Allergic to Distress

This week started with the 12th anniversary of my Mother's. I never quite know what to feel or if I should feel anything - surely enough time has passed? The past few weeks have been an amazing holiday in France, despite a wobble or two.

At this moment I'm nervous about returning to work tomorrow. I know my friends and colleagues will have done a brilliant job but just what chaos awaits? I've already heard some office gossip which makes my return more draining. On my return I have a meeting with HR regarding my report from my psycologist and the company Doctor. Between those meetings and today I have had an anxiety attack and been practising my mindfulness.

See more at the bottom of this
 post or twitter: @mattstreuli
The rest of this post is some self assigned homework which I am writing to help myself process what was covered in today's group therapy and perhaps explain the logic or the 'processprogramme.exe' in my brain ready for that HR meeting but also to help you understand what could be be going on inside the RAM of someone with mental health issues.

Distress Intolerance is the clinical way of describing a fear or issues handling negative feelings and in turn the situation that caused them. Sometimes it could be the anxiety about a meeting with your HR or even the act of trying to bury a difficult memory rather than confront and process it. In this context, distress could be any upsetting or unpleasant feeling such as sorrow, fear, anger or panic.Not all negative feelings are distressing, sometimes we all feel a little sad or if  your watching a jumpy film such as Alien or a horror film like Scream you might even enjoy that panic or fear. In fact, distress is when we feel the negative feeling and we therefore feel bad about it; for example I often feel stupid for feeling low or apply tougher standards to myself then I would to any other person.

One one hand, it makes sense to avoid situations, events or memories that cause us pain and so this allergy to distress or things that make you feel negative could just be an inbuilt protection method. But, for myself and others who do not process emotions safely and effectively, this protection system is in overload. My fear, anxiety and avoidance of the 'distress' actually exacerbates the original problem. An example? I have an issue at work, but I also have other responsibilities at work and I am worried about meeting my high standards and the repercussions if I can't keep up from the customer, my management but also myself. Rather than allow myself to focus on the main problem and therefore complete it to my actual best ability, more of the mental capacity goes on worrying and avoiding the problem or the feelings that are attributed.

So why do I allow myself to magnify and then spiral out of control?

 It is an in built fear that I will ruin everything triggered by the event (meeting with HR or return to work, or a confrontation with a customer or a friend) and it will end in disaster. I will let people down. I will be a burden. I will be in trouble. A disaster that is my fault, even if I know that I am not to blame (delays to my deliveries by strikes in Calais or something outside my remit.
This grows.

I know that whilst I feel like this, I know that it is not the truth. The facts are we all have problems and we all make mistakes. If anyone at work or play was to come to me with the problems or symptoms I present, I would never say they are not trying hard enough. We would all go the extra mile to support them. I know this and yet I feel the exact opposite. This in turn presents frustrations: it is wrong to feel this way, I am weak, I am bad, I am going mad, I am losing control, I cannot cope, I cannot continue and ultimately I want peace and therefore I want to die.

There are three ways of coping with this overactive protective system.

Avoidance - Avoid the problem.
Confrontation is a big issue for me so I hate answering the phone and opening my post. When I am wobbly already I avoid things such as socialising also. This works but leads to fear and anxiety as you begin to avoid more and more situations - will I suddenly become a hermit?
Another method is seeking reassurance. I do this online through twitter and Elefriends but also through my close friends. Am I right to react the way I am? Is this fair? Are they in a mood with me? Am I under attack? Did I do something wrong? At work this is working closely with my colleagues and my line managers to check I am going in the right way. On one hand this limits my independence but it reassures me and prevents mistakes, but it also hinders things I know I am confident it yet I don't feel safe due to the attack or repercussions.
Finally, distraction. I know I am worrying about something I cannot change. So distract myself. Put on a comedy I know I like to do things with friends or bury myself in work. It only works in the very short term but with mindfulness it is a good coping mechanism. Only short term though as it never resolves the problem.

Numbing & Withdrawing
Some people turn to drink or drugs to help cope with their situations. I sometimes binge eat - got to love tea and biscuits or crispy M&Ms right? I also over sleep. When I am low or triggered, I go from a 7 hours of good sleep to 9 or 10 hours of fetal position trying to sleep yet feeling awful. Isolated and useless, I am rotting in the perpetual loop of mental questions I posed above; I isolate myself such as Am I right to react the way I am? Is this fair? Are they in a mood with me? Am I under attack? Did I do something wrong? Earlier this year I posted a blog about my friends coming to my flat and then going to my Dad's house when I refused to communicate online or let them in. They were scared I might be dead because I never disappear online.

Harmful Releases
For me, this is self harm. I cut myself with a stanley knife or crafts scalpel. This provides a sudden relief. The brain releases good-feeling endorphins but also the physical pain overrides the mental one. Other people go from self harm to burning themselves and even physical violence. I even self-harmed whilst on holiday. The bit that society doesn't want to admit is that self-harm seems to work. It gets me out of the rotting I mentioned earlier and back to functioning but it leaves scars. Whilst on holiday my 12 year old sister asked me in the pool why I had two scabs in lines on my upper arm and why there were light white lines with it. If anyone else had asked I would give the honest answer yet I froze.

These mechanisms in combination or alone depending on the situation work for me but they are not ideal and lead to other problems in our lives as I hope I have hinted.

But over the past few months I have asked for more help and hopefully not been as harsh or horrible to myself as I have before.

The question is- how do I break the cycles that take me to using binge eating, oversleeping, self-isolation in bed drained of all energy, the increasing fear and anxiety, the deterioration I feel in dealing with difficult situations and self-harm.

Thank you for reading - sorry it has been light on humour and heavy on mental health theory! Do you use these methods? How did you break the cycle? Messages of support, love and proposals of marriage are welcome... hehe As always please have a browse of my blog and comment here or on twitter .

Below is some pictures and videos from my holiday.

Now deep breaths as I ponder... Do I go back to work or is it time for pastures new? Thanks again! Much love xxx

A photo posted by Matthew E Streuli (@matthewstreuli) on

#boobsinthethumbnail #sexappearl
 #cutecouple #SH4CF #havebabies!!

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