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,


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…

My Story – Part 11

Continued from My Story – Part 10 (My Relationship with KR)

When I was around 2 years old, my family moved from the subdivision where we were living into an old 2-story farmhouse. This home is the home of my childhood memories, the home where I was raised, the only real “home” I remember. My family lived there up until the autumn after I graduated from high-school. I’m thankful to have experienced the stability and security of having grown up in one place, without the chaos of moving around so much as has been the case throughout my adult years. From the time I got married until present day, I received mail at a total of 27 different addresses. I lived in 4 different states over the years — Tennessee, Hawaii, California, and briefly Kentucky. I lived in 16 different cities over the course of my life, 12 of which were in Tennessee. I have been homeless a total of 5 times, 3 of which were in 1998, with the longest period of time spent homeless at an entire month.

As chaotic as my home-life became as an adult, my employment history was equally chaotic. From the time I began working at the age of 17 until July 2005, I had a variety of jobs. I worked as a cashier at a grocery store, a mail clerk on the campus of the university I was attending, a teacher’s aide, a ride attendant at Dollywood (probably my favorite job out of all of them), a preschool teacher, an American Red Cross Volunteer, a factory worker, a meat-wrapper at a grocery store, an inventory counter, a cashier at Wal-Mart, a Census Bureau enumerator, a framer at an art store, a telemarketer (I absolutely hated this one!), a bar-maid (by far my worst working experience), and finally, a graphic artist. And that’s just to name the most significant ones. Over a 15 year period, I had a total of 26 different periods of employment with 20 different employers. Seven of those different employers were in 1998 alone. The longest I ever worked full-time was 7 months. The longest I worked part-time was 1 year, 4 months.

And there were many periods of unemployment during those 15 years, too. The longest period of unemployment was 3 years and 7 months, during my pregnancy, son’s infancy, and his early childhood. I don’t really count this one as “unemployed,” though, because I felt I had the most important job of raising my son, even if my ex-husband and other family members didn’t see it that way. Call me old-fashioned, but I truly believe that young children need a parent at home during those formative years. I did, however, spend 5 months of that time period volunteering with the American Red Cross. I was able to bring my son along with me due to the nature of my volunteer position which was at a free child care facility designed for military families’ use while at medical appointments. After I finally went back to work after that, the periods of unemployment ranged from 3 to 7 months at a time (never with unemployment benefits), although many of the jobs I acquired were back to back or overlapping in some cases.

When I consider the original reasons for why I struggled so much to keep a job, the only conclusion I come to is that I simply become overwhelmed when trying to juggle too many things at once. Simplicity is paramount to my mental health and well-being. Part-time is better than full-time; but even part-time work left me exhausted and feeling smothered. After the rapes in 1998, I had the added anxiety — subconscious at the time — of associating work with being raped. This was further compounded by the stalker with whom I worked at Wal-Mart, and then finally, all of the sexual assaults I experienced at the beer bar where I worked a few years later.

Early on in 2004, I began the Social Security Disability process. In the state of Tennessee (maybe other states as well), this is a long, drawn out process where you are almost guaranteed to be denied at least the first two times. By the time you get to the hearing stage in front of a judge, I think the SSA is pretty much hoping that you kill yourself to save them the trouble. Several times during that 3 years it took me to finally be approved, I came very close to doing just that. Honestly, I’m surprised I survived it. Between the pressure PI (boyfriend at the time) put me under with his impatience for results from a system that prides itself in hurry-up-and-wait and my own despair in having to ask for help in this way — I only felt a hopelessness that life would never improve, that I didn’t deserve to live, let alone ask for help. It was really no surprise that the relationship with PI ended as a result.

In January 2007, a couple of months after I left PI and had been living with KR in Nashville, my Social Security Disability Income was finally approved. It felt like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders. I could finally breathe. This didn’t solve all of my problems, but I had one less thing to worry about.

Around that time, I began seeing a psychiatrist and therapist again through Tennessee’s Safety Net Program since I still had no medical insurance. I had been medication free for about 14 months, but still experiencing severe depression, anxiety, and suicidal ideation. After the psychiatrist asked me all the usual intake questions, he diagnosed me as Bipolar, prescribing Lamictal. He also ordered blood-work to check my thyroid because it hadn’t been checked in so long. About a week later, he called to tell me that my thyroid was over-active, advising me to find a doctor and get a complete physical.

Again, without medical insurance, this proved to be quite difficult; but somehow (honestly, I can’t remember how I managed it), I finally saw a physician. This doctor sent me to an endocrinologist a couple of months later for further testing on my thyroid who began treatment for the thyroid problem. He also scheduled an appointment with a rheumatologist for the first time since high school. When their blood tests came back normal, the rheumatologist refused to do x-rays to determine if I actually had rheumatoid arthritis. Basically, I got the impression that I was wasting the rheumatologist’s time; so I was left to deal with the joint pain I was experiencing on my own.

On top of these other health issues, over a 3 year period, my teeth literally broke, shattered, and decayed at an alarming rate. Most had already broken to the gum line and others were missing all of the enamel by 2007. Many factors contributed to the sudden decline of my dental health; but more than anything, long-term malnutrition probably played the most significant role (starting in/around 1997 through the present time, I only eat one meal per day in order to save on food costs – usually, no snacks). My oral surgeon told me that even antidepressants contribute to dental problems. It’s difficult to explain the impact of dental issues on your self-esteem, confidence, emotional balance, lifestyle, and physical health. The detrimental effects of losing my smile were as devastating as the excruciating pain I constantly felt in my gums, jaw, and mouth, in general. The headaches and migraines that accompanied this were equally awful. Prior to receiving SSDI, I was financially destitute. I couldn’t always get antibiotics to treat the constant infections and abscesses I got. After 3 years of agonizing pain due to my teeth, I was finally able to get all of my teeth extracted with the help of a long-lost friend who showed me a great kindness. The oral surgeon was fantastic. Given the severe anxiety that dental procedures cause me, my oral surgeon put me completely under; so I didn’t feel a thing. I used a portion of the back-pay from SSDI to purchase dentures. I got my temporary set of dentures at the end of April 2007 and the permanent set about 6 months later.

From the time I began taking Lamictal in January 2007, I began having severe mood swings with bouts of anger that frightened me. The anxiety became so bad that I was having problems making it to appointments and leaving my apartment at all. For the first time since December of 2005, the obsessive thoughts of suicide and death increased to an alarming level. These issues could have been the result of the thyroid problem (or treatment of the thyroid problem) or it could have been the result of the Lamictal. Given my reaction to most, if not all, psychiatric medications in the past (and during times that I was not having the problems with my thyroid), I felt that the issues I was experiencing were a direct result of the Lamictal. I was also concerned that my “food issues” were causing a lot of my problems; but most, if not all, the doctors and mental health professionals I saw up to that point, with whom I did express these concerns, said I was a healthy weight. Therefore, the disordered eating habits were completely overlooked. Neither the psychiatrist nor the endocrinologist listened to my concerns even though I voiced these concerns regularly. As I experienced this type of negligence and apathy from medical providers for the majority of my adult life, I became increasingly suspicious of psychiatry, medicine, and medical treatment.

In March 2008, I quit taking the Lamictal due to these significant mood swings and emotional outbursts. I chose to stop taking medication for anxiety and depression because for the entire 13 years I was on them, none of those medications I was ever prescribed actually helped. When I very first started taking Prozac, the original medication I was prescribed back in June 1996, five weeks later I attempted suicide for the first time in my life. Every time the medications were changed or the dosage was raised or another one added, I fell deeper into a state of depression where I could not function at all or I became completely suicidal, ruminating constantly on thoughts of suicide and obsessing over methods to take my life.

I’ve often experienced my thoughts as loud voices, with or without medication. Prior to my adult years from as early as the age of 10 or 11 years old, these “loud thoughts” were mostly benign, more so creative expressions of my imagination; but as I grew older these voices became more sinister, often times screaming at me to kill myself. If (and that’s a BIG “if”) the medication quieted these voices slightly, the effect wouldn’t last long because I developed a compulsive tendency to obsess over certain thoughts, specifically death and suicide. While these thoughts do still occur (stress triggers this response and suicidal behavior in me) and I still feel the hopelessness that accompanies them, they happen no more or no less frequently than while I was medicated. The medications, however, made it easier to act on these thoughts as I had very little impulse control while on them. I also believe that the medication prolonged the periods of depression rather than improving the symptoms. The medication robbed me of life’s greatest treasures, my emotions and my creativity. Without those, life is not worth living, at least, not for me.

To be continued….

My Story – Part 7 (Chaos Relived)

Continued from My Story – Part 6 (Trying to Survive)

I want to reiterate my trigger warning on this post because I discuss suicidal ideation and weight issues with numbers that could be triggering for some readers. Please, keep yourself safe. 

When my boyfriend, P.I., and I broke up at the end of 2004, he told me I could stay with him until my court date over the child support with my ex-husband. When that court date was postponed until April (court was continuously postponed for a total of 6 years due to the fact that my ex-husband never showed up), I was left in a state of limbo, having no where to else to go and no income to support myself. P.I. allowed me to continue living with him and his parents; but he was constantly picking fights with me, pressuring me to find a job and abandon my disability claim. I looked at my life and chastised myself relentlessly for not getting my act together. I began working part-time as a floater at a preschool. Working with kids made me miss mine even more. I continued looking for a better job until I found a great full-time graphic artist position at a factory in Tullahoma, TN, making $11.50 per hour (the most I ever made in my life). In April, I spent the first two weeks at my job living out of a hotel room, eating nothing but peanut butter sandwiches and cereal. After I received my first paycheck, I put a deposit down on a 2 bedroom apartment and moved in.

Tullahoma is a small rural community, about two and a half hours away from where I had been living in Clarksville. I was so lonely. I knew no one there. The depression worsened. By the end of May, I ran out of medication. I tried getting help through a local mental health facility, but the services were minimal and unhelpful. My life felt so out of control. I called the crisis call line more times there than I ever had. Prior to moving to Tullahoma, I gained approximately 60 lbs, which in and of itself was a huge stressor for me given my disordered eating habits. This brought my total weight up to 170 lbs by January 2005 – the most I had ever weighed in my life, even while pregnant. I believe the weight gain was a result of an earlier change in medication. My best guess is the Lexapro because after I ran out of medication that extra 60 pounds of weight fell off very quickly. By the end of 2005, I was back down to 105 pounds. By the middle of June, I was a nervous wreck, realizing that even though I was making more money than I ever had, I still couldn’t afford to pay rent, electric, child support, student loans, buy food and groceries, and gas, not to mention my car was also giving me problems. I was in over my head again financially, all while going through horrible withdrawal from medication. I began feeling suicidal again; so I went into the ER for help.

(Hospitalization #7 – suicidal ideation) That night, I was transported to Moccasin Bend Mental Health Institute in Chattanooga, TN. This was another state-run facility like Middle Tennessee Mental Health Institute; but this one was by far scarier! (I have to interject here that transporting mental health patients by police car, shackled, and handcuffed, as I had been on numerous occasions, is not only inhumane and dehumanizing, but incredibly traumatic.) Riding up to this facility in the back of a police car down a long, long road that looks like it’s in the middle of absolutely no where, my first glimpse sent chills down my spine. It is actually on a peninsula, surrounded on three sides by the Tennessee RiverIt was lit up in the darkness of night with floodlights that made me think of prisons or the old-style insane asylums of the ’40’s and ’50’s. I had only seen pictures of places like this. I spent 3 very desperate days trying to get out of that hospital. They took me off all of the medications, except one, Effexor.

After this hospitalization, I tried to keep it together – I really did. Work was stressful. I couldn’t keep up with the pace my supervisor wanted me to work. I had missed several days due to the hospitalization and had a few tardies. My supervisor called me into her office to tell me that she was moving me to night-shift. I couldn’t object. I had no say. It was just done. A few days later, I walked out on my job. I just got up and left, in tears. As I sat at my computer that night trying to do my work, thoughts kept running through my mind. I’m not really sure what they were, now; but these thoughts had tears streaming down my face, panic quickly setting in. Humiliated that I was crying at work, embarrassed that I couldn’t make myself stop, worried that someone might see, feeling a despair that I had so often felt, and experiencing a panic like I had never felt before… I just got up and quickly walked out.

The move, the new job, missing work because of the hospitalization, the change in medication, no support system, no friends or family in the area, still dealing with child support issues and not being able to see my son, having transportation issues, not making enough money to cover all my expenses, even mourning the loss of my relationship with P.I. – it ALL became too much to handle. I didn’t even speak to my supervisor. I just left work and never went back.

That was the last time I worked.

I left Tullahoma. At this time, I asked my family for help, the first and only time I ever did so. I wanted to move back to my hometown to be closer to my son; but both my mother and my sister refused my pleas for help. My mother simply said she didn’t have the space. My sister told me I needed to stick it out where I was at and make the best of it. Fearing that I would go to jail if I missed the court appearance over the child support (now in July) and having no where else to go, I put everything I owned in storage and went back to Clarksville, TN. Again, homeless, I slept in my car for a couple of nights. I ended up losing everything I owned as a result of having no way to pay the storage facility.

For 3 days, I stayed at a place called Foundations Respite. Upon release, I was supposed to go to a domestic abuse shelter in Clarksville. It was the only place they could find for me since the homeless shelter was full. I dropped off the few belongings I had with me at that shelter and went to speak with P.I. over an unpaid water bill in my name. He convinced me to go to the ER that night because I expressed to him my suicidal thoughts. My plan was to speed down I-24 and crash into a rock wall. (Hospitalization #8 – suicidal ideation) I was in the hospital for a total of 24 days this time. My medication changed to Cymbalta, Risperdal, Remeron, and Adderall (for the newest diagnosis of ADD). After I was released from the hospital, I was supposed to go to a homeless shelter in Nashville; but P.I. allowed me to move back in with him. This was probably not one of my smartest decisions, but he was the only person who would take me in. There were so many people living in that house already – a total of 5 adults, 2-4 kids at any given time, 4 cats, and the constant traffic of friends and family coming over. It was crowded, to say the least, and totally overwhelming.

By the end of November 2005, I quit taking ALL the medications because I feared I wouldn’t be able to afford them any longer without insurance (I think this was around the time that TN was phasing out TennCare). I realized that I felt horrible and stressed whether or not I was taking them. This was when I first began to seriously question their effectiveness. Of course, that led to yet another hospitalization at Middle Tennessee Mental Health Institute in Nashville (Hospitalization #9 – suicidal ideation) because coming off of medication really is brutal. I seriously frightened myself this time as I sat there for what felt like hours (probably, more like minutes) holding P.I.’s gun to my head with my finger on the trigger. When I couldn’t force myself to pull that trigger (the thought of my son saved my life), I called my case manager. Like I’ve said before or meant to say before if I haven’t, ANY changes in my medication led me to suicide attempts or at least stronger than normal suicidal voices in my head. They became much harder to resist while medicated – I had little to no impulse control while medicated. Six out of 10 times, I was able to make myself seek help before I made a lethal decision. I can only say that my will to live was stronger than my will to die in those 6 instances. The 4 suicide attempts were the opposite, my will to die was stronger. Given the fact that I continue to experience suicidal thoughts even now, I honestly can’t say how to prevent them. The only thing I know for certain is that provided I can make myself “wait out” those thoughts and whatever emotions bring me to that point, I have a better chance of not acting on them.

Shortly after hospitalization #9, in January 2006, P.I. and I moved into a trailer that we had all to ourselves for a little while. Things calmed down some, but our relationship was never quite the same after we got back together. We argued a lot. He complained a lot. For the most part, I was vacant, in my mind. I could sit for hours just staring out the window in perfect silence, like I did when I was a little girl. My disability case had been reopened so many times the previous year that, at some point, I was told they had no record of me. I hired an attorney in 2006 to help me, but I had no hope of actually being approved. Shortly after summer 2006, P.I. got a job offer in Lebanon, TN; so we moved again. Not even a couple of months after we moved there, he met someone else and began having an affair with her. As he made plans to move in with this woman, I reached out to the only friend I had at the time, K.R. As I mentioned previously on my blog, even after our relationship ended in March 2002, K.R. and I remained friends and talked occasionally. He was the only friend to come see me while I lived in Tullahoma. He was always an ear to turn to when I struggled. He offered to let me stay with him in Nashville, TN; so I moved in with K.R. into his one bedroom apartment. Shortly after moving in, we decided to give our relationship another try; and we’ve been together ever since, just over 7 years, now.

As I’ve been writing out my story, I realize that it is growing far longer than I intended; but so much has happened in my life that I attribute to my mental health struggles. I don’t even feel like I’m going into as much detail as I could; but for the sake of brevity, as brief as I can get it anyway, I’m trying to establish a timeline here. Bear with me. I’m getting closer to the present day. 

To be continued…

My Story – Part 6 (Trying to Survive)

Continued from My Story – Part 5 (The Aftermath)

In glancing back over my old journals, I realized I may have my timeline a little confused in my mind. I rely on my journals to keep my memory in check because I wrote honestly and directly about the things that were going on at the time of each entry. Time has a funny way of distorting memories even for the most sane among us. When a person’s mind fragments in the way that mine always seems to during difficult times (this is very hard for me to explain, as I don’t even understand it), it makes life feel a lot more chaotic, leaving me to question reality and struggling to understand what feels like misplaced emotions. My emotions are very detached from my story because I simply compartmentalize emotions differently than memories. In my journals, however, the memories and the emotions are written together, in black and white, often times very raw with brutal intensity.

The particular journal I’m reviewing for this time period (the end of 2002 through 2004) is strange because the entries seem to lack any consistent order; and the entries are sporadic, at best. However, by November 2002, I had moved in with my boyfriend at the time, P.I., while struggling to attend classes at APSU. I dropped a couple of those classes early on in that semester. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I began missing classes and getting further and further behind in my school work. By the middle of November, I quit going to classes altogether which resulted in receiving an “F” in each one. Ten or so classes away from my Bachelor’s Degree in graphic design, I dropped out completely. I fear the debt that I incurred as a result of my mistake in going back to college will follow me to the grave. When I left college, I was a little over $20,000 in debt just on student loans. Even after making payments on these loans for much of the last 11 years, I still owe right at $23,000. I still struggle to understand how this is possible.

Sometime in September, I quit working at the beer bar where I had been working since May, following several instances of sexual harassment from bar patrons. One of these instances, I wrote about in my journal on August 11, 2002 (again, the day before my birthday):

I am getting so tired of working at the bar. Tonight Corona Bob pinned me up against the sink while I was washing dishes. He kept touching me and feeling me up. I got away from him and called [the owner of the bar] to close up early. Later, he did it again and I lost my temper after telling him to stop several times.

Unfortunately, this was a common occurrence while I worked there. Several different men who frequented the bar made similar advances. My guess is that this is fairly “typical” behavior in environments like these and even considered part of the job description. However, that does not make it okay (men, for God’s sake, look but don’t touch!!!). At the time, I really didn’t connect these experiences to triggers of PTSD, having very little knowledge of the condition (re-reading my journals, now, makes me realize that I was experiencing many of the symptoms of PTSD). In 2002, I was still in denial about having been raped in 1998. I blamed myself not only for the rapes, but also for these unwanted advances. I thought I deserved to be treated badly, confirmation that I was nothing more than an object. Looking back now, I can see why I was struggling so much to maintain my sanity and concentrate on college classes.

After dropping out of college that second time in 2002, the depression and anxiety continued to worsen. I became mostly nonfunctional through the remainder of the year. My therapist added either Schizoaffective Disorder or Schizotypal Personality Disorder. I just know I heard of both at different points in therapy with one of the two being added around this time. By this point, I wasn’t really keeping track of labels anymore because they changed so frequently. My psychiatrist continued to up the dosages of my medications and add more. At this point, I was taking a cocktail of Abilify, Effexor, Seroquel, and Lexapro. I found myself constantly exhausted with living, my mind in a hazy fog. I didn’t have the motivation to do anything, let alone find another job. I was also feeling extremely suicidal at the time, as expressed in a poem I wrote in my journal on November 12, 2002:

I pray that when I close my eyes,
Sleep will come and break the ties
To all earthly things that hold me here
And all the people I find so dear.
Never let me wake again.
Let my soul find freedom then.
Take me away from all the pain.
Give me peace, and break the chain.

By January 2003, my boyfriend, P.I. placed so much pressure on me to find a job that I ended up going back to work at the beer bar because I could find nothing else. This job was even worse the second time around. The sexual harassment from bar patrons escalated into my becoming very promiscuous again. As I completely lost the will to live due to the extreme situations I often found myself in, I gave-in to the pressures that surrounded me at this bar. Much of this time is lost with no memory, while other parts come back in frightening flashes. No journal entries exist, either. I completely stopped writing in my journal from June 2003 through December 2004. Because of the things I was doing to myself (self-harming through drugs and alcohol, starving myself, and promiscuity – even though I was in a relationship with P.I.), I knew that my lifestyle prevented me from having a relationship with my son. I had given up hope. I struggled through life the best way I could, the only way I knew how. Marijuana was my drug of choice, and I never had to pay for it because the patrons of the bar so often left it as a tip. I’m ashamed to admit that I also tried cocaine, crack, ecstasy, and snorting prescription drugs – each briefly, for the experience, hoping one would kill me. I self-medicated right alongside my alcoholic boyfriend almost the entire time we were together. (To be clear, I have absolutely nothing against marijuana. Honestly, I feel that it is far safer than prescription drugs and alcohol, and far more useful. The abuse of drugs and alcohol is in the mindset of the person using these substances in order to escape reality. And during this time period of my life, I was using anything I could get my hands on to escape reality.)

Then, on April 14th, 2004, my dad died from complications with diabetes. He had been on dialysis for many years, and his body finally gave out. P.I. and I were there at the hospital with him when he died. Everyone else had gone home for the night. I, honestly, did not realize how much my father’s death affected me until years later. His death truly devastated me. My dad always seemed to be the only person in my family who really understood me. We never really needed words because it only took a look to understand what the other was thinking or feeling. Daddy’s funeral was one of the few times that I actually got to see my son. In the years leading up to my father’s death, things between my sister and I became particularly strained. She blamed me for not helping her deal with Mom and Dad and their health issues. I had so much going on in my life (much of which I was too ashamed to even acknowledge); and I lived 5 hours away. Much of that time, I didn’t even own a reliable car, let alone being able to take time off from school and work. I know she became overwhelmed with caring for our parents, but I also couldn’t drop everything to go home every time she called. I did go home whenever I could manage it and when things became serious with Daddy, but I couldn’t go every time.

In May 2004, I quit working at the beer bar after a night of drunken brawls and an out of control crowd tested the strength of my courage. Life working at that beer bar became way too intense. I hated that job, more than any other I’ve ever had. It left me with far more emotional scars than I care to admit. The owner of the bar was furious with me for quitting (as was P.I.), threatening to report my under-the-table status to the district attorney who was handling my ex-husband’s child support case. I didn’t care anymore. I just knew I had to get away from the drugs and alcohol and sexual abuse that I was enduring while employed there.

The relationship with P.I. became increasingly unpredictable over the next few months, especially after his parents moved in with us. As he drank more and more, his words cut like knives. Our household became extremely chaotic. I began the disability process for the first time at some point in 2004 with his mother’s encouragement. I was denied later that same year. P.I. grew impatient with me, continuing to pressure me about finding a job. I felt I had no choice but to find work again; no one else would take care of me, despite my instability. The first job lasted no more than 3 days. The second attempt was not much better. I went back to work at Wal-Mart, only lasting two weeks. The stress of working with the public was too much. That evening when he found out I quit, P.I. was furious with me, scolding me like a small child. This scolding was reiterated the next night in a second round of beratements, pushing me over the edge when he basically told me to “get out.”

In an act of complete desperation (as is common in those of us diagnosed with BPD when faced with abandonment), I attempted suicide again (Suicide attempt #4 – overdose – and Hospitalization #6). The suicidal thoughts had been constant for the majority of 2002 through 2004. That’s a long time to feel suicidal. It’s difficult to explain the depth of despair and hopelessness that one feels at the moment of a suicide attempt, but this is the best description I have ever written of what I was feeling at the time:

Cold darkness fills my soul as death creeps closer to my inner being. Scratching, tearing, ripping away at the small amount of esteem that exists at my core. Swallowed by darkness, I feel ever so close to death’s grips, falling deeper, deeper into a hole of nothingness called Hell. The farther I fall, the less connection I have to this reality known as life. Life falls away as easily as leaves fall away from dying trees in autumn. Only, there is no hope of rebirth during spring. Mythical creatures loom in the darkness away from my sight, waiting patiently for the call of death’s screams. No light can be seen in this ominous abode, this destructive cavern of Hell’s inferno. Agony awaits my soul’s defeat. Perdition, the abyss of darkness, looms over me ready to devour my spirit. What affliction possesses me and won’t dismiss my pitiful essence to be free? Suicide is its name. Depression is the affliction. Death, the outcome of years of struggling to free myself from that spiraling hole that swallows me like quick sand. No hope left, I give in….

I think I’ll stop at this point today and continue my story in another post as this one has already reached over to 2000 words. I almost hope that no one reads this part of my story because it is very depressing, and I’m sorry for that. Unfortunately, suicidal ideation is part of my battle; and my story would not be complete without addressing it in this way.

To be continued….

My Story – Part 5 (The Aftermath)

Continued from My Story – Part 4 (The Second Half of My Year of Hell)

By the end of that first semester at APSU in 1999, my now ex-husband, C.F., decided to move back to our hometown in East TN. Visitation with my son was sporadic at best while we all still lived in the same city. After they moved to East TN, I only saw my son on rare occasions. Not only was it a 5 hour drive to my hometown from Clarksville, TN, but transportation was also an issue, as well as taking time off from work and school. Each visit lasted no more than a couple of hours each time. Much of the time, I didn’t even know where they lived. Before they left, C.F. told me not to worry about the child support until I finished college. In defense of my naivety, I took him at his word.

However, in May 2001, C.F. reported me for failure to pay child support. My life quickly spiraled out of control again due to the added pressure and financial stress. The owner of the printing business where I worked was primarily an attorney. He took my case to court for me. Finally, someone with a heart, or so I thought. Every single attorney I had spoken with, told my story to (including this one), told me the same thing, “You should give up your parental rights.” Just because I gave one child up for adoption under completely different circumstances (or perhaps, similar depending on how you look at it) and struggled for so many years with mental illness didn’t mean that I had no right to be in my son’s life. At that point, I would have been happy with any type of regular visitation, even if that meant the supervised visitation declared in the divorce decree. That was never to be an option as the courts were only concerned with the child support. My life was to be tied up in the court system until spring 2007, unable to leave the city of Clarksville without fear of imprisonment.

I took any statement regarding my parental rights very personally, equally to those callous, judgmental comments that others made to me, stating that I should have made more of an effort to be in my child’s life. I so desperately wanted to be. No one else saw the sleepless nights I spent worrying where my child was because his father moved yet again and didn’t contact me with his whereabouts. No one else saw the rivers of tears I cried or felt my gut wrenching heartache that smothered the life out of me. No one felt my helplessness, my hopelessness, that led me down roads of despair that would frighten even the most sane. No one heard the horrible, awful things I told myself, berating my self-worth. Things, I wouldn’t say to my worst enemy. No one fell to my level of despair that cried out for death to take me, let me fall asleep and never wake up. None of these people understood. None heard my voices. They only heard their own.

I did the best I could given the emotional support I had, which was very little. I raised my son for the first 4 years of his life with very little emotional support from C.F. or any family member, for that matter. Telling me to give up my parental rights literally ground my stomach into knots every time I heard it. It was like stabbing darts into my chest. It was like I had a sign on my chest announcing my worthlessness as a person and my failure as a mother. (My God, I lived the Scarlet Letter!) The hopelessness I felt of having a relationship with my son or watching him grow up ate away my soul piece by piece until I was blinded by despair. But anyway, this attorney represented me in the child support case in court. As a result by October, my child support amount was raised and my wages and income tax garnished. More than half my paycheck each week was taken directly.

Then, jets crashed into the World Trade Center…

I didn’t personally know anyone who was there that day or involved in the aftermath. I don’t know why this affected me so deeply, shook my world and beliefs to the point of questioning absolutely everything; but it did. My journal entry from September 11, 2001:

“What a day it has been! America is under attack. Around 8:00 [actually 7:46, Central Time] this morning, one of the World Trade Center towers was hit by a commercial aircraft. About 10 to 15 minutes later, the second tower was hit by another commercial aircraft. A little while later the Pentagon was hit by a third aircraft! And finally a fourth commercial aircraft crashed outside of Pittsburgh near Camp David. This was a totally horrific day. Thousands of people, civilians, have been killed today. People were jumping from windows to get away from flames. Both towers ended up collapsing a couple of hours later. It is estimated that 266 people died as a result of the plane crashes alone. The twin towers can hold as many as 40,000 employees as well as any visitors in the buildings. It is unknown how many survivors there actually are. Life as everyone knows it, changed today. As crazy as it seems, the events of today actually happened.”

I remember that morning quite clearly. I was driving to work when I heard about the first plane hitting the World Trade Center. The radio announcer seemed to think this must be some crazy fluke. Moments after I reached work, still sitting in my car hanging on every word coming from my radio, the second plane crashed. The radio announcer no longer thought this was a fluke. I rushed inside to tell my coworkers. They had heard about the first, but not the second. The three of us just stood there in shock.

On my way to classes that afternoon, I stopped by where my boyfriend at the time, who I will refer to as K.R. (because seriously, he looks like Kid Rock), worked because they had a television there. This was during a 3 year period that I chose not to own a TV. I can only describe what I saw on TV as pure chaos combined with complete devastation. I felt the most gut wrenching pain and sadness totally overwhelm me. As I watched people jumping from those towers, I felt their despair, their hopelessness. Those images are embedded in my mind and my heart. Even now as I write this, I cry when I think about it. We all sat stunned, asking how did this happen? Why did this happen?

It was around this point that my grades started slipping. I began skipping classes. I constantly felt distracted, emotionally drained, and stressed out. This was the last semester that my grades were average. The next two semesters ended with me dropping out each time. Some days I would drive onto campus, look for a parking spot, become so frustrated from not finding one anywhere that I would turn around and go home! I was a mess.

I continued to try to survive the best way I knew how, working my part-time job, attending college full-time, and trying to maintain a few friendships/ support system along the way. Classes were becoming harder and harder to sit through. Work was a distraction, at best, but felt like I was working for nothing because I couldn’t financially support myself on what I was making. I was very close to losing my apartment and the small amount of control I had left in my life. The financial stress became too much again, resulting in another breakdown. At the first of March 2002, I ended up in the hospital for the fifth time due to thoughts of suicide (Hospitalization #5 – suicidal ideation).

While I was in the hospital, K.R. made arrangements with a friend’s father to move us into their home. I will refer to this friend as S.W. (again, not initials for her name, but Spiritual Warrior because she and I shared similar beliefs at the time). Her father and two younger siblings were moving to Virginia, leaving S.W., 18 years old, behind to finish high school. We were supposed to move in to keep an eye on things until the house sold; but shortly after he left, everything spiraled completely out of control very fast. K.R., bless his heart, was only trying to help by finding us another place to live. I was furious that he didn’t bother asking me about the move; or if he did, I was too emotionally compromised to remember it. Much of the time from 9/11 up until hospitalization #5 (even afterwards), I was completely dissociated from myself.

K.R. and I broke up as a result of this move. Maybe, I was mourning the loss of my independence, my loss of control, brief as that control lasted. I guess it came down to my feelings of inadequacy, and my low self-worth only fueled my inability to handle a relationship at that time. By the end of March, I was fired from the printing business where I was working, partly because I had missed so much work due to the hospitalization and partly because I had no transportation due to bizarre circumstances. S.W.’s house was in a very rural setting, not on a bus route. Even though I had a car at the time, shortly after I returned to work at the printing business (after the hospitalization), I somehow lost my car keys. A few days after I was fired, a neighbor from down the road showed up at our house, higher than a kite on something, and returned my car keys to me. Apparently, I had dropped my keys in the driveway where she said she “found” them a week earlier. At least, that was the final story we got out of her. She must have changed it 5 or 6 times while she stood there talking to S.W. and me.

S.W.’s house quickly turned into a party house. All of her high school friends came there to drink and get high and do whatever else they pleased. I realized very quickly that this was a very bad situation for me to be in due to the constant access to a self-harmer’s smorgasbord of choices. To make matters worse, I found a job working part-time at a little hole-in-the-wall beer bar. Normally, I don’t claim this job at all because not only was I working under-the-table for a boss who threatened to use this fact against me; but a lot of things happened while working there that I still can’t discuss. So many things happened in the short time I lived with S.W., about 5 months total. I found myself slipping further and further into chaos again. For the first time in my life, I began using drugs and alcohol to cope with my emotions in addition to the psychiatric medication I was on. I sporadically used alcohol during my marriage for this purpose, but nothing like the summer of 2002. S.W. ended up dropping out of high school. I felt so ashamed that I couldn’t prevent this. By the time I had enough and decided to move out, I pleaded with her father to do something to help her. Thankfully, he agreed that this wasn’t working for her and moved her to Virginia with him.

In August, I moved into a small house on my own, but found I couldn’t afford the rent after I quit working at the beer bar. I had used part of my student loans to cover my living expenses, but there just wasn’t enough to survive. By October, I began dating a guy who I will call P.I. (named solely for his profession at the time). I met him at the bar where I worked. We had only gone out a few times when he offered me a place to stay. It was a kind of weird, messed up relationship from the beginning. Oddly enough, a friend and I caught him spying on us right outside my kitchen window one night prior to my moving in with him. I suppose I should have cut off contact with him at that point, but I was desperate again. After only a couple of months living with him, I realized that he was an alcoholic. I guess you could call him a functional alcoholic, not a mean alcoholic; but he drank up all his money (beer mostly). And he mostly blamed me for never having any money.

I struggled to continue going to my classes; but by this point the stress was too much to handle. I shut down, and I never finished my degree.

To be continued….