter for PTSD treatment, the hard part (depending on how good your GP is) is getting the GP to understand it is more likely to be PTSD than anything else and make the referral.

      It is a very different set of needs, and it is very different treatment. I don't know if it is the same for everyone, but I started to see improvements as soon as it started - the events become less, the thoughts less intrusive, until one day you realise you got through the day and it just wasn't there. Then you get to think about it all in a 'normal' way and put it to rest, so it just becomes a thing that happened that you occasionally think about rather than the big invasive monster that takes over your head.

      The hand is always here - if you need anything, nudge our mutual friend. Feel free to ask anything, honestly, whatever you need. x

  2. Sorry... I missed a bit out. Those aren't memories chicken, they're flashbacks. Memories are normal recollection of an event. Flashbacks are reliving the events. Feeling what you felt at the time, smelling what you smelled, hearing exactly what you heard - it is like being right there, where you were, as it happened, back in that place, in that moment. What happens after treatment though is it becomes a memory. You can think about it without reliving it - and it is the reliving that is the exhausting bit. x