Last night I noticed something about myself which intrigued me and I want to share my discovery. I have to warn you that the contents of this piece are quite dark and possibly a little disturbing.
My therapist spent years trying to get me to recognise my thoughts and emotions. When I first started seeing her I could tell her that I wasn’t feeling good, but I couldn’t tell her exactly how I felt or why. I can now recognise thoughts and feelings most of the time. Sometimes I am able to do this by myself and sometimes it takes a conversation with another person. This for me is a huge step forward.
I have now been able to identify 2 different states.
The first is where I am reacting to an event. An example of this happened a few days ago. I was feeling low but had arranged to go to the cinema with my sister. We watched the film (Paddington 2) which was funny and wonderful and sad and just plain brilliant. I was happy. Then my sister told me about a letter she had received, had I received one too, what did I think? My first thought was along the lines of “oh, it’s all my fault, what have I done?”. Over the next few minutes as my brain went into overdrive my demeanour changed to confused and scared. This is what is called catastrophising. My sister helped me to identify my feelings and after about an hour I was calmer.
The second state is what happened last night. And this is what is particularly troubling me.
During the day I had been feeling ok. I can’t say normal, because I don’t think I have a normal. But there were no overwhelming emotions, I don’t remember feeling particularly anxious. I was getting on with my day. But when I caught myself in the mirror my face looked a little scary. It is something I have seen before. My cheeks look sunken and my skin looks blue, especially around the cheekbones. My mother sometimes used to comment on my looking grey. Which I found particularly annoying because I would be feeling fine. Sometimes when she said this I was actually feeling quite alive and happy.
So yesterday I found that my face looked unwell but my mood didn’t reflect this.
Then in the evening I experienced an overwhelming sadness. It appeared to come from nowhere. And it was extreme. It was after the feeling of desperation had overtaken me that I started to think sad thoughts. It was as if my brain said to itself, you’re feeling sad for no reason so I had better give you a reason. Which is weird, but I swear it is how it seemed to happen.
I felt as if I couldn’t live anymore. Life was too painful. For me, this happens frequently. Sometimes I feel driven to harm myself. Over the last few months (since February) I have succeeded in not acting on these thoughts. But last night I didn’t want to do anything, there was no urge. I just wanted to not be.
I managed to sit with these thoughts and feelings raging through me. It felt as if they were controlling me instead of me controlling them. I felt powerless and desperate and….. it is difficult to explain exactly how I felt.
I managed to distract myself and begin to calm down a little. It was when I was calm that my body temperature dropped. I was so cold. This often happens after an episode.
I feel the need to exhaust myself when I have had this type of experience. This involves staying awake for far too long, till I’m nearly dropping with tiredness. If I’m not completely exhausted by the time I go to bed the thoughts come back and I start sobbing uncontrollably all over again. Finally, I fell asleep. This exhausted sleep is never restful. It is filled with strange, troubling dreams and I awake hours later nearly as exhausted as I was when I fell asleep. Then I have a day of feeling numb and lifeless. Another spell in bed is often necessary, but this too can sometimes be overshadowed by strange dreams.
My question is, is this a phenomenon that other people experience? Having a strange coloured face and feeling sad for no apparent reason? Or is this an extension of not being able to recognise the thoughts that go through my head? Are they locked away so deep within my unconscious that I don’t know they’re there? Or is it some sort of chemical imbalance?
Yes, I know, that’s a lot of questions!