Some Days, I Surprise Myself

And today was one of those days.

Today, I made two important phone calls before I had the chance to talk myself out of doing so. That’s significant for 2 reasons:

  1. I took action to actually help myself rather than simply thinking about it and accomplishing nothing.
  2. I faced a few fears in the process.

After yesterday’s intake appointment at the new facility where I’ll be receiving mental healthcare, I felt hopeless, suicidal. This wasn’t because the appointment went badly or anything. On the contrary, both people I spoke with yesterday were kind, compassionate, and understanding. Rather, it was because I was told it could be late December before an appointment for therapy is available. That’s an excruciatingly long wait, especially for someone experiencing the level of suicidal ideation I have been for the past 2 weeks. However, in my overwhelm of being in a new place and having to start over again with a new facility and everything else going on in my life currently with mine and KR’s break up, I failed to mention that I’m experiencing suicidal ideation at a level of risk I haven’t experienced since 2005 or maybe as late as 2007/2008. I don’t know. This symptom is so difficult for me to pinpoint where it begins and ends. Too often, it “feels” so constant, despite knowing in my rational mind that it’s not.

Two weeks ago, I revisited a previous post, On Suicide and Suicidal Thoughts, in an attempt to put into perspective how I felt that night. That particular night I distracted myself from the thoughts and voices by literally “defining” my levels of suicidal risk. It helped. It got me through that evening, and that was the whole point. It helps to know your enemy. By defining my risk factors, I can also identify my triggers, measure and track these types of impulses, and seek out additional support when needed. Believe me when I say, this is very important when experiencing suicidal ideation. The levels of suicide risk are as much on a spectrum as the mental illnesses that cause these voices, thoughts, and/or feelings. I don’t know about anyone else’s range or levels of suicidality; but for me, it looks like this:

  1. Level 1 — No Risk of Suicide — Passive suicidal thoughts pop into my head out of seemingly nowhere. At this level the voices are actually helpful, encouraging me to “Wait it out,” distract myself, talk to someone, write about how I’m feeling, or use whatever creative method I can to prevent the thoughts from gaining control. Here, I can let the thoughts go usually by simply acknowledging them and reminding myself, “These are only thoughts. You don’t need to act on them.” Typically, frustration and lower levels of overwhelm or over-stimulation provoke these thoughts.
  2. Level 2 — Low Level of Suicide Risk — Suicidal thoughts increase in frequency and linger a while longer, yet no suicide plan or intent. Voices begin arguing among each other with most still encouraging and helpful while only a few are expressing discontent and fleeting despair. Still able to prevent ruminating thoughts and/or allow them only minimal expression for short periods of time, but it may take a bit longer to let them go. Higher levels of frustration, overwhelm, or over-stimulation trigger higher levels of suicide risk. At any level the trigger can be either internal or external.
  3. Level 3 — Moderate Level of Suicide Risk — Stronger and more frequent suicidal thoughts that may include a vague plan that isn’t lethal. I consider this to be the “romanticizing” level, where the voices (split right at 50/50 by this point) who are for suicide, glorify death and suicide as an act of great bravery while those against it are losing patience and compassion for those in pain, thus there’s A LOT of arguing going on inside my head. This is when I’m at greatest risk of using alcohol or marijuana in an attempt to “control” the voices, my mood, paranoia, and my level of distress.
  4. Level 4 — High Level of Suicide Risk — Obsessive, intrusive suicidal thoughts and thoughts about death, in general, are strong, frequent, and compulsive. Actively planning and researching methods of suicide with specific plans that are highly lethal. It’s rare at this level for me to focus on one single method. Indecision is a saving grace at this level of distress. Vivid imaginings of killing myself in a variety of ways. Aggressive voices bully me into submission and silence, preventing me from being honest with others about how I’m feeling due to severe paranoia. PTSD triggers can result in a jump from Level 1 to Level 4 with no warning. Non-lethal self-harm and suicidal gestures are at greater risk here, as well as a lower level increase in impulsiveness.
  5. Level 5 — Severe Level of Suicide Risk — Specific plan that is highly lethal with the means to do so, a time-frame in mind or high level of impulsivity (my greatest risk factor), and actual intention and determination to kill myself. Highly aggressive, loud voices that drown out any protesting voices. These are as constant as the ruminating thoughts of suicide and death. Let me reiterate: impulsive self-harm behavior can easily result in an impulsive attempt to take my life as the “will” to live is gone. Paranoia, distress, despair, and hopelessness are extremely high.

If you are feeling suicidal, please, call: 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or call a loved one or visit My Mental Health Toolkit for a list of tips and tricks that I use to help me de-stress and self soothe.


I’ve coped with suicidal ideation for more than half my life. Usually, I feel confident in my ability to manage this aspect of my mental health because I’ve had so much practice at managing my symptoms without any real emotional support system; but these past couple of weeks tested my will to survive as my level of suicide risk increased due to external stressors and internal triggers. These past couple of months have literally been one trigger after another, creating the perfect storm of circumstances and symptoms that make it feel like I’m reliving bits and pieces of my past in quick succession. It’s a frightening place to be. I wouldn’t wish this hell on anyone. Ever.

I keep telling myself I’ve already lived through all of this several times over — being discharged from treatment, starting over at a new facility, the storm of symptoms, the break-up, homelessness, all of it — and survived each one. I can do it again. It sucks, sure; but I survived.

Yesterday, I don’t think I managed to convey how dire my current situation is to either the intake counselor or the case manager with whom I spoke. The first phone call I made today was to the case manager who had told me to call with any questions or concerns I had. I thought of several and wrote them out before finally making myself call. First, I changed my mind about the psychiatric evaluation. I may need the support of a psychiatrist given the severity of symptoms I’m experiencing and considering how long it’s been since I’ve felt any relief from these symptoms. Words fail me in expressing the fear I’m facing in even acknowledging that this is the case, let alone the possibility of accepting that medication might be needed. I said I would talk with a psychiatrist. I can make that decision whether or not to take medication later. It may also take a while before I get an appointment for that, but I agreed to it.

I also made myself tell her how I’ve been feeling, about the severity of suicidal ideation. Maybe just admitting that to another person is enough. I don’t know; but I promised her (and myself) that I would continue reaching out whenever these voices, thoughts, and feelings become too much to handle on my own — like I’ve already been doing during these past 2 weeks.

We spoke briefly again about housing as well as my need to find employment before that can even be an option. I told her I called Vocational Rehabilitation last week, leaving a voicemail for the person I was told to speak to, but no one ever returned my call. Housing and employment, both, feel so overwhelming right now that they’re causing a lot of the flashbacks (to prior employment and homeless experiences) and suicidal despair, making it nearly impossible for me to accomplish anything with regard to either. I’m limiting any online searches for employment to brief, half-hour increments of time to try to avoid a lot of that; but it’s a HUGE challenge and an obstacle I have to overcome to reenter the workforce.

I also agreed to undergo a complete physical to rule out any physical causes for my symptoms, which brings me to my second important phone call and accomplishment of the day. I called the health department to schedule that physical. It’s this Thursday. I have two days to mentally prepare myself for that. I’ve been to the health department twice before; so it’s not a new place, which takes away some of that anxiety — not all but some. I don’t like to be touched, especially not by strangers. Doctor visits are particularly vulnerable situations, especially considering everything a “female exam” entails. No doubt I’ll leave the health department in that same dissociated state as the first two times I went, but I’ll go and get it over with nevertheless. This time, I plan on writing out a list of symptoms that have been bothering me, like the increased joint pain and chronic fatigue that have prevented me from taking my usual hikes for so many months, now. In the past when I’ve brought these things up, no one took me seriously. I really need someone to listen for a change rather than telling me, “It’s all in your head.”

These two phone calls may not sound like much of an accomplishment to most people. For me, though, they’re a big deal.

I began writing out this post at 5 pm. It’s now after 10 pm as I finish this up. My concentration and focus just aren’t there anymore. I struggle daily in every aspect of my life. The fact that I can’t even imagine a future, let alone prepare for it, makes my situation feel hopeless and out of control. There’s no doubt in my mind that A LOT of people are struggling to survive these days. The mental healthcare system wouldn’t be so overwhelmed if that wasn’t true. I don’t know what my future holds for me, and most days I don’t even care; but for the first time in 11 years, I don’t feel like I have to –prove- I’m struggling to cope. And that’s enough to get me through tonight.


If you are feeling suicidal, please, call: 1-800-273-TALK (8255). What you are experiencing, what you are feeling does not have to be fatal. Please, seek help. I know, easier said than done. If you find that you cannot call, wait it out, just wait it out.

Advertisements

Vulnerability

I’m experiencing a hard shut down, triggered by vulnerability. “Vulnerability refers to the inability (of a system or a unit) to withstand the effects of a hostile environment.” [Source: Wikipedia.] I recognize my vulnerabilities as triggers for dissociation, panic attacks, flashbacks and nightmares, or any other symptom of anxiety, depression, or PTSD. My triggers for the defense mechanisms that serve to protect me are these vulnerabilities:

  • Specific Trigger Dates:
    • January 11th — date my divorce became final
    • January 15th — my dad’s birthday
    • March 1st — my oldest son’s birthday
    • April 11th/12th — date of first rape
    • April 14th — the day my dad died
    • April 27th — my youngest son’s birthday; memories associated with giving him up for adoption
    • August 11th — date of second rape
    • 9/11 — the day we, as a nation, were traumatized
    • December 3rd — marriage anniversary
  • Suicide Attempts (Possible trigger dates):
    1. August 9, 1996
    2. April 12, 1998
    3. October 14, 1998
    4. December 4, 2004
  • Holidays that I recognize as being triggering:
    • Easter
    • Mother’s Day
    • My birthday
    • Thanksgiving
    • Christmas
  • Certain strong emotions, e.g. rage, grief, terror, contempt, disappointment, despair, hopelessness, disrespect, humiliation, frustration, overwhelm, shame, confusion, and shock.
  • Confrontation, arguments, fighting.
  • Harsh or negative criticism and judgement by others, feeling persecuted.
  • Acts of aggression and violence (hostility). I’m horribly sensitive to media coverage that is gruesome or hateful or violent, etc. Coverage of stories regarding rape, sexual assault, domestic violence, stalking, or even sexual harassment can be triggering for me.
  • Exhaustion — whether it’s physical, emotional, mental, or all of the above.
  • Feeling exposed, out in the open, insecure paranoia.
  • Injustice. Feeling taken advantage of or inequality.
  • Abandonment.
  • Rejection.
  • Loss of safety or insecure environment. Threat of homelessness, starvation, or abuse make me catatonic, totally checked out.
  • Feeling misunderstood, unheard, or not believed.
  • Lack of consistency, routine, or structure in my daily life.
  • Change — big or small, I don’t do well with change.
  • Healthcare — mental health or physical health, either one. I still, to this day, have “institutional” type nightmares; and I never stayed at any psychiatric facility for more than one month. I have no faith left in the medical community, no faith in our doctors to actually listen, hear what they’re being told, and understand that I know my body better than they ever will given the brevity of time spent with patients. I have no patience left for psychiatry. I’m right there on that cliff of anti-psychiatry, ready to jump off. I don’t even have any trust left to give to another counselor or therapist. I have absolutely no cause to believe that corporations (pharmaceutical, healthcare related and insurance related) will grow a conscience and do what is “right” for the American people. And absolutely NO confidence in our government to protect us from their predatory greed.
  • Sex — everything about sex is triggering for me, everything. Some sexual acts are more triggering, like oral sex or anal sex (I would rather be tarred and feathered than do either); but even straight-up, vanilla, missionary position sex can cause hyperventilation or dissociation during sexual encounters with my boyfriend unless I focus on my breathing to control the physical and emotional pain I feel (and I mean, really focus on breathing, consciously aware, mindful breathing). The physical pain I feel during and after intercourse is almost as bad as the emotional baggage that prevents me from enjoying it, and sometimes that physical pain lasts for days afterward. It’s not just the actual sexual acts that are triggering for me, but also the pressure I feel to “perform” or fulfill KR’s needs. Any sexual touching triggers my startle reflex even on a good day. Waking up to KR snuggling or touching me in this way is a huge trigger! I can’t watch porn because it disgusts me to the point of dry heaving. I can’t even allow myself to feel “sexy” because in my mind, that would warrant sexual attention that I do not want. Sex was a huge issue for me long before the rapes, from the moment I lost my virginity. The rapes, sexual assaults, and sexual harassment I’ve endured throughout my adult life only further complicated this matter.*

*UPDATE: I plan to continue updating this list of triggers. I’m only now, after 23 years of on-and-off-again-therapy, beginning to recognize what triggers me.

 

The Clothesline Project

Today was an interesting day. As I looked through my Facebook feed, I noticed a post made by Genesis House about an event going on at Tennessee Tech University called the Clothesline Project. After calling for more information, I made the spontaneously impulsive decision to drive to Cookeville to check it out.

I remember hearing something about this last year but didn’t go at that time. Today, however, I was determined.

I went. I walked around looking at so many people’s contributions to the project and chose to make a T-shirt of my own. My hands were shaking the entire time I worked on my shirt. I drank 2 cups of water in the short time I was there as my nervousness tends to manifest in dry mouth and thirst. A nice lady from Tennessee Tech’s Women’s Center provided the second cup and a couple of brownie bites. This made me smile and eased my mind a little. In fact, everyone there was so supportive and encouraging.

Despite my horrible anxiety and nervousness, I think my shirt turned out pretty well:

It felt good to participate. My only regret is that I wasn’t finished with my T-shirt in time to participate in the “Take Back the Night” march around campus. Still, I’m proud of myself for having gone there, for handling the triggers so well, and for making my own voice heard. I’m proud of myself because I pushed myself outside my comfort zone to participate in this.

This was a special and meaningful day for me — very therapeutic.

On Suicide and Suicidal Thoughts

I’m hesitant to share a post regarding the topic of suicide and suicidal ideation, but it may give others an insight into the “struggle/fight for life versus the wish to die/to end the suffering” of so many of us who live with depression. It is most certainly NOT my intention to trigger others into a similar mind-set, only to share what this line of thinking entails. A common misconception about suicide is that talking about it might give someone the idea. While this is not true — talking openly about suicide can often be one of the most helpful things you can do — I’ll err on the side of caution by stating: consider this a trigger warningPlease, keep yourself safe if you are easily triggered into suicidal thinking or behaviors. Other common misconceptions about suicide include:

“People who talk about suicide won’t really do it.”

Not True. Almost everyone who commits or attempts suicide has given some clue or warning. Do not ignore suicide threats. Statements like “you’ll be sorry when I’m dead,” “I can’t see any way out,” — no matter how casually or jokingly said, may indicate serious suicidal feelings.

“Anyone who tries to kill him/herself must be crazy.”

Not True. Most suicidal people are not psychotic or insane. They may be upset, grief-stricken, depressed or despairing. Extreme distress and emotional pain are always signs of mental illness but are not signs of psychosis.

“If a person is determined to kill him/herself, nothing is going to stop him/her.”

Not True. Even the most severely depressed person has mixed feelings about death, and most waver until the very last moment between wanting to live and wanting to end their pain. Most suicidal people do not want to die; they want the pain to stop. The impulse to end it all, however overpowering, does not last forever.

“People who commit suicide are people who were unwilling to seek help.”

Not True. Studies of adult suicide victims have shown that more than half had sought medical help within six month before their deaths and a majority had seen a medical professional within 1 month of their death.

“Talking about suicide may give someone the idea.”

Not True. You don’t give a suicidal person ideas by talking about suicide. The opposite is true — bringing up the subject of suicide and discussing it openly is one of the most helpful things you can do.

[Source: SAVE | Suicide Awareness Voices of Education]

I do feel that it is necessary to educate the general public on the many facets of depression, one of which is the fact that depression can lead to suicidal thoughts/suicidal ideation, suicidal behaviors, and completed suicides. Remember, it is NOT helpful to shame or guilt the suicidal person into changing his/her mind. Just listen. Remind the person of his/her worth. For help in caring for someone who is suicidal, please, visit: Suicide Prevention — How to Help Someone who is Suicidal

“If a friend or family member tells you that he or she is thinking about death or suicide, it’s important to evaluate the immediate danger the person is in. Those at the highest risk for committing suicide in the near future have a specific suicide PLAN, the MEANS to carry out the plan, a TIME SET for doing it, and an INTENTION to do it.”

If you are feeling suicidal, please, call: 1-800-273-TALK (8255). What you are experiencing, what you are feeling does not have to be fatal. Please, seek help. I know, easier said than done. If you find that you cannot call, wait it out, just wait it out


For months, I’ve weighed the pros and cons of sharing such a personal admission of suicidality. I wrote this back in February of this year and placed it on the back burner because:

  1. It felt too personal to share.
  2. I didn’t want to risk being “forced” into medication again. As I’ve said before, I understand that psychiatric medications have helped some people; but my experience with them was arduously adverse.
  3. I didn’t want people to think I was being overly dramatic or attention seeking (I still don’t because that is NOT the case; more on this in a moment).

To be clear, I wrote this on February 6th, 2015, in regard to January 31st, 2015:

I wondered if I sat there long enough, would I freeze? How long would it take? Would I simply become tired and close my eyes, allowing the elements to finish a task that I could not myself? I stopped shivering. I had already been outside for more than 20 minutes, cigarette long since finished. The sunrise growing more beautiful as the sky lit up in a fiery blaze, would this be the last thing I saw? A perfect end. I closed my eyes no longer wishing to fight the cold, the temperature hovering right at 0°F. Could it really be this simple, so easy to die?

I heard his voice saying something or another, urging me to go inside. “Just let me sit here, please,” I begged. I smoked a second cigarette. My thoughts lost; my memory of the next few moments broken as I struggled to fight the impulse of giving in to one or the other.

In the end he somehow managed to get me inside, stripped of clothes, snuggled for warmth, as the shivering returned, until I fell asleep in his arms.

Seriously, I doubt that I would have frozen to death that night; but the fact was that I felt like ending it all for whatever reason — the emotional pain felt too overwhelming. I’ve experienced this type of despair, hopelessness, and helplessness for the majority of my life. One of my earliest memories from childhood, around the age of 5 or 6, involves these emotions accompanied by the thought, “If I jump out of this window, will I die?” I removed the screen from my second-story bedroom window and contemplated this thought on more than one occasion as a child.

As a teen, shortly after I was diagnosed with Lupus, I remember a moment when I stood in front of the medicine cabinet contemplating whether or not to down a bottle of Tylenol. Thankfully, I didn’t. I told no one how I was feeling. My family didn’t discuss emotions. I remember feeling mortified that I would even consider thinking such a thing.

Yet, the four suicide attempts I survived as an adult were all overdoses: #1, #2, #3, #4 (I didn’t provide much detail about each incident, only the events surrounding them). There was another instance that I held a gun to my head, praying for the courage to pull the trigger. I am so thankful for the thought of my son that stopped me. Numerous other instances come to my mind with detailed plans and other methods that crossed my mind. Years and years of emotional pain and turmoil built up with seemingly no end to the suicidal thoughts and my obsession with death.

Even the bargain I made with all the parts of myself at some point in 2008 to end this relentless insanity that is suicidality was fraught with an end to my life when the conditions were met. Survive until I can no longer survive. At the point when I lost the SSDI and my reason for not fighting to keep it was “it’s time to pay up.” In my irrational state of mind, I felt the Universe had given me an ultimatum, “Your debt is due. Accept this loss (the SSDI) and mourn your death (suicide) because the bargain — freedom to be you for however long you’re allowed to keep the SSDI in exchange for your life — is complete. The conditions are met (no longer have the means to support yourself, publicly tell your story, closure with your son and family).”

An amazingly remarkable thing happened as a result of this ill-fated bargain. No, unfortunately, the suicidal thoughts never completely went away. I fear my obsession with death will always be there, even as morbid and frightening as that is. However, the impulse to act on these thoughts faded considerably. The more in touch with my creativity I am, the greater likelihood I can cope with the internal thoughts, voices, and pressures that lead me to rumination. The Universe gave me the gifts of nature, music, art, and writing to help me heal, not an ultimatum. That ultimatum was/is the demand of a raging inner critic, a younger self, who I’m learning needs far more compassion and validation than she’s ever gotten in this lifetime.

The pressures of external forces in my life are still cause for concern. External pressures are the “make it” or “break it” factor. I understand I have no control over anything or anyone but myself; but I’m still learning to put to use the coping strategies that mental health services have taught me. Some days are far more difficult than others. Implementing changes in behavior and thinking patterns take lots and lots of practice; and unfortunately, I’ve been struggling with this for many years with little to no emotional support. I still struggle to recognize what triggers certain responses in me. I often have to fight like hell to remain in the present moment.

Recent events shook me to my core, caused these thoughts to return after a brief two-month respite. Hey, at least I got a couple of months of freedom from the suicidal rumination. I’ll take what I can get! A couple of days ago, I would have rated my level of risk at “high.” It’s the high and severe suicidal thoughts that frighten me most. “I won’t have your suicide on my conscience.” KR’s words still haunt me. He spat those words at me with such contempt and rage despite me having said nothing about suicide that night. However, I’ve had some time to process a lot of the distress while gently testing my will to live. It’s still intact. At the moment, I would put my level of risk at “low,” so no worries. These are the usual passive thoughts that occur almost daily when I’m feeling more stressed. I’ve grown so accustomed to these passive thoughts that I can generally let them go without too much effort, now.

Another tidbit of useful information to know when supporting someone who is suicidal — from HelpGuide.org‘s website > Suicide Prevention: How to Help Someone who is Suicidal:

Level of Suicide Risk
Low – Some suicidal thoughts. No suicide plan. Says he or she won’t commit suicide.
Moderate – Suicidal thoughts. Vague plan that isn’t very lethal. Says he or she won’t commit suicide.
High – Suicidal thoughts. Specific plan that is highly lethal. Says he or she won’t commit suicide.
Severe – Suicidal thoughts. Specific plan that is highly lethal. Says he or she will commit suicide.

The following questions can help you assess the immediate risk for suicide:

  • Do you have a suicide plan? (PLAN)
  • Do you have what you need to carry out your plan (pills, gun, etc.)? (MEANS)
  • Do you know when you would do it? (TIME SET)
  • Do you intend to commit suicide? (INTENTION)

If a suicide attempt seems imminent, call a local crisis center, dial 911, or take the person to an emergency room. Remove guns, drugs, knives, and other potentially lethal objects from the vicinity but do not, under any circumstances, leave a suicidal person alone.


I read a blog post (How do you Cope with Someone’s Suicide Ideation) earlier yesterday that refueled my urge to finish writing this post as it related to my current situation.

The author of that post stated:

“What doesn’t sit well with me is when a person chooses to elaborate on the ins and outs of their half-hearted attempts at suicide without any apparent purpose to their testimony, other than to express how bad they’re feeling.”

One question I have for this author would be: Are there really EVER any half-hearted attempts at suicide? Thoughtfully, honestly consider this question.

Having been diagnosed with BPD in the past, I fully understand and acknowledge the point of view that borderlines use suicide as a method of manipulation or “attention seeking behavior” as I’ve heard so many people put it. The point is if you really think about it, suicide attempts almost always are attention seeking behavior due to the desperate measures that person is resorting to in order to scream out for help! This isn’t meant to “glorify” suicide. I’m simply expressing the human condition, the human necessity to seek out understanding, compassion, and love — a connection to another human being who is willing to validate the suicidal individual’s experience by simply stating, “I understand you are hurting. I’m here to listen.”

And “without any apparent purpose to their testimony, other than to express how bad they’re feeling?” Isn’t that enough? Contemplating and resisting suicidal urges is a life or death fight. Period. Saying it is anything but that is stigma and a huge factor in why so many people won’t discuss their suicidal thoughts and die by suicide each day.

Had I not read so many similar remarks to these online over the years, I probably wouldn’t have included this last section; yet I think we, as a society, have far to go in the fight for mental health and a better standard of care, not only from providers but also from our loved ones. It’s important that we treat individuals who are suicidal with as much respect as we would any other person, regardless of perceived motives which may or may not be part of the mask of their illness.


And once again, if you are feeling suicidal, please, call: 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or call a loved one or visit My Mental Health Toolkit for a list of tips and tricks that I use to help me de-stress and self soothe.

Dear Future Therapist

Dear Future Therapist,

I need to write you this letter because I feel I owe it to you to know what you’re in for. I’ll understand if you choose not to work with me. I can be a difficult client to work with. I recognize this and try my best to be open and honest; but sometimes, my triggers and my thoughts get the better of me. I ask for your patience. I’m not so easily persuaded to “speak my mind.” In fact, oftentimes, I struggle to speak at all. First and foremost, I will need your help in reminding me that I am there to work through difficult “stuff” and talking about these experiences will lessen their hold over me. At least, I’m assuming that this is the goal of therapy. Correct me if I am wrong.

I have a long history of psychiatric instability — a total of 10 hospitalizations for psychiatric emergencies and 4 attempts to take my own life. I have worked with more therapists than I can remember, but none have managed to break through that protective barrier I place between me and the world. I do not trust easily. It may take longer than we have to work together for me trust you completely. My only hope is that I find some benefit in working with you. I will question the process of therapy throughout our time together. Recognize this as an attempt on my part to avoid certain topics. Remind me that I told you this when the need arises. I can’t guarantee you that this will help because more often than not, I will “flee my mind” rather than confront the obvious. Help me understand why I do this.

I am stubborn to a fault. In this case I need a firm hand to call me out on such behavior. I guarantee you that I am more frightened to “express” my anger than you are to provoke it. I once had a therapist tell me that being strong-willed is not a character flaw. While that may be true, my stubbornness is not always a demonstration of strong will but sometimes, a defense mechanism to avoid taking responsibility.

I’ve lived through a great many painful experiences, some truly traumatic for me. I desperately need to work through these in order to “move on” in my life. I’ve been “stuck” for far too long. Try as I might, I haven’t been able to do that alone. I need help. I wish I could offer you some helpful suggestions or insight in this task, but I’m afraid that it is up to you to find an approach that will benefit my progress in helping me help myself. I’m out of ideas. I don’t understand the concept of “letting go.” It’s as foreign to me as “forgiveness” because I see no executable action in either. Help me understand exactly what these mean.

I’m overly sensitive. I rely on my intuition completely to guide me through this messed up world. I may not show them often but know that my emotions are locked up tighter than the vault at Fort Knox, yet I trust that these parts of myself hold great wisdom. If you can reach them, that is far more than most have been able to do. I do, however, need help in recognizing when I am being irrational. Too often I find myself drowning in the depths of that rabbit hole, unable to see the light of day. I’ve been told in the past that I dissociate from my emotions. I don’t recognize when I do this. In advance, I’m sorry. Please, again, have patience with me and help me recognize my triggers. Also, I may not always recognize exactly what emotion I am feeling. Continuously ask me to identify, label them. Teach me how to properly “process” emotions. I want to understand.

I often experience my thoughts as loud voices. I usually won’t express this or so much as talk about them. I haven’t in the past due to fears and anxiety surrounding the stigma attached to “hearing voices.” I leave it up to you whether or not to address this. I may never verbally express my concerns over this, but these fears are more disturbing than the voices themselves. My “inner voices” have an obsession with death, dying, and suicide. I’ve found that if I practice mindfulness, acknowledge but don’t engage these lines of thought, I can usually distract myself into a more positive mindset. I may or may not need assistance in guiding these thoughts to more productive areas of interest like art, music, or writing. Creativity is most certainly the most beneficial and rewarding avenues to divert my attention away from this line of thinking. Give me assignments to distract me when needed. Guide my thoughts.

At this time in my life, I won’t deny that I’m struggling. I know that I am. Most days, I don’t even care if I live or die; but I desperately need someone in my life to say, “Stop. Think about this for a minute. You are not (or are) thinking rationally about this. Let’s take a different perspective.” I’ve isolated for many, many years. Know that this won’t be easy for either you or me. But if you’re willing, I need — I want — the help.

Thank you for your consideration,

[gh0stwr1tertrixie]


This post was inspired by Girl In Therapy’s post DEAR POTENTIAL THERAPIST… To her, I will say: Thank you for reminding me that letter writing is one of the most effective methods of purging the mind of frustration. It’s also an excellent healing technique. Truly, thank you. This felt good to write. Maybe, it will even help me when it comes to my next  therapy experience, should I ever consider taking that on again.


 

On a side-note, today I was asked, “How are you?” by a department store clerk. After answering my usual, “I’m doing okay. How are you?” She answered, “Blessed and highly favored.” I thought to myself and said as much to her, “What a wonderful sentiment. I like that.” In my mind, I see that statement as a faith confession. I’m often on the look-out for statements such as this. It’s not overly religious. Rather, it’s a statement of intention. And, yeah, I really like that. She told me to feel free to use it. I think I just might.

 

My Story – Part 13 (Chaos Reviewed)

Continued from My Story – Part 12

I spent the last few years putting together a timeline of my life experiences and the last year writing out My Story here in order to make sense of everything that happened in my life and in an attempt to process the emotions attached to each event. I analyzed my inability to keep a job and maintain a stable lifestyle to the point of obsession. I struggled the entire 5 years that I received Social Security benefits to justify my need for them. I questioned the validity of my illness and berated myself for not trying harder. As the stigma of mental illnesses became a talking point for political bureaucracy, the voices of so many people commenting on social media and articles about the misuse of social services ran through my mind, saying things like, “Why can’t you just keep a job?” Or, “You need to try harder.” Or, “You’re just lazy.” It’s very difficult not to take things like this personally when I’ve struggled with mental illness for the majority of my adult life and heard friends, family members, and even professionals in the mental health field say those exact same things to me. The hopelessness of realizing that my life is somehow worth less because I haven’t figured out how to live in a world of chaos is devastating.

As more and more people spoke out about the traumatic consequences of having experienced rape and sexual assault, it became clear to me that the sickening display of public ignorance surrounding these tragedies is most certainly a contributing factor for the “rape culture” in which we live. The lack of compassion and victim blaming that occur in our society should give each of us reason to pause and question how our morals are serving us or if they are at all. It is with profound sadness and intense anger that I struggle to understand a callous society that feels so alien to me. A society that re-victimizes those who have already experienced horrible victimization through the criminal acts of rape and sexual assault by shaming victims when they are most vulnerable rather than placing that shame and blame where it belongs — on those who committed the crime of rape.

The effects of constant chaos in my life continued for years — one thing after another after another. I never knew what I was feeling because there wasn’t time to reflect. Much of the time everything felt so unreal that time no longer had meaning. I simply had TOO much life to process in TOO short of a time! In the years after I was raped, I had numerous other encounters of a sexual nature that tested my strength to survive. Maybe it was my naivety or maybe it was just plain stupidity on my part, but I was easily taken advantage of. For some reason, I have a knack for getting myself into situations that have serious detrimental effects on my emotional well-being and my ability to function as others do.

All types of relationships are extremely difficult for me, whether it’s family, peers, or intimate relationships. There’s a point of contention where most people would say that I don’t put forth the effort in which to “maintain relationships.” While I acknowledge some truth in this statement, I would also point out that most, if not all, people struggle with exactly the same thing. Out of sight, out of mind takes on a very literal meaning for me when so many people I was once close to told me to basically “buck up and get over it” during some of the most traumatic experiences of my life.

I’m like a feral animal who’s been kicked one too many times.

Trust most certainly does not come easy for me. It was for this reason that seeking therapy this last time was so terrifying. It took every ounce of courage I had in me to seek out help. I continue to reject the notion that psychiatric medication is necessary in the treatment of severe mental illnesses. I acknowledge that these medications might prove beneficial to some people, even life-saving as some would say; but for me, they were completely worthless, often more damaging than helpful. Therefore, I will continue to refuse medication. I did, however, accept therapy and case management. I still remain leery of therapy which, perhaps, hinders any progress as a result. Therapy is a slow process, one that I question relentlessly. I’m still not convinced that it “helps.” Or maybe I just haven’t found the “right” therapist for me.

Now, I doubt I will ever know because I simply don’t have it in me to start over with yet another new therapist. After a year and 4 months, my therapist and I parted ways, rather abruptly this past week. I’m still trying to process this sudden end, so I’m not really sure what I should say about it. I think my defenses went up when my therapist commented on the fact that a lot of my issues are financial in nature; so I should get a job, something I’ve heard so many times from so many people. If only it was that easy. I could have been a real smart-ass and said, “Well, nah-fuckin’-duh!” But I didn’t. Honestly, I’m not really sure what my response was other than maybe stunned silence. I simply don’t remember.

He asked a simple question, “What are your goals for this year?” I couldn’t answer. I have no idea. I really wanted to scream at him (but didn’t). If I could answer questions like that, maybe, just maybe, I wouldn’t have sought therapy to begin with! Then, he asked what my goals for therapy are. Yeah, same reaction — complete shut down. All I remember is the argument going on in my brain for me to SHUT UP! when I tried to fill the awkward silence by voicing my concerns again that therapy is a waste of time. And before I knew it, he was handing me his business card, telling me to email him when, for all intents and purposes, I was ready to actually “talk.” He literally said, “The ball’s in your court.” As if this, my life, is some sort of petty, manipulative game.

If the ball is in my court, I choose NOT to play the fucking game!!! Perhaps, by simply making that statement or writing about any of this publicly is indeed “playing the game;” but I take a very literal approach to my life, no-nonsense. I hate drama in real life. It feels like a waste of time. Drama is for television and fiction novels at best, just as games are for people who feel competition is a necessary part of life. The two go hand in hand and are part of the illusion that creates suffering.

I’m left wondering, “What the hell is wrong with me?!” The same question that has plagued me since early childhood.

I took his card. I left in silence without saying a word. I was livid; but more so, I was hurt. As I drove home in my car, I cried the tears triggered by a deep sorrow — despair that I may never heal, despair that I’m left to face it all alone yet again. One of my favorite parks in the area was on the way home; so I decided to stop at the last-minute to go for a walk and try to clear my mind. Nature walks typically quiet my thoughts to a more manageable level. Considering it was only 33° that day and I was wearing dress shoes rather than my usual hiking shoes, it may not have been the best idea; but I needed to test a theory.

Safely back home, I cried more. I vented to KR when he got home from work. I vented to my case manager the next day. The thought occurred to me that I should quit case management as well, but that small part of me whispered, “No, not yet.” Maybe my case manager is right. Maybe I would benefit more from a life coach rather than a therapist, but part of me feels that too much from my past still affects my conscious mind and interferes with my ability to move forward. I don’t know how to process any faster. I can only grow from that which I understand, at the pace my brain allows me.

The echoes of my past are as jumbled a mess as ripples on a lake, as hard to decipher as a nightmare in heavy sleep.

I’m convinced that depression is a grieving process — stuck grief. Most people don’t give themselves enough time to grieve losses, myself included. When we push away that grief by carrying on as always, it prolongs the grief. Having lost a lot in my life, I wonder if I will ever properly process all of the emotions that I fight to this day, particularly when the emotions themselves trigger such a strong flight response that I simply check-out for a while. It’s usually when I’m most stressed and depressed that I end up isolating myself the most. The majority of the time, I just want to be left alone. Solitude has been my one saving grace. However, it has its price as well. I meant for therapy to be my “reality check,” to assist me in coming to terms with my chaotic past. Sometimes, I need help in gauging what is rational and what is irrational. The anxiety that I feel daily as a result of this constant second-guessing is equally chaotic and overwhelming. Is it really too much to ask for one person who is willing to help me remain grounded, to help me recognize what so often I cannot — that I’m slipping too far down the rabbit hole?

I don’t know what the future holds or if I will ever be able to maintain a healthy lifestyle, let alone successfully maintain employment. The only conclusion I have made from all of this self-reflection and introspection is that I am flat-out exhausted. My life is a minute-by-minute struggle on a daily basis to keep my head above water. I’m tired of bottling everything up. I’m tired of having no one to talk to about this incredibly difficult time in my life. I’m tired of feeling worthless. I’m tired of second-guessing everything I say.

And most of all, I’m tired of remaining silent.

This is my chance to tell my side of the story.


~ Finitoque ~

This is where I will end The Story of My Life (for now, maybe). It’s seems only fitting to end it where therapy ends. I apologize for the length and redundancy in parts. For those of you who remained loyal in reading My Story and those who stopped by for a briefer glimpse into my crazy world, my bizarre reality —

I thank you sincerely and wish you all the best. 

My Story – Part 12

Continued from My Story – Part 11

By January 2008, I was approved for Medicare coverage since I was receiving SSDI. However, for some reason, Medicare didn’t cover the therapist I was seeing at the time — who I saw for almost an entire year and liked very much. So, I had to switch to someone else. I never connected with the new therapist because she was so much younger than me. I continued therapy with her until the end of May 2008. By that time I was really struggling to go out in public (borderline agoraphobia) even to get to appointments. The bus rides were sometimes frightening. On top of the usual catcalls I experienced anytime I walked to and from bus stops, I witnessed a fist fight at the bus shelter downtown, a few shouting matches, and another day a man became violent when the bus driver told him to get off his bus for being disruptive and rude to other passengers, not to mention this one poor, old woman who was so lost in her own reality — so deeply down the rabbit hole — that she was carrying on a complete conversation with herself. It was a beautifully curious sight to see. No one would sit beside her, so I did. I empathized with her, yet she frightened me at the same time… because I worried I was her.

I scare so easily.

It was around that time that I remember feeling like I could take no more and stopped treatment altogether. I gave myself the break from psychiatry that I felt I needed for my own sanity. I felt that I had been a guinea pig for the industry long enough. I felt that I owed it to myself to find alternatives that would actually work for me rather than trusting another person to figure it out who doesn’t live inside this body. It’s difficult to know when treatment is doing more harm than good; but I sincerely believed that, in my case, the psychiatric medications and even some of the therapy I received in the past did far more damage than I realized. As a result, I simply no longer trusted doctors, psychiatrists, or any use of medication, not even for physical problems. Having been off all of the medications for well over 6 years, I’m not certain that the long-term effects of having taken them for so long will ever completely go away, like problems with memory and concentration; but it is possible that those could be an issue of malnutrition rather than an iatrogenic effect.

It was not my intent to give in to an irrational fear of medicine; but basically, my fear of medicine outweighs my fear of dying. Let me reiterate once again, the very nature of my disability is that I don’t do well under pressure and completely shut down when stressed. I have experienced this reaction since childhood with little to no control over it. I am overly sensitive to the point of non-functioning when I feel like my environment is threatened or I feel overwhelmed. Also, the original problem that sent me into therapy to begin with at the end of 1994 — anxiety — is still a major issue. I have experienced severe anxiety my entire life. It feels like all of my senses are in overload. While the depression comes and goes, the anxiety has worsened over the years. Given many of my life experiences in the past, I can honestly understand why. I do my best to not dwell on the past; but many of these experiences still affect me to this day. Processing the emotions and thoughts that go along with the memories of them is a constant battle.

Most weeks, I struggle to make myself leave the house just to do the shopping or go for a walk at the park. The latter I try to do with some regularity during warmer weather to challenge the anxiety and keep the joint pain to a minimum. In order to deal with a lot of the overwhelming emotions and sensations that I feel, I have many creative outlets that provide distraction. Distraction has been the single most useful tool in managing my mental illness because I am so easily distracted. Through music, art, photography, writing, and blogging, I’ve discovered that I can contribute something to society that helps me at the same time. However, there are times that my distractibility back-fires and works against me, causing a greater lack of concentration and focus. These are usually instances when I am feeling more stressed and overwhelmed; but the biggest problem I face with these creative outlets is motivation. Often, weeks go by with little to no motivation to accomplish anything.

I have no social life outside of the internet; and even on the internet, I find it difficult to carry on conversations with other people. Responding to a comment, writing a short blog post, or an email can take me hours to compose as I constantly second-guess every word I type. A lot of the time, I simply don’t respond at all. KR is the only person I interact with on a regular basis in “real” life. I haven’t really had any close friends for many, many years. Unfortunately, I’ve noticed that I lose patience with people much more quickly than I used to. Being around even a small group of people for any length of time is incredibly exhausting for me. Occasionally, I speak with my son or my mother over the phone; but even those conversations lack any type of regularity.

I have found that it is imperative that my life be as simple as possible and that I must keep my stress level to a minimum in order to function with any type of normalcy. Normal for me looks very different from the expectations others seem to have of me. I’ve struggled my entire life to simply function and survive. It’s been over 9 years since I was last employed, held a “real” paying job. I have good days, and I have bad days; but I still have no consistency with which to give an employer a workable schedule. I really don’t know how to “work” with such fluctuations in my mood, let alone the recuperation time I feel I require when forced to be around other people. It was my hope and intent to support myself financially through my art; but the lack of motivation and inability to develop a consistent routine for myself interfered with my ability to focus on accomplishing career goals.

I’ve often thought the reason why I cannot place value on my artwork and photography is that I lack self-worth. More recently, I had several images published in a variety of different publications, from books, to magazines, to other websites asking permission to use certain images. I’ve never received monetary compensation for any of these uses. It makes me happy — no, thrilled — for someone to express interest in my work because this gives me a sense of accomplishment and pride; but I have to wonder if by not asking for payment, am I devaluing myself even more? The “business” aspects to having a creative career are lost to me. Unfortunately, I’ve never really considered myself a professional anything. I’m a “Jack of all trades, master of none” kind of gal for the simple reason that there are too many possibilities, too many things I’m interested in to settle on one. And because I get bored easily, I’m constantly moving from one interest to the next.

This struggle became clear to me throughout 2012. For the entire year of 2012, I worked on a photography project using the small point-and-shoot camera that KR bought me for Christmas in 2011 — one photograph for every single day of the year. I had to put forth some serious effort to complete this project; yet it taught me, proved to me, that I could start something and actually finish it. It taught me to pay attention to small details. It gave me a goal and a purpose. It was a creative distraction from a lot of the stress I was feeling from our living situation and the financial insecurities that began early that year.

At the end of January 2012, I learned that my Social Security Disability case was being reviewed. This caused me more anxiety than I could put into words. I didn’t know what to expect and the possibility that I might lose my only source of income was more than I could handle; so I put it out of my mind, didn’t think about it or tried not to think about it as much as I could. I did everything they asked me to, but in October 2012 I found out I would be losing SSDI and Medicare at the end of the year. No tangible reason was given in that dreaded form letter. It only stated in matter-of-fact terms, “After reviewing all of the information carefully, we’ve decided that your health has improved since we last reviewed your case. And you’re now able to work.” I was devastated. I don’t know why I didn’t fight it, appeal the decision. I think I must have been frozen in fear, an all too familiar life theme.

Life went on.

In the spring of 2013, one of KR’s nieces came to stay with us in an attempt to help her through a difficult period in her life. By the time she returned home to Michigan a few weeks later, I found myself emotionally triggered by the circumstances she was facing that were eerily similar to my life in ’98. I began having flashbacks, nightmares, and panic attacks again as my thoughts turned inward and darker, recalling past traumas that I thought I was over. Losing SSDI and depleting my savings account by summer triggered the financial insecurities that I struggled with for so many years. Mine and KR’s relationship began to suffer as we lost hope of moving from the shack we called home, away from neighbors who were causing us more and more stress. Physical problems (e.g. chronic fatigue, joint pain, occasional chest pain, my hair falling out in clumps, hormonal issues that put me into early menopause by the age of 44) worsened as much throughout 2013 as the depression and anxiety I was experiencing.

A bargain I made with myself when I was approved to begin receiving SSDI resurfaced — survive until I can no longer survive. The bargaining chip was my life. Part of me believed that I would follow through with the terms of this bargain, which I’m consciously choosing not to disclose here. I will only say that even though I was surprised by my resilience, my courage to defy, placate the darker side of myself, I feared for my life. Again, I felt like I was suffocating in darkness. By August 2013, not knowing what else to do, I began the Social Security Disability process all over again and reached out for help at a local mental health center. Seeking treatment again terrified me; but by this point, I was desperate.

To be continued…