DBT: First Fortnight Thoughts 

If you’ve been following the start of my ‘Mouse Does DBT’ series you will know that I have recently started an intensive course of Dialectical Behavioural Therapy. So far I am undeniably sceptical. I’m intrigued how and if this therapy will help me.

DBT is practical- which is a good thing. The practical approach means that the skills are useful for any human being on the planet- regardless of if they have illness. I have noticed that DBT is incredibly hard work. Coming out of my first group session I felt like I had been run over by a bus on the M25. Once I had recovered from it, there was stacks of reading and a piece of daily homework to do. After my first one to one I was terrified. I was told that I (like everyone else) will inevitably get things wrong in DBT. Even though I logically know this, it isn’t a comfortable thought for me. I desperately want to get everything right so that I have the best possible chance of recovery.  The therapist also said that she would tell me if she felt that I was not working hard enough- but what if I truly do work my hardest but DBT just doesn’t work for me? 

To mice sitting around a coffee table with a box of tissues on. One of the mice is wearing a lanyard.

The frustrating thing is that I am already aware of many skills that could help me. I can talk breathing exercises and self soothe boxes until I’m blue in the face. Unfortunately dissociation means I am zoned out, cut off and unaware at the exact moment I should be using any of these techniques. To the outside world it looks like a seizure and I am completely unaware of everything around me. 

Apparently with DBT I will one day be able to break down the chain of events that lead to a dissociative episode and eventually catch it before it strikes. At the moment disociation feels like the plug for my consciousness being pulled out suddenly for reasons I’m not always aware of. I can’t even imagine having the time and prior knowledge to slow -let alone stop- an attack. 

At the moment I have serious doubts over whether DBT is for me. There’s no way of knowing for -realistically- a few months at the least. I find it frustrating that even when I am not depressed and feeling pretty good I still have to go to therapy that stresses me out. I am aware that it would be completely stupid to stop going, because I know in my heart of hearts that depression will inevitably come knocking for me again. When that happens I need all the help I can get. I’ve got to keep going, keep trying to understand the skills and keep talking to all the professionals. I always find my own way in the end and in the long term DBT will do me no harm even if (worst case scenario) it does me no good.  

Angels Can Have Four Paws

I thought I would share this post with UpsideDownChronicles readers as well as people who know me from elsewhere. It’s the next day and I have slept the majority of the day and have lots of aches and pains. Nothing more than what could be expected though. Noodle has waited for me to play all day. She gives me hugs and licks my feet as I sleep; she is never impatient with me. We had a play at lunchtime and she got a good groom and a game of fetch. Now she is sleeping next to me as we watch Mean Girls for what must be the 6th time this week… Night! 

 Today I am grateful for my furry colleague and partner in crime. How can this paw perfect little guide dog switch roles so fast? In church she was a guiding dream- she even got blessed. But this evening I had two major dissociation episodes and she turned into my own furry superhero! There was a short time when I came round and it looked like the worst of it was over, so the staff propped the door open with a chair and went to get me a drink. The gremlin gripped me again while they were gone and the last thing I remember was the sound of her scrabbling to get out, under the chair, to find help. If I was fine she would never dream of doing this, It’s against all her training but she knows she must do it if I am going to get help. She went straight to staff and brought them to me. Things could have got so much worse if she hadn’t. 

The staff tried to make her calm down but she wouldn’t stop licking and licking me, putting her paws on me. She wanted me back! A member of staff took her out but still she wouldn’t calm. Had I been able I would have told staff that this was pointless- she only calms when she knows I’m supported and safe. Then it died and I was finally okay and she sunk straight back into being a beautifully behaved guide dog. No more craziness from either of us.

Now I’m as tired as if I ran a marathon- but if I stand up she will stand with me. I will slip a finger inside her collar and she will help me. One step at a time. I can’t express how thankful I am to have her in my life right now. I couldn’t do it without her and I certainly don’t say it enough. The nurses are now calling her ‘the super dog’. Anyway this has taken like an hour and a half to type but I just wanted to say thank you to anyone who supports guide dogs in any way. Every single guide dog is a super hero, they are our eyes and so much more. It’s incredible. I am also just so thankful that my little guide dog decided ophthalmology wasn’t enough, and took on the neurological too. Guide Dog of the Year Beyond the Call of Duty? I think it was very much deserved. Who knew angels could have four paws ey?

noodle and human snuggling

Old photo- “If I lay here, if i just lay here, would you lie with me and just forget the world”

I Got Reported Missing

I don’t think when *Cheery Lodge accepted a blind kid and her dog that they expected the duo to be a major abscondssion risk. But- always smashing assumptions, I proved them wrong. 

My escape wasn’t cleverly planned, or even remotely smart. In fact I didn’t even escape- I was already out on leave. I don’t want to go into the details of why I ran but something had snapped inside of me. 

I’ve talked about my problems with Dissociation before, but at the moment it has hit an all time high. I’m finding I lose a lot of time with no memory of what I have done. I drift away and it is incredibly hard to drift back. I’m lucky that my psychiatrist is really on the ball with this kind of thing, he is helping me understand why it happens and helping me get to a more stable place mentally. This will hopefully limit it’s effect on me. Annoyingly I can’t be discharged from hospital until my mind is fully and consciously in control of my body at all times. 

It’s because of this that I don’t remember the build up. I don’t remember how fast I ran or if people were shouting me. It’s like when the cinema screen fades to black. When I came back to my body I had no idea where I was apart from it being green and very, very quiet. My phone was dead and even the ever-knowing Noodle had no idea where we were. 

Eventually I found what sounded like a sports field. Cars were coming in and out of a concrete area and the sound of whistles and footballs being kicked was nearby. 

“Are you okay?” Says a woman.

“No” I reply in tears. “I’ve run away from a hospital”

“What kind of hospital? Who’s dog is this? Where’s the dog from?” She suddenly developed a harsh and panicked tone.

“I can’t see very well.” I mumbled. And then I ran. 

Finally I found my way to a road where, what are the chances, the unit manager caught sight of me from her car on her way home. The police had been out looking for me and staff from the unit had been driving round the area all afternoon. It was accepted that the reason I hadn’t been found was that I was in some kind of woodland away from any streets or roads.

When I turned my phone on I had the following text: 

a text message reads not protectively marked. you have been reported missing. please ring the police on 101 to let us know you are ok

I also had a similar answer phone message. For some reason I didn’t think the police did things like message missing people. ‘Reported missing’ sounds so scary, it shocked me to read. To me I had just been lost. But I suppose my lost is everyone else’s missing patient.

Turns out that the lady I spoke to works at the local vets practice. They were contacted the following day about getting Noodle a routine check up and the receptionist said that one of the partners had mentioned seeing a distressed girl and a Labrador that could have been a guide dog. It makes me laugh that this made worthy news to tell her colleagues but not the local police! 

My disappearance was in no way as dramatic as some of the ones I have witnessed whilst in hospital. I just got lost. I’ve been put on a higher observation level and I’m not allowed out without a member of staff. I feel quite sad about this, but I guess I’m just too ill at the moment. 

I’m not proud of that day. But this blog is my story, and I want people to know just how powerful the brain is and how a problem in the brain can affect people.



Pick a Card… Of Diva Neuro-boilers and Long Metaphors

“Please try again later” – Welcome to my life. My body and mind suck from time to time.

I’m not talking in a ‘I lost every race at sports day’ kind of way, (I did) but I’m talking in a flat out, ‘forgotten how to function’ way. The most recent recording of this occurrence was in my Summer School post.

I’m not going to list fancy words here, if you want feel free to ask for the medical terms in the comments. But the way I see it; at times my mind just says “Nah-ah” to the world and walks away. *sigh*- what a diva.

This ‘diva’ situation is, of course, universally covered in medical handbooks. Short term solutions involve: talking, coaxing and cramming chemicals into the poor boggled neuro-boiler affected. My neuro-boiler isn’t just a diva, here’s a long winded metaphor to explain:

It’s like my brain is at work at its desk, it has a lot of things going on at once and many different piles of paper filled with information. Things are going on all the time in the office and the brain is chugging its way through the tasks happily. However, suddenly there is a fire alarm and the brain has to drop everything and dash out. The alarm could be a drill or a real fire, it doesn’t matter which because the brain still has to do exactly the same thing when the alarm sounds. It overrides everything else and getting out takes top importance, no matter what was going on before it started. It is no one’s fault the alarm went off and it is unpredictable as to when it will happen again. After a while, when the alarm has been turned off and the building has been given the all clear, the brain wanders back to its desk like nothing ever happened and nonchalantly begins to work again.

This is dissociation. It’s a bit of a nightmare and means I am completely cut off or ‘frozen’ for a couple of seconds or minutes at a time. It happens when my brain gets so anxious, for legitimate reasons or not, that it just shuts a part of itself off and runs away. Sometimes it can lead to my major OCD/Anxiety attacks and sometimes it just fades away as if I have shut my eyes for a few minutes. While this happens I am at a total blank, not really thinking and not moving. Although it is scary I am slowly getting used to it, though it can still be worrying for the people around me.

Enter Stickman Communications!

Under the recommendation of a professional I bought myself some of these groovy cards. They explain what’s going on in very simple terms for friends or worried members of the public. I think they are a brilliant idea, especially if you are feeling too embarrassed to explain what’s going on to someone verbally. They cover all sorts of medical problems- not just fatigue and mental illness. They also don’t lead people into asking a zillion questions, which verbal explanations of complex things often do.

On my lanyard -bought by a friend for added comfort- I have cards for all occasions: when I ‘flop’, when I lose my voice and when my ability to think just disappears. I also have a very useful one which says “I really am OK, though a glass of water would be nice, if it isn’t too much trouble?” and also one that is matter of fact, saying that I have an illness and know that my behaviour is different right now, so please be patient. I think they are fantastically discreet and I am pretty sure they will save me loads of time spent worrying over ‘they think I was being rude’ moments.

The second thing I treated myself to was a pack of cards which are ‘traffic light’ indicators.

“I can’t cope”

“This is a bit much”

and “I am ok with this”.

I think they are brilliant as the first two are the phrases I find the most difficult of all to verbalise.

The lanyard lives in my handbag and it is very reassuring as it prevents people potentially calling ambulances unnecessarily. Which is very awkward.

I also couldn’t resist one of these fantastic ‘differently normal’ wrist bands. They are too cool.

Multicoloured wristbands which say 'differently normal'

In summary- Hannah Ensor is a genius and her company will be taking a lot of my money in the future!