After talking about my volatile moods in a therapy session a few weeks ago, I decided to sit down and think about how they change so quickly. I had always been under the impression that I am either functioning or in a crisis, so it was useful to consider the shifts that occur in between. I managed to identify five states that regularly occur for me and it has been really useful to be aware of these.
Not preoccupied with feelings, not examining the past or dreading the future. Just OK.
- ANXIOUS / WORRIED
This state is my normal. I am almost always in this place of self-doubt and mid-level fear of the future.
Thoughts: Worried about family, work, therapy, home, what’s going to happen next. Trying to ignore how I feel and often failing. Questioning myself and my decisions. I don’t believe in myself. People are only kind to me because I manipulate them into thinking I am a good person.
Feelings: Suppressing feelings, hiding negativity. Consumed with regret and low self-worth. Afraid of the future; short and long-term.
- WITHDRAWAL / SEDATION
In this place I shut down. I isolate, I don’t want to speak to people, see people, or do anything. Being out of the house is frightening, the outside world feels hostile.
Thoughts: I have to hide from people and from life. I am vulnerable and overwhelmed, frustrated at the things I can’t or won’t change. It is like there are a million thoughts, all negative, and they want to explode out of me. It all becomes a horrible, chaotic mess in my head. So I withdraw and retreat into the chaos, chasing one thought after another and getting increasingly stressed and confused. I want to switch off, to have a break from my thoughts. That’s when using alcohol or drugs becomes appealing.
Feelings: I feel paralysed by an awful numbness and lethargy. Hopelessness starts to creep in. Resentment, shame, guilt and fear are intolerable and so I seek anything to distract or numb myself. I feel heavy and tired. I want to hide. I feel small and vulnerable, and that sends me into hibernation mode. It feels safer to be curled up and covered in blankets.
This phase usually occurs when I am triggered. It can also happen when I am excessively tired or stressed. I deliberately distance myself from people who care about me, so I can fully engross myself in a downward spiral of self-loathing and guilt. I don’t want to be helped.
Triggers include: Abuse, self-harm, suicide, or blood on TV. Nightmares and flashbacks. Events in my life that feel out of my control. Family. Guilt. Disappointment. Anger. Failure. Feeling as though I am responsible for hurting someone I love. Being around someone I love who is upset in a way I can’t ‘fix’.
Thoughts: I am worthless. I’m a horrible person. I need to punish myself. I want to feel physical pain. If I harm myself, people will understand how awful I feel. It is not possible for me to be comforted by anything or anyone, and I have no right to ask for comfort. If I talk to someone about how I feel, it is unfair of me to expect them to listen or respond.
I absorb myself in existential questioning. I ask myself repeatedly what I think the meaning of life is, and I can never find an answer. I fantasise about harming myself badly. I plan suicide methods and visualise them. I stop eating because I want to suffer. I want to deprive myself of anything good.
Feelings: Huge pressure building inside me. Anger. Guilt. Shame. Hopelessness. Self-hatred. Emotions feel like they are overpowering me. I feel like I am losing control of all the defences I forcibly maintain to stop myself feeling. It is claustrophobic, I feel stuck and trapped.
I can quickly switch into this state from any of the others. It often happens after I’ve been triggered and felt self-destructive. I’ve usually isolated beforehand, so I am alone when I reach crisis point. I often engineer my circumstances so that I have enough time alone to consider how I want to end my life.
Thoughts: I am not capable. I am incompetent. Everything I attempt to achieve will fail. Everyone I love will let me down, abandon or betray me. Nothing in my life is real. I have no control over anything. I will never be well. I know I keep returning to this place, and I feel as though I can’t tolerate experiencing it again and again. Nothing in my possible future is worth enduring how I feel right now.
Death is nothing, and I want nothing. I am convinced that there is no meaning or purpose in life. There is no afterlife. If I kill myself that will be the end. I become obsessed with my death; planning different suicide methods and writing letters for people to read after it is done. I see suicide as my only escape route, and I want to escape. I am not willing to choose life, because life is too painful for me.
Feelings: It feels as though my life is a lie and all those lies are unravelling to expose who I really am underneath. The real me is an empty shell. She is worthless and I detest her. I feel a huge amount of shame and also guilt. I feel completely hopeless. It’s like I can only think of pain; painful memories and sadness. I feel deeply wounded, and it hurts so badly I can’t see any way to carry on. The hurt is too heavy. I am exhausted.
Photo: darkday, Creative Commons.