To Sleep, Perchance to Dream

So I’m probably preaching to the choir, but I have had sleep problems forever. When I was little, I slept so deeply, I wet the bed till I was inappropriately old to be doing it. (Thank goodness that passed.) Then, I became a horribly difficult sleeper – everything woke me. With the depression, I would be able to sleep 18 hours one week, and then only 3 the next week. Besides, depressive sleep is a different kind of sleep – it’s deep and hard, but it’s sad and painful.

I try to sleep. My eyes are closed and I am in bed. But falling asleep requires drugs (of which I have tried an assortment – let me tell you about those side effects!) and then I have difficulty staying asleep. Sometimes I close my eyes telling myself, “ok, we are going to relax and get some rest, girl” and I open my eyes and 5 hours have passed. So that means I wasn’t really asleep for those 5 hours. A lot of times, I’m basically directing my dream – almost like I’m above it, directing a play. When I do fall asleep, I have anxiety nightmares (where for some reason someone is always yelling at me and won’t let me explain – yeah, you have to ask Freud about that…) and I wake myself up yelling or continuing the conversation. Funny thing about that is that I’m aware I’m awake but I still feel the need to finish the thought. I crack myself up. Sometimes, I get up to use the bathroom, and in the 20 seconds it takes me to get back to bed, start worrying about the day ahead and if I’ll be tired when I wake up and if I’m actually sleeping. Needless to say, sleep has become the enemy.

And no one can say I don’t try. I have an eye patch and noise machine. I only sit in my bed when it is nighttime. I do not nap. I only drink one cup of coffee at 8:30am every day, otherwise, no other caffeine. I wake up at the same time every day and “go to sleep” every time at night. I stop looking at computers and phones about 30 minutes before I go to sleep. I try to read, listen to classical music, sometimes if the meds have kicked in, I have the patience for a mindfulness exercise. The one error I make is that I sometimes eat too late and that makes it difficult some nights to lie down. But that is a whole other issue all on its own.

Evidently there is this new form of sleep therapy called CBTI and it’s what it sounds like: Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia. (Check out the program and procedures.) They try about half the things I already do, and something I think is cool called “sleep restriction” which sounds awful but effective. Given my doctor would really like to get me off my sleeping meds, and the impact my lack of sleep has on my mood and my day, she really thinks this might be helpful.

Of course, my insurance doesn’t cover it. So now I have to decide whether it is worth the money to pay out of pocket. Does anyone else find therapy and programs really difficult to value? How do I know what’s too much for a program or a treatment? I mean, there’s no real comparison tools. Plus, with mental health, if it works, it seems like it was worth all the money in the world. And when it doesn’t, even $25 seems like a horrid waste that could have gone to buying some groceries.

I just remember that I used to love sleep. I loved that really deep, dead to the world sleep, where your body just felt like a rock. I remember as a child, I also liked dreams. They just felt so real even though they were so odd. Now my dreams feel so real that I carry their emotional impact around with me all day – and I don’t have good dreams anymore, I have terror dreams, which I believe are called night terrors or nightmares.

I’m not a morning or a night person, and without sleep, I’m not really a midday person either. I don’t know what I’m going to do. I just know I’m tired and the idea of blissful sleep is such a distant idea, it feels like merely a dream I used to have.

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Finding My New & True Voice

 

So remember how last year I got into that school in London but decided not to go because I didn’t think I was ready? Well I reapplied again, and they let me in again. I wasn’t supposed to find out for a few weeks and have been trying to prepare myself. Needless to say I wasn’t ready for it today. Best laid plans, I suppose…

I get in the shower to get ready to go see my psychiatrist. And I just start sobbing. You know that sobbing when you aren’t breathing and no noise is coming out, but your mouth is just wide open, as if the pain is just this black smoke slowly creeping from your mouth. Do we call that sobbing? It feels like an aching echo of pain.

I find myself in a fugue state. I’m getting dressed, getting in the car, but I’m out of my body. I can’t even remember if I put underwear on. I can’t think because I can’t seem to slow my brain down long enough to pick a topic to think about.

And then my mind stops and I begin to think. See, technically, since I have pulled out from the depression, I have moved “forward” from my depression. I finally got out of bed, started keeping appointments, analyzing past experiences, trying new things, losing weight. I have been taking positive steps to a healthy life. But I have no job, no friends, no hobbies. There’s no one to call to share my news, giggle about boys, drag to a museum exhibit. I know that when I had that life I was fucked up. I was self-harming, and drinking, and fucking with my diet and my body. I would hole up in my room for days, not showering, not responding, unable to move. But I had a life.

In fact, I’ve never even know a “life” without depression. I can’t dream of my “perfect” world because my only reference of having things I want is from when I was clinically depressed. All I have to show for it is the life I have built so far – and that is really not a life, but a daily process of trying to stay healthy – physically, emotionally, mentally.

In 2012, I decided I was going to die. And so, from 2012-2014, I received ECT treatments. I voluntarily allowed someone to give me seizures three times a week for over a year. It’s only been 4 years since then. It’s only been two years since I told my mother than when I turned 35, if we hadn’t “resolved” my depression, I was leaving and she needed to prepare. And now, I am 7 months from turning 35 and I am debating whether to move to London? I’m just totally boggled at where I am right now.

I mean – what the fuck? I’m better but I’m not whole. I don’t know how to be whole without my disease. I don’t know if I can be better and be whole. I can’t tell if I might finally get both and then my medication will crap out on me, and I will fall too far, and this time, just refuse to get back up.

Man, I hate hope. It’s such a manipulative monster. Then again, so is depression. Hope makes you want – desire, happiness, passion, joy. It fills your mind with possibilities and “what-ifs” that don’t end in tears. I’m so fucking scared right now, my fingers are shaking.

I feel so selfish to even feel this way. I mean, this is what we all want, right – to be better? I wonder how many people actually get “better” and go to their psychiatrist just to “check-in” but they actually are living functional, content lives. I mean, I didn’t actually think that would ever happen. Not in reality. I don’t know whether I can handle another breakdown, but I also will never know if I can find a life worth living if I don’t try.

And the weirdest part of this whole thing, is that with all of these achievements, my urges to self-harm have increased. I keep trying to protect myself from letting go and believing good things can happen. I don’t trust my own voice because for so long, it wasn’t mine. It sounded like me, it came from within me, but it was my depression. Do I have a voice? What does it sound like? Can I trust it? How do I know it’s my true voice?

 

I’m A Sensitive Woman, Not A Drama Queen – Role Reboot

Since I was a child, my family has treated my sensitivity as a symptom of self-centeredness, a way of privileging my own emotions over others’ by, in their view, exaggerating them, inflating them, even inventing them. Sarah Bernhardt was a late 19th-century dramatic actress from France, earning her moniker, The Divine Sarah, for her celebrated …

Source: I’m A Sensitive Woman, Not A Drama Queen – Role Reboot

The Myth of Normal

Okay, I’m not the sharpest tool in the shed, but yes, I know that there is no “normal.” And yet, throughout my life, all I have craved was to just be normal. In the throws of depression, I suppose we all develop our own normal as it applies to the “what-ifs” and “if onlys” of our life at that time. Normal is the fantasy of all that is destroyed by the illness. The life we cannot have, the potential we cannot reach.

I remember during my breakdown, crying to my mother about how I could and would never be normal. I wouldn’t be able to have a healthy, sustainable relationship with a man. I would never be happy with my body. I would never not hate myself. I would never fully trust people. I could never just live life without ruining it through self-sabotage, perfectionism, comparison, and judgement.

At that time, normal was having a boyfriend, but still being really independent. It was enjoying my job without the constant fear of failure and burn-out. I would be successful but not too far at the top so I could have a life. I would go to brunch with friends, be open to adventures, meet people from diverse backgrounds, continue to try new things and always be learning. I was thin, pragmatic with money, with a job I was proud of, living in a city where I walked everywhere, and knew my neighbors. I had friends who called me more than I called them, and I knew they wanted to be my friends and needed me in their lives. I  guess normal was really the feeling of safety. A calm contentment and assurance of consistency and order. Boring never sounded so good.

I suppose that’s why this year has been so frustrating. Finally after spending pretty much my entire life in a clinical depressive state, I am evaluating, testing, relearning, trying. Today, I was running an errand, in the middle of the day on a weekday, and I got this terrible feeling: what if I can never go back to work? I’ll be on disability, running errands in the middle of the day with seniors, trust fund babies, and parents who are with their young children or maybe work from home. As I allowed my mom to pay for my groceries, I thought, what if I have to be dependent on my parents for financial support for my life? As I looked into my fridge, I wondered if I will ever be able to look at myself in the mirror and just be okay with it? As I avoided eye contact with a relatively attractive man (I was avoiding eye contact so it was blurry….) I thought, will I ever actually be able to be in a relationship with a man or am I going to have to go back to the old days of just getting drunk, and demoralizing myself to feel wanted for a few hours?

We are all different people, with different life experiences, and life is constantly changing, shifting, surprisingly us, failing us, guiding us. I suppose the realization I am supposed to have at the end of this post is that there is no normal and that there shouldn’t be. That it’s just a set of standards we set up for ourselves to fail because we will never reach it. Or maybe because it’s put upon us by society and what it tells us to want, need, and be in the world. Normal seemed so obvious and defined when I was so depressed. And now, with possibility, I’m dumbfounded to explain what normal actually is.

But I can’t seem to let the idea go – even knowing it’s an irrational myth. And I still crave to be “normal.” And I think I mourn the normal I never had … even if I know it wasn’t real.

I think deconstructing the myth will require letting go of judgement – of my past, present and possible future. And honestly I can’t even wrap my mind around that. I feel like if you took away self-judgement from my life, I would be just a sliver of a person – it has defined my humor, my outlook, my goals, and decisions. Honestly, it seems like it’s easier to believe in the illusion of normal, because – can you really fail at reaching something impossible?

So how do we handle the myth of normal? How do we not let it consume and control us? How do we redefine life without it, and can we?

i want to believe: attempting to see the me others see

i realized driving home the other night that what i really, truly want is to see myself the way my therapist sees me.

here is someone who sees all my baggage. knows my weaknesses, my failures, my fears. she’s seen me not at my worst, but pretty bad, and she’s seen me overly excited like a kid with a new toy on christmas. she harbors no judgement when i fail. she does not dismiss me for making the same mistake over and over again. she never sighs, rolls her eyes, or changes the subject.

she sees the worst in me, and while there is a part of me that thinks the next statement is because i pay her, i’m going to ignore it and say it anyway:

i believe my therapist looks at me and sees that i am a good, worthy person of value. that i am bright, smart, intuitive, kind, empathetic and passionate. she believes i will do great things and that i will find contentment in my life as i continue to journey through. she believes i will not only survive, but i will thrive.

and this is about as vulnerable as i get… but i want to see myself the way she sees me. to see my imperfections as experiences that are part of my past but do not define me – they do not make me who i am. i want so badly to believe this. with all my heart. i want to love myself. i want to have faith in the person i am, i want to feel pride, to even feel special.

i can even fucking tell why she sees what she thinks she sees. maybe i’m just a good bulllshitter (actually i know i am – anyone who can hide severe depression is usually a black belt at bullshitting), or maybe, just maybe, it’s the truth.

whether it is the truth or not, i could still believe it right? i mean, people have tremendous amounts of faith in themselves, in others, in their religion – they say a “leap of faith” but i think it’s more like “a gigantic blind jump down an incredibly tall mountain with no bottom in sight – of faith.”

i’ve never believed in g-d. i’ve never had faith that things will turn out well. i’ve never believed that things happen for a reason or in karma. i mean, even as a kid, i just saw the world and i knew none of those ideas were true. and i am jealous of those that have faith, that believe in fate, that believe things happen for a reason. i want to be one of those people! but i’m not, and no amount of therapy or medication is going to convince me otherwise. and for the most part, that’s ok.

i guess the only kind of faith i hope i can have one day, is faith in myself. i want to believe. i really do. i just don’t know how.

Men; Chapter 32: Male Therapists

A quick note on the title: I have a shit ton of issues with men – to the point that there is no way to just write one post about them. My list of problems run long and deep, and I decided maybe the best way to examine them is to take each issue one at a time. So yeah, I’m starting with Chapter 32. After all, if you were reading a book of essays, it wouldn’t matter what chapter you started with – so roll with it, folks.

I have always had female therapists. I mean, there was never any doubt otherwise. With all of my issues (as mentioned above) with men, the idea of sitting across from one and explaining why I’ve never dated, been intimate while sober, or dealt with the sexual assaults and rape I have experienced – it’s unfounded.

So I am starting this DBT workshop in February. Part of DBT is having a DBT therapist. I have no money and the organization I am working with has a funny idea of what “sliding scale” means. The only way to afford the therapist is to see their intern. They have one. And you got it, it’s a man.

When I first spoke to him on the phone, I flipped out. He just sounded like this young, super hot guy. I know, can you really tell if a guy is hot from his voice? Yeah, you can. I went online and found a picture of him with a description. The good news is he looked much older, almost balding, and had three children and a wife. Okay, unattractive, older but not too old, and settled. That’s not too intimidating.

So I saw him this week. He really needs a new picture. He’s not like speechless hot, but he’s definitely not that old, not balding, and has a fantastic energy. I told him off the bat my concerns with having a male therapist and he tried to explain that he wouldn’t try to understand the female perspective and I could call him out on it.

Yeah…that’s not the issue. I don’t think because he’s a man he’s not going to understand – he’s a therapist – I think he transcends that simplicity of heterosexual gender. So I’ve been trying to decide what “it” is. And I think it’s this: I can tell a woman and a man the same thing. I can tell them about my depression, my mishaps, even my assaults. But when I tell a woman, and it’s not because I think she can understand, but I feel safe enough to be vulnerable (at least if I trust and respect her). I can not only tell her the facts, I can explain the emotional weight and consequence behind it. I can explain the disgust or fear or self-hate and I don’t just say it – I express it. With men, I pull back to protect my vulnerability. I tell them what happened, I might even tell them the feelings it brought up, but I tell them about it like telling a story. I’m self-removed. Like I’d say something personal and immediately follow with: “but whatever. shit happens. emotional fuck up. i get it. blah blah blah.” I’m already dismissing its’ significance and depth.

I think my unhealthy boundaries with men as a child; spending time with boys growing up where I was seen as asexual even though I certainly didn’t see them that way; my horrible decisions with men as I got older due to my overwhelming self-hate and destructive behavior; my traumatic sexual experiences which have kept me emotionally stunted with men for over a decade now…I imagine all of this plays into it.

There is a power dynamic with men – maybe because I fear their emotional power over me in their ability to reject or lead me astray and in my attraction to them. Maybe because I fear my weakness in setting boundaries, in feeling guilt and shame, always feeling like I have to constantly prove my worth or they will get up and walk away. I guess for me, vulnerability is the scariest release I could provide. Allowing myself to be open, makes me feel dirty and disgusting, pathetic and unworthy.

It’s not that I don’t have these feelings around some women, especially those I have yet to develop respect for or trust in their support (i.e. all women except my therapists.) And if I am vulnerable with a woman and she judges, crosses a boundary, walks away, it hurts like a motherfucker. But it’s a different pain, a different power dynamic, a different exposure.

The good news is, DBT isn’t so much about exploring your past. It’s about dealing in the present. Of course the first module we are working on is interpersonal effectiveness, which is going to mean discussing my issues with men. But DBT is less emotional, it’s more of a skills-based practice of managing life. And maybe that in and of itself sets a boundary of safety.

My female therapist, who I will continue seeing, said that it is common for women to not want men as therapists – especially if they have had severe negative experiences with them. But she also said that for some, it’s an amazing opportunity to actually develop a healthy, trusting relationship with a man.

He seems really kind. I don’t believe he has ulterior motives or an agenda. I really believe he wants to help and he is excited to start this journey with me. The real problem is within me and my skewed perspective of him. I just hope he wears a really ugly sweater next time I see him or has something in his teeth. Could that change the power dynamic I have somehow established in my mind? It certainly couldn’t hurt.

my bubble burst: when fight turns into flight

Well my bubble burst. I’m exhausted by what I’ve done this week, what I have to deal with next week, and just the idea that this life-how it just never stops-if you decide to try and live-I don’t know if I can do that. Choices, responsibilities, accountability, consistency. I’m nauseous.

ive just set myself up for a ton of commitments and choices to make. I’ve blabbed too much in trying to prove myself and now if I don’t I will have failed and proved them right again.

she’s going to text soon abt the gym. Sunday and Saturday are usually my favorite bc it’s quiet in the afternoon. But I don’t want to go. But if I tell her that she’s going to get nervous-find a way to come over to “drop something off” so she can see if I’m ok. And if I don’t go, I’m not going to run any other errands or leave the house. I did that yesterday and I want to do it again.

if only it wasn’t for my big mouth. I’ve been over sharing my aspirations, my plans. I’ve set myself up to fail. And I don’t have it in me to worry abt myself and abt her worrying abt me. But I will.

It should be fight or flight or freeze up and freak out. I guess that’s encapsulated in flight. I am getting cravings to pack a bag and start driving; to stop eating for days; to stay in bed all day. I am also waiting to snap out of it and clean my kitchen, get to the gym, run some errands, and get back in control.

the fate of my day, the drastic difference of choice, the effect it could have on the days after is so simple and yet too overwhelming.

What have I done? i want my bubble back.

 

 

Weekend Takeaway: Everything in Life is Only For Now

After a chaotic week of highs and lows, I turned to one of my favorite musicals, took a deep breath, and listened to the song “For Now.”

This is my weekend gift to you. I hope it helps you take a breath and even provides a smile. Keep on keeping on, my friends.

(P.S. It is an adult musical about life after college…with puppets…go with it. Don’t be fooled by the puppets – they are very mature.)

For Now

 

Just another (hypo)manic Monday…Or just a good day?

With bipolar II, you don’t get manic episodes but rather hypomanic episodes. When I was rediagnosed with bipolar II, it made a lot of sense. I would say I was depressed about 85% of the time; empty of emotion for about 5%; and the most efficient, head strong, detail-oriented, go-getter for 10%. That 10%, those were my hypomanic episodes.

In retrospect, I didn’t just act different, I felt different. I couldn’t sleep, I couldn’t stop thinking, calling people, setting up plans, brainstorming, bursting into my supervisors office with a plan to start a new task force. And it was an amazing feeling. Like an adrenaline boost that lasted for days. And then one day I would wake up, and have such an emotional hangover. Everything I had done disgusted me and made me feel completely vulnerable, selfish, and frustrated. I cancelled all the plans I made, got really quiet, and began to sleep tremendous amounts. In other words, I began my descent into a massive depressive episode.

Now I get these days where even though I feel tired, I feel this rush of possibility. It usually happens either after making a decision I feel good about or after accomplishing something that scared me. All of a sudden, I feel the need for speed. Well…I feel like I should start creating the landscape of my future (I just really wanted to get in a Top Gun reference).

This happened recently. I just signed up for three classes, one of which terrifies me and the other is at night which is a challenge. I set up an appointment with a personal trainer, helped someone with their resume, kind of got asked out…I think…,decided to apply for another MA program, and reached out to volunteer. Oh, and DBT starts in a few weeks and I just met my new DBT therapist and that is going to be at night as well.

I should note that I am completely terrified. When I’m not busy reading my statement of intent, going to the gym, or calling my friends, I’m waiting for my bubble to pop. I begin to feel tired or cancel something and I think – that’s it, here comes trouble.

But I don’t think it’s hypomania anymore. The truth is, I am an organized, gregarious, go-getter. I like the idea of plans rather than actually committing to them, so applying or offering to help, or signing up for a class that hasn’t started, is fun and safe.

I also do get exhausted from being like this. When I am around people, I like to make sure everyone is connecting and generally do this by making them laugh. There is no better high than making someone else feel good. If I really had a hobby, it would be helping people. It’s fun, a bit selfish, and I could do it as much as possible. But I also need time to process the energy, the excitement, the noise. Sometimes the quiet is unnerving after all that mishigas, and other times, I just need a day alone, doing something efficient like cleaning or reorganizing folders, before I can get up the energy to make three calls the next day.

I’m a bit concerned about maintenance of this behavior; managing the highs and lows so that neither are too extreme and push me just too far. I think these DBT classes are there to help me – to give me tools to bring me back to the present, to take a breathe and just be. In the meantime, I guess I’m just riding it while I can. I will crash pretty soon, but in the meantime, it’s kinda fun.

overrated holidays: new years

i suppose my hatred of new years and my birthday were exacerbated by my depression. both holidays are intended to have one reflect on their past year and set goals for the future ahead.

in the past that meant reflecting on days of lying in bed crying, struggling to get out of said bed, and losing touch with people I love. and that’s really not inspiring for the second component of looking forward into the future.

and for those of us who have anxiety, looking into the future isn’t super helpful either. if i wanted a “what-if” party, i could just sit by myself in the quiet of my bedroom at 10pm – oh wait, i do that already.

this past year, i did allow people to celebrate my birthday for the first time since i was too young to say i didn’t want to. of course i have threatened people for so long not to mention it, it was actually kind of a let down. so i decided that i would pick a nice day from the past and decide that that day was my “birthday.” it’s an overrated holiday. whatever. besides, i’m like 15 years younger in terms of emotional maturity, so what age are we really talking about? i didn’t even expect to live past next year so i suppose indifference is a better view than analyzing who i’ve become.

as for new years, i’m not afraid to look back on this year. i’ve done some good work and while i have had set backs, i’ve been incredibly lucky to have found medication that has allowed me to push myself – even if it doesn’t look that amazing on paper.

as for the coming year, there are things i have to think about that involve decisions about my future – but i will deal with them when the time comes. for now, it’s about this month, this week, and this day. it’s about the bigger goals of self-compassion, growth, and internal strength-building. it might not look like much to others – another year of perhaps not working, not dating, perhaps failing in areas i have worked in. but i sadly don’t need a holiday to make me overthink that.

for those of you who are taking this new years hard, i plead for you to take this as an opportunity to do the exact opposite and choose not to look back or look ahead, but just try and face today. and like facebook, no one is really having that much fun anyway. take care of yourselves.