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C12P02 – Start Again

C12P02 – Start Again published on 10 Comments on C12P02 – Start Again

Zhiro’d like to think he’s holding things together pretty well, but he’s on uncertain ground at best. I’m afraid I’m not doing much better myself at the moment. My anxiety has skyrocketed recently and I’m not sure precisely why.

It may be the worst of the storm before the clouds part. These Complexes sense Death looming and they’ve decided to fight the change with every tooth and nail. Sometimes that means getting so loud, and so oppressive, that breathing becomes a challenge. Let alone communicating. It can be very hard on Cory especially, who does not have depression and anxiety issues, because if I can’t string a sentence together, I can’t tell him what I need.

Today I was really thankful we’d created a form of communication for exactly these kinds of situations. I thought that I’d share it here, in case somebody else might benefit from it.

There are two categories: Static, and Urges. Each one is paired with a number on a 1 to 10 scale. So if I am struggling to communicate, I don’t have to try to form a sentence. I can just give two words, and two numbers, and Cory knows what’s going on and what actions are appropriate to respond with.

Static is a set of typical self-destructive thoughts that I have more-or-less all the time. I’ve had these since I was a very young child, so while a lot of people find the idea of my Static terrifying or horrible, to me they’re very mundane and not particularly threatening. Oppressive, certainly, but not threatening. They come in a variety of narratives.

The most benign flavor is turning every situation into a way that I could hurt myself. “See that door? Crush your head with it. See that cord? Hang yourself with it.” This may sound awful, but it’s also really obvious, which makes it easy to identify, roll my eyes about, and move on with my day. If the volume gets loud, it might intrude on top of other thoughts, and that’s a little worse because it actively inhibits accessing my own desires and plans. However, this is still more manageable than the strongest narrative, which is where the thoughts are more believable and convincing.

Rather than urging me to self-destruct actively, they work to convince me the world would be a far better place if I wasn’t in it. This level of Static goes after everything. My relationships (nobody likes you, everyone that meets you despises you, they all can’t wait to get away from you, anything nice you’ve every attempted for anyone is viewed with scorn and suspicion, you’re dragging them down, you’re wasting their time) and my work (your story is harmful, riddled with ignorance and bias, boring, poorly written, nobody reads it, nobody enjoys it, everyone thinks it and by proxy YOU are terrible) and my general person (you’re ignorant, thoughtless, racist, sexist, biased, lazy, stupid, you talk too much, you’re a failure, you’re worthless, you’re selfish).

I’d like to re-emphasize that this is all TYPICAL for me. I have had these thoughts since I can remember having thoughts. THEY ARE NOT DANGEROUS TO ME. So before anybody starts ringing alarm bells, consider that this might be the first time that you’re hearing about it, but I assure you that it is not the first time I’ve experienced them. Made it 30 years listening to this crap in some form almost every day and I’m still here. It’s also getting better. Seeing a therapist for seven years or so has helped a lot. Some days the volume on Static is so low it may as well not be there anymore. Doesn’t mean that I don’t still have Static 10 days, but I have more and more Static 1 days than before.

Static can rob me of speech, but I have no fear that it will ever rob me of life.

Static means that Cory is actually okay to leave me alone and sort it out on my own. Or, if he has the energy, it can also be dealt with by affirming words or comforting actions (like hugs). He knows that I may not be able to communicate, and the fact that I know that he knows that often takes a lot of the anxiety of the situation out. I know he’s not going to bombard me with questions I can’t answer, or worry needlessly. This can give me the space to sort out how I feel and eventually regain the ability to talk. Even if it might be like one of the Sloths from the DMV in Zootopia for a while.

Urges are the danger category.

Urges I never had until the assault a few years ago. After that, I learned how to be afraid of myself, because sometimes I would lose control of my own limbs and find them lashing out at my body, or at hard surfaces which they could use to injure themselves. Urges are often accompanied by disassociation from my body, where I will no longer look at my hands and understand that they belong to me. Urges are terrifying, and often paralyzing, because I don’t trust myself around anything potentially dangerous. I can’t cook (knives) or make the bed (sheets) or do a variety of activities that might take me near something that my body might co-opt for a destructive purpose. Can’t use a computer, because I might break it. Can’t write anything down, because I might rip the notebook apart. I become a danger to myself and everything around me, and I just end up curled up around myself, not daring to move until the feeling passes.

An Urges of about 4 or above communicates to Cory “Please help me, I’m scared, talk to me, don’t trust what comes out of my mouth, don’t let me near anything dangerous, don’t leave me alone.”

Applying the categories and numbers allows me to communicate the level of help that I need and the nature of the problem. If I’m at a Static 10 and an Urges 2, then I’m probably not going to be talking for a while and I’m probably going to be going through basic self-care for a while, but mostly I need space. If I’m at a Static 3 and an Urges 6, I need a lot more help, but I’m going to be able to talk through it and communicate with a higher level of objectivity.

What’s key about using this system is that we’ve discussed these states and the meaning of the numbers in advance. And we keep discussing them as we learn new things. Maybe a better way to deal with Static, or a more effective way to deescalate an Urge. This discussion happens when I am feeling healthy, stable, and aware enough to give him accurate descriptions of my experience and make reasonable suggestions about what is best to do. He’s also in a calm and relaxed space, so he can ask questions and discuss tactics. If we wait until there’s a problem, then neither of us has the tools needed to address it, because the issues shut communication down.

I know a lot of this sounds pretty extreme to someone if they’ve never experienced depression that is similar in manifestation as mine, but I’m hopeful that those of you that struggle in similar ways and have partners that want to help, but can’t, might get some use out of this system. I’ve found time and again that it has helped Cory and I help each other through times where, without this system, we’d have been completely helpless.

What other ways have you found to communicate when communication seems impossibly challenging?

10 Comments

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That actually sounds really useful. 😮 Advanced prep is essential… Alas, I don’t really have much myself. Usually I have to talk myself out of it, regardless if I actually picture “myself” doing the reasoning.
As a secondary query, how much use would Zhiro find these methods?
*Optional!Hugs*

Talking myself out of it is what I do most of the time. I usually talk out loud, which seems to make the thinking easier for me. I think it’s a perfectly viable method! Sometimes it helps to have someone to talk to, but other times that can actually make processing harder, for me at least, because then I start worrying about them in addition to everything else.

As for Zhiro, I think at this point ANY kind of communication would be good. He keeps everything to himself after a lifetime of being taught that nobody wants to hear what he has to say.

It’s neat that you’ve found such a simple way to deal with that sort of situation, though I do wish you hadn’t had to do so. I’m glad you’ve had therapy and that you have supportive people around you.

Often when I have a hard time communicating, the answer is one of two things depending on the reason. If I can’t communicate because I’m angry, or because I have ‘swirling thoughts’ (an emotional/mental state I get into where it feels like my brainspace has become a whirlpool and I can’t move fast enough to catch a coherent thought) the answer is to either walk away from the problem a moment or ask for space/time to find the right words. If I am upset and too emotional to catch the ‘swirling thoughts’ at all, I tend to go stream-of-consciousness. Usually that’s the point where I find the Benji (my SO), go get a hug, and stream until something coherent comes out, since actually blurting out my thoughts like that can help me organize them/bleed off all the crud. And Benji, bless his heart, is very good at listening and finding the right questions to ask to get my brainscramble all moving in its proper channels again.

One note, Robin, I actually have something like the first Static you mentioned – the whole, how to turn any situation I’m in dangerous, although in my case they’re usually images rather than words. I found out that there’s a technical name for that, which you probably know if you’ve been to therapy, but I wanted to put it out there for any Leylians who wondered, like I did, if it reflected badly on them or if they were worse off than they thought they were. They’re called Intrusive THoughts, things you dont want to think but that pop up and ‘intrude’ on your psyche anyway. They can take a lot of forms – self-destructive, like mine, or destructive towards others (some people report thinking of ways to hurt or kill other people), or sometimes blasphemous or religious in nature (I get some of these too, things like “Satan wants me” or “What if I made a deal with the devil” and stuff like that). They’re usually disturbing but the hallmark is that there’s no actual urges or desire that accompanies the thought, it just happens.

Your swirling thoughts sound very familiar. That’s been one of the most valuable aspects of working with my therapist, because I can just get everything dumped out on the table and then sort through it. Cory sometimes can be a fixer, so if I haven’t communicated that I just need to pour out (something often even I don’t know) then it can create a frustrating situation where I am trying to sort and he’s trying to fix a perceived problem that isn’t actually an issue. My therapist lets me sort, find, and articulate, so when I go talk to Cory the interaction is more focused. It sounds like you and Benji have found your own dynamic that works too!

It’s interesting, I’d heard the term for Intrusive Thoughts, but never applied them to what I experience. I’d always thought of them as externally focused (“That guy cut me off in traffic MAY THEY BURST INTO FLAMES”) rather than something that could be directed inward. I guess I’ve just become so used to Intrusive Thoughts that I’d come to view them as Typical Thoughts. It might be valuable for me to remember that, frequent or not, they’re still Intrusive.

Yeah, it was a bit of a shock to learn that this kind of thing is not only pretty widespread across mental illness but comes in so many forms. If you’re the kind of person who definitions help, here’s the one from Uncle Wiki’s page on them:

“An intrusive thought is an unwelcome involuntary thought, image, or unpleasant idea that may become an obsession, is upsetting or distressing, and can feel difficult to manage or eliminate.[1] When such thoughts are associated with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), depression, body dysmorphic disorder (BDD), and sometimes attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), the thoughts may become paralyzing, anxiety-provoking, or persistent.”

And for those Leylians who like research, here’s a link to the page itself: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intrusive_thought

Of course keeping in mind to take unsourced information with a grain of salt.

This discussion has prompted me to take a look at my Intrusive Thought level vs. Non-Intrusive Thoughts. When I’m in a healthy state of mind, Intrusive thoughts probably make up only about 10% or less of my daily internal processing. They’ll pop up, but then don’t snowball into thoughts that I’ll end up fixating on or building scenarios around. Lately though, I’d put my Intrusive Thoughts as high as 50% – 75% of my daily thoughts, because they don’t just intrude, they build up entire narratives and plans of action around themselves. Things like “Your neighbor said this ignorant thing that bothered you…SO NOW YOU NEED TO CREATE A 5-POINT PRESENTATION WITH SOURCED FACTS TO EDUCATE THEM ON YOUR POINT OF VIEW” or “The toilet downstairs needs to be replaced…LET’S THINK ABOUT HOW, THROUGH YOUR DEEP INCOMPETENCE, THIS WILL RESULT IN YOUR HOUSE FLOODING AND THEN CAVING IN. AND LIGHTING ON FIRE. SOMEHOW.”

These never seemed like a variation of the Static that I described, because it wasn’t as overt as the obvious “go kill yourself” variety…but looking at this broader definition, I’m realizing how these kinds of long, spun-out scenarios only show up when something else is going on in my head.

Huh. This exercise could be a really useful Awareness Tool for the future!

That is a rather well thought out and useful system, in my opinion. I think dealing with how others react to you, controlling how much interaction they provide you to match what you need is a considerably well thought out method. Especially if people interacting is a trigger.

I have very little patience for interacting with people who have anxiety issues. Despite my own social anxiety, there is a level of disconnection when it comes to empathy for others. It continues on to myself as well though, the same impatience and aggravation that their episodes cause me, my own episodes trigger as well. Which naturally lead to suppression and avoidance, since I’d hate to be seen (or see myself) as weak. The intelligent side knows it’s psychological and adrenaline based, but my subconscious and emotional sides aren’t reasonable at all. My coping mechanisms are very much based on stubbornness and vengefulness, to be honest.

I think it’s very natural to get frustrated with others for the very things we’re frustrated at in ourselves. I know that I hate feeling weak, emotional, nervous, and negative. When I see others exhibiting any of those things, my initial gut reaction is often a deep discomfort. Therapy has helped me be a little more compassionate with myself, which I’ve noticed has sometimes translates to more compassion for others, but it’s definitely not 100% of the time. I’m never completely sure if I’m going to respond with “I relate to what you’re going through, so I can be understanding” or “I know what you’re going through, so KNOCK IT OFF because UGH.”

Of course, the more stable I am, the more likely I will be able to be kind. If I’m already weak, then finding that internal strength to be understanding takes a lot more work. Hence why I think that preventative measures, like talking things out with people about one’s own issues and needs in advance, can be a lot more effective than trying to figure all that junk out in the moment. At that point, there’s just too much to deal with, not enough energy to properly handle it, and the brain is handicapped on what it can even perceive and process in that altered state. Plus, it’s all skill building. Easier to focus on enhancing a single skill when I don’t have to try juggling ten other things!

I’m sorry you have to deal with all that crap, Robin. None of it is true. You’re wonderful, and also very wise for making a system to communicate when you’re feeling bad. That’s something I’m still working on with my boyfriend.

Communication is one of the most important life skills to cultivate. It makes such a huge difference in so many ways. And it has to be cultivated and improved all the time. Some people never learn how to start. I think it’s wonderful that you and your boyfriend are working on it. I know Cory and I still are!!

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