Reticent

I learned a new word, “reticent.” Google defines reticent as “not revealing one’s thoughts or feelings readily.” I don’t remember where I read the word yesterday; but anytime I run across a word I don’t recognize, I look it up. This one stuck in my brain. Merriam-Webster defines reticent as “inclined to be silent or uncommunicative in speech.” It’s the perfect adjective to describe my inability to communicate. While experiencing (what feels like never-ending) waves of depression, the amount of force I need to push myself to share my thoughts and feelings, often isn’t there. I’ve been silent for so long (verbally), reticent throughout my isolation, reluctant to allow anyone close enough to see the pain.


As I sat writing the above paragraph, my thoughts were distant, difficult to ascertain. I began writing without knowing exactly what I wanted to write about. That single word kept repeating in my mind — reticent. I wrote the paragraph and promptly got pulled into a spiraling mess of despair. An incident over the weekend has me, yet again, questioning my sanity. I’m choosing to believe the incident was nothing more than a nightmare, not reality. I had other nightmares that night, so it’s not a stretch to believe that this was too. I didn’t get much sleep that night.

Anyway, I wrote one paragraph and spent twice as long attempting to distance myself from overwhelming thoughts.

Then, at some point around 7:30 pm, I saw a bright light outside my kitchen window. I got up to see what it was and saw a police car sitting in front of my house! Immediately, my thoughts began racing — what if “they” are monitoring my internet usage (yes, I get paranoid over shit like that), I shouldn’t have taken that depression screening online, what if they know I’m feeling suicidal? thinking about suicide?, thought police, 1984 (no, I’ve never read it. I don’t need anything else to stress/feel paranoid over), what if something happened to KR?, what if something happened to my son?, what if something happened to my mom? — so many thoughts within an incredibly short span of time while I rushed to close my browser before I heard a knock on my door. Time, as well as my heart, felt like it stopped.

I opened the door. The police officer asked if a certain person lived here. I had never heard of that person before. He asked how long I have lived here. I answered since July last year. I should have told him that the house had been vacant since November 2012, prior to KR and me moving in; but I didn’t have the presence of mind to do so. He confirmed the address. He asked for my name and phone number which I gave; and then, he left after apologizing for frightening me. Was it that obvious?! Apparently, so. I felt like a deer caught in headlights. The police car sat in the driveway for a few more minutes before driving off.

Rather than relief, I had a panic attack. It took me the better part of 45 minutes to calm myself down afterwards. Why do I let anxiety and fear get the better of me? Everybody and their Great Uncle with an opinion on the matter would have you believe that anxiety can be managed by being aware of your thoughts and challenging them. Yeah, sure, that works sometimes, provided there’s enough time to grab one thought and challenge it before another pops up in its place. When it comes to severe anxiety and panic attacks, though, it’s like every sense in my body is being overloaded all at once. I just have to ride out the wave, like with the depression….

A Break from the Storm

My mood has improved significantly over the past few days. Maybe, it’s the warmer temperatures. Maybe, it’s the beautiful stormy skies. Maybe, it’s the time I’ve spent outside (when it wasn’t raining) cleaning up the yard a bit. Maybe, it’s simply the “physical” activity of the latter. I don’t know, but I’ll take it — whatever freed my mind and cleared the fog. The ruminating part of me that gets sucked into the void of negativity until I’m neck-deep-stuck-in-the-mud-of-a-hole-of-depression finally relented. She’s not gone; but she released the reins, so to speak. I have no way to explain this. I’m not so sure anyone would take me seriously if I tried. More often than not, I struggle to understand this aspect of my life. Explaining it to another person was never really an option as a result.

Today, my thoughts returned to goals and the two questions my therapist asked me during our final visit. While I had pushed them to the back of my mind before, today, these questions popped up, front and center. Coincidentally, I ran across the Bern Inventory of Treatment Goals checklist as I was glancing through the worksheets from last year’s visit to the crisis unit. I had forgotten about this checklist. Had my therapist given me a copy of this rather than asking the open-ended question, “What are your goals for therapy?,” I doubt I would have become so overwhelmed by the question. I do much better when choices are presented to me clearly, like choose between “a” or “b” rather than “pick a letter of the alphabet.”

Going through this checklist now, I managed to narrow down 5 goals that should have been my goals for therapy to begin with, rather than the open-ended format that got me nowhere and left me feeling unheard and invalidated. Okay, maybe that’s a little harsh; however, it is true in my mind and how I feel.

  • #6 …overcome my suicidal thoughts or regain the desire to live. Granted this first one on my list was never discussed during therapy this last time due to my fears of worsening the suicidal thoughts, fears of forced medication, and fears of involuntary hospitalization; but I really do need to figure out why I keep coming back to feeling so suicidal. Without the desire to live, I just don’t see how anything else is possible.
  • #39 …learn how to be more assertive with others and set appropriate boundaries. I often struggle to be assertive or to set boundaries. My guess is that I need more practice with these skills as much as needing a refresher in learning how to do these things. For example, knowing that I need a certain amount of alone time to feel capable of coping with life in general, I need to be able to assert this and set specific boundaries with others to be sure I get the time I require. I feel like #40 (learn how to handle other people’s reactions to my behavior) as well as #56 (clarify my needs and desires and learn how to express them more effectively) are actually part of this one. I need help with all 3, nonetheless.
  • #50 …come to terms with things that happened in the past. This one was the #1 reason why I returned to therapy to begin with! Flashbacks, nightmares, panic attacks, etc. were wreaking havoc on my sanity at that time. While these symptoms (for lack of a better word) come and go, they have been a part of my life for more than 17 years. Enough is enough. I NEED help with this one. I seriously don’t know how else to ask for it other than what I’ve already done.
  • #57 …figure out what my limits are and how to act accordingly. This one is fairly self-explanatory. I hate to hear people say, “The only limits you have are the limits you place on yourself,” or similar nonsense. That is such bull-shit! Seriously, would you tell a blind person to drive a car? (No offense intended to the blind, just the first example that popped into my head. Honestly, would you actually want to drive a car?) The point is — everyone has limits. The sooner you admit those to yourself, the better. I need help figuring out exactly what my limits are.
  • #63 …allow myself to experience feelings and express them more effectively. I am emotionally sensitive, so emotionally sensitive that I far too easily dissociate from my emotions without even realizing it. I want to experience my emotions, fully feeling them with the ability to express them through art or music or whatever method works at that moment. Right now, I feel completely detached from my emotions and more often than not, numb. Numb is a miserable feeling. I want a full range of emotions.

I could have added #18 (learn how to cope with my eating problems), but the checklist said choose 5. Since #18 deals with something that isn’t routinely acknowledged as a problem unless the person is severely underweight (and most certainly not at 42 years old), I doubt anyone would ever take my issues with food seriously, either. Well, that’s been my past experience with this issue; and my own avoidance of the issue makes this one much, much harder for me to address.

Yeah, this checklist would have made goal setting in therapy a lot easier. Now, without therapy, I’ll have to attempt to search for answers on my own. Although I’m no stranger to this strategy, I’m feeling particularly stubborn about this right now. Hurt and disappointment are especially triggering emotions for me that generally leave me punishing myself for the faults of others. I don’t know why. I wish I knew. My stubborn refusal to communicate this hurt and disappointment directly to the person who triggered it is further avoidance in admitting vulnerability.

I’ve run out of time to write tonight; so the question of “goals for this year” will have to wait until another time, though at this point, my goal for the year is pretty much simply to survive another year.

“Break In The Storm” by The Great Divide

Slippin’ Through the Cracks

I tend to take my cue from the person I’m with about what we discuss, even within relationships meant to be therapeutic. Social anxiety (or shyness if you prefer) makes it very difficult for me to spontaneously share my deepest thoughts, rarely making it past the idle chit-chat of social niceties. Have I said lately how much I despise “small talk?” To me it feels shallow and a waste of time, yet I learned to engage in this behavior because it seems to be the “norm” and expected. Then again, it could simply be that I use it in the same way most everyone does, to avoid a deeper conversation. Keep the conversation light, not too personal, in order to protect myself from further hurt or humiliation.Slipping Thru the Cracks

I eventually learned to “mirror” communication styles fairly well — late, not until around 5th grade in elementary school after carefully watching my peers interact on the playground and in the classroom. I’m much more of an observer than one who enjoys interacting with others. I learned mirroring so well that more often than not I don’t even realize I’m doing it, now, not until afterwards when I reflect on how a conversation went and what was really said. Nothing. Nothing of substance in most cases. Topics of little importance, nervous laughter, my inability to maintain eye contact, my stammering and stuttering that frustrates me to the point of yelling internally, “Spit it out, already!,” and the obsessive self-reflection afterwards — these are my experience of interacting with others, the manifestation of my social anxiety.

Back to that first statement, “I tend to take my cue from the person I’m with about what we discuss….” I most certainly was not born a natural communicator. Sometimes I wonder if I will ever  master the art of verbal communication. Writing is far easier for me to communicate thoughts and feelings because I give myself the time I need to figure out exactly what I want to communicate. However, writing is also a time-consuming process as a result of taking this time I need to do so. I struggle to think and speak at the same time. I wasn’t born with a quick wit like KR possesses. Therefore, I rely on others to “take charge” during conversation in order to keep it going, most often to the detriment of my own self-expression or ability to communicate a need.

Today was no different. I met with my case manager. We talked more about the weather and my cats than anything else. I avoided bringing up the severity of my depression symptoms — lack of motivation, loss of interest in hobbies, persistent hopelessness, helplessness in the perceived rejection of appropriate mental healthcare… suicidal thoughts that border on obsession. It’s easier to avoid. Pretend everything’s okay. Numbness took over, pushed the painful emotions away. Out of sight; out of mind. Nothing to discuss.

— Why is this so hard? —

There was no more discussion about finding another therapist. Would I have agreed had she brought it up again? I doubt it. Therapy’s end left me more confused and frustrated than before I went in, wishing I never bothered. I expected too much, like I always do. It’s no wonder I was disappointed. Yet, I have no one to advocate on my behalf. Several weeks ago, my case manager told me she was afraid of losing her job should she question the center’s practices. This led me to believe that there’s some inner-office-politics going on that I’m neither aware of nor want to be aware of. I’m left wondering, “Should I swear off psychiatry and therapy altogether? Go it alone and take my chances?”

The choice may have been made for me. My case manager either forgot to schedule our next appointment or purposefully left it up in the air. I have to admit, I thought of it as she was preparing to leave, but said nothing. It’s an easy out… as I slip through the cracks of VBHCS. It’s okay. They won’t miss me.

 

Depression kicked my ass today. I came close to calling the crisis call-line, but I couldn’t make myself punch in the numbers. It worries me that I can’t always reach out for help when I know I need to talk to someone. I keep reminding myself to wait it out. Even a tsunami has to retreat sometime. Nothing is that bad. The trigger was from the past, not the present. Yesterday was a trigger date. I suppose it’s understandable that my first son’s birthday triggers such a feeling of loss in me. KR will be home from work soon. It’s easier to pretend everything is okay when he’s around to distract me. Why am I struggling so much to distract myself lately?