There’s a stigma attached to those who have to be on medication to get through their day. I, for one, am tired of keeping this secret. I remember my first panic attack. I was in my workplace, in a meeting, and suddenly, I couldn’t concentrate on what was being said. An overwhelming feeling of fear …
Well the panic has hit and my urges to cancel my flight, my Airbnb, and my plans have all come stomping in. Sometimes I’m in the car and I just think: “I can’t. I can’t do this. I can’t” and envision myself curling up in a ball and become unresponsive for days. I wrote to my DBT coach letting him know and he suggested a little mini-vacation for my mind via distraction. So breathing and relaxation, listening to music, going to the gym. He’s right – when I’m busy, especially around other people, I don’t really have time to think about the 18 million things that may go wrong. My rumination goes to catastrophe right away with things like this and distracting my thoughts can help slow the heart rate and anxiety.
It’s amazing how clear and rational ideas are in our head and yet how fucking difficult they are to believe, feel, and do. I know it’s 6 days; I know I only have to do a few things on my list if I really want to; there are no expectations; and going now does not mean I have to attend in the fall. I will be meeting this old friend, and based on some past emails, it seems she still might have some of the same behaviors from our past that I have given up. But I have thought through some avoidance techniques, and just have to remember who I am now and how hard I have worked to become that person, and how much I like her (me) compared to the other one (me a few years ago).
Yesterday, I was just reflecting with socialworkerangela on how weird it can feel when you are having a good day because you feel like you’re waiting for the other shoe to drop. It kind of takes away the enjoyment of the good feelings because you are in this state of fear things will eventually go poorly. Yesterday, I spent some time looking around at the challenges I have taken on this past year and the life I have built, as simple as it is. But I am building a foundation, and I think the panic was that I am leaving the safety of it all.
Not that I’m still challenging my fears. Yesterday I tried on sunglasses. Sounds stupidly simple, right? But I have had such a fear of looking at my face in front of other people , I have never gotten sunglasses before. It took me until a year ago to get real glasses so I’ve been driving with a bit of a blur for years. With sunglasses, it was even more embarrassing because those are supposed to be “cool.” In the past, I just took my brothers’ old ones when he broke them. Still, seems such a simple task, right? But like…huge for me.
Things will be ok. I will have options. I can decide my own version of failure and success. I am allowed to make mistakes. I just have to take it a step at a time. And evidently there’s this thing in DBT called “radical acceptance” where you just accept your reality. (It always makes me laugh a little when I think about it. It’s just a ridiculously big fucking ask.)
Okay, so now I just have to actually BELIEVE those statements. I knew there was a catch. ;)
Thank goodness I see my therapist today. I just hope I don’t grab onto her leg and refuse to let it go. That could be a really embarrassing situation.
i’m having the “don’t wannas” right now. you know:
i don’t wanna go to dbt class
i don’t wanna go to therapy after
i don’t want to drive
i don’t want to think
i don’t want to organize my day tomorrow
i don’t wanna spend any more money right now but i want to magically make it
i’m sure there could be more if i put my mind to it. in my head i am so jealous of the little girl having a temper tantrum somewhere, lying on the ground kicking and screaming. that must feel so good. maybe after a session of that, i would “wanna.”
But I’m gonna, and I guess that’s what makes me know I am doing better. that’s what matters.
ok this might seem weird, but i had this feeling just now.
i’m starting to think that deep down i’m a free-spirited person. not that i want to live in the woods, but that i want to be open to ideas and people.
i think i might like adventure, learning, and even excitement. I like exploring and being challenged. I like making people laugh and being there for them when they need me. i like trying new things, i don’t think i like permanent things or dangerous things, but i’m thinking on a smaller level – like changing to a different style one day, cutting my hair, changing my makeup. dressing up for halloween. wearing a skirt and working it.
I have dreams and desires that involve smiling and laughing and giggling. i imagine busy days and quiet days. i think i like pushing myself and getting that feeling of pride knowing i did something i was scared of.
when i was a little girl, before 8, i don’t remember a ton. but i remember that feeling like my head and my heart were just in a constant state of absorption. watching my parents, my siblings, my classmates, my teachers. arts and crafts, books, and boys. i think at the core, i was fire. like my sign, deep down, my leo was alive and roaring.
i’ll always know i’m imperfect. i know i will always fight societal pressures and question my decisions. i’ll probably always wonder about if i had turned right instead of left. i’ll wish my legs were longer and my nose skinnier. i will still cry because i don’t know how to change ignorant people and eliminate hate. that i can’t do more. that we are not learning from history and so indeed, we are repeating it.
now life didn’t turn out that way. i started to see all the bad around 8. then at nine my father got in an accident and lost his arm and became a very angry person. my siblings followed there paths and i was labeled quite and sensitive early. i always felt like i needed more, but felt selfish for asking for it. and so i turned in and i think those parts of me either died or wilted or just fell deep into the crevasses of my soul.
i just wonder: can you ever get that back? can you ever have a sense of wonderment? can you retrain your mind to find scary new things exciting, not anxiety-inducing to the point of fleeing the scene? can you go back and find parts of yourself and free them?
honestly, i don’t think so. but just for a moment, about five minutes ago, it felt like i could. and it was amazing.
I’ve been trying to blog about forgiveness for over a month now and constantly get stuck.
As I see it, true forgiveness is a difficult but powerful action. To truly forgive, you must acknowledge the pain or failure caused, and harbor no feelings of resentment, anger, frustration, or begrudement. The actions and experiences leave their scars and imprints on us – we never lose them. But their impact and influence must fully disintegrate if we truly forgive.
People with depression or other mental illnesses demonstrate the difficulty of forgiveness. Most times, we blame ourselves and can’t forgive something beyond our control. Why aren’t we stronger than this? Why can’t we get up? Why are we failing those around us? Why are we failing ourselves? We judge the actions associated with our depression with hate and disgust, and we blame ourselves. And like most addictions, forgiveness is one key to getting better. But what does that really mean anyway?
I guess for me, it would mean letting go of the time I have lost. I get so angry at myself for wasting so much of my time hating myself. For missing so much opportunity, so much life, because I was too anxious and depressed to try. But I cannot get that time back. And now, I know it “wasn’t my fault.” I had no malicious intent, but rather I had something controlling me, beating me into submission, forcing me to fail, and in the end, begging to die. It’s hard to truly forgive the monster of depression itself. But at the end of the day, I’m the one who carried out the actions. I can intellectually understand that it is not my fault, but I was brainwashed to believe it was. I spent more than half my life telling myself every day that it was. And whether it was me or “the disease,” forgiveness requires complete and total acceptance. It takes away the coulds and shoulds, and we depressives, those are the words that feed our illness.
I believe I am accountable for both my actions and inactions. My decisions had consequences and I do have to live with them. But accountability is different than fault. My hatred of myself, those that bullied me, assaulted me, my reckless behavior to myself, I made those choices – but I did not make them alone. I made them with a powerful voice behind me goading me, bullying me, taking my insecurities and confirming there wasn’t a monster next to me but that I was the monster. But I wasn’t the monster. I’m not the monster. Now that I have been afforded the opportunity to see myself without clinical depression, I see that I still make a lot of bad decisions that are both habit and because I am human, imperfect, and incredibly weak from years of hating myself. But those actions that I did while clinically bipolar feel disconnected. I remember them and I know that at the same time, there was a voice inside me, a voice I know can hear more clearly now, telling me not to do it. And I believe that is the real me. And I have to forgive those actions, though their imprint will remain marked all over my body, both physically and mentally.
Honestly, I don’t think I’m there yet. I’m not ready to forgive myself. I can tell you I am, but I still am angry at myself for a life unlived, for the people I have hurt, for the pain I have inflicted on myself. I still look at the people I love and want to say sorry. They say they don’t blame me and they know it wasn’t my fault, but I hurt them regardless of why. Is it too late now to say sorry? (Accidental Beiber quote. I’m SO sorry for that one.) And if so, is it too late to seek forgiveness?
So this past week, I stood up for myself twice to two different people that I consider authority figures. I did not cry (I mean, I did beforehand, but I got it out of my system when the time came.) I articulated my frustration, and what I wanted, and I got it.
What a high! Three months ago, I would have rolled my eyes if my therapist suggested I talk to them or email them. And she didn’t even know I was doing this – I just decided and did it. I practiced what I was going to say, and for one I even wrote down notes since my mind is already jumbled without nerves adding to it. (It was by phone, so that helped as well.)
In fact, in one conversation, I realized that I was arguing but she had already agreed. I just didn’t expect for someone to listen and then agree. It’s not that I don’t ever get what I want. It’s that I’m too afraid to ask for it in the first place.
I don’t think this is a sign of a new era. I don’t think I will tell a person I know that I need them to step back because they make me uncomfortable. I don’t envision myself confronting my father about my youth and what he did. And I don’t see myself even speaking up for myself when someone is rude, or cuts me in line, or is just plain old mean. That’s what eye-rolling and closed windows in a car so you can scream obscenities without anyone hearing is for.
But I took a step towards self-respect. I spoke my mind and I never apologized for my opinion. And that’s pretty fucking cool.
Well the reality of it all just kicked in. I suppose because in two hours and one week I will be on a plane to London.
I have had the fortune to travel to some cool places in my life – both in groups and by myself. I hated the idea of being a tourist so my favorite thing to do was just walk around the neighborhood, maybe go get a coffee and watch people. There, no one knew me and I could be anyone or no one. My mom always freaked out because whenever I traveled, I would unintentionally cut off completely. I once went away for 6 weeks when I was 15 and I only called home twice. I guess when I’m there, I’m just immersed.
It’s funny, because you would think being severely depressed with a lot of hangups about eating in front of people, having people judge me, and overall anxiety, would have held me back from traveling in my 20’s. And while it terrified me, I knew once I got there, at least I’d be somewhere else. A place where I wasn’t defined by my family or my past. (I also drank quite a bit and would meet people in hostels and make “fast friends” that I would never see again.)
But those were my twenties. Since my breakdown in DC, I’ve only left California once in the past five years for a trip back East for a few weeks. And it was a difficult trip given my mental state. So how will traveling be now? To another country, which by the way, has been my fantasy country for as long as I can remember.
In a way, I’m more terrified of it now that I’m feeling better because I don’t know what to expect and I don’t have the same safety nets of when I was younger. I have been working a lot in therapy on choice, decision-making, and skills to help push through my fears. But I have only tested them within the confines of my incredibly small life here. While I don’t want to live in this area where I was born and raised forever, I’m afraid to run away now because for the first time it actually feels like a safe space. I have my doctors, my mom, my siblings. I know, it’s not enough, but it’s a support system that has held me up and kept me alive. Who and how will I be without my safety net?
It’s a bit frustrating. People should be more confident in their 30’s than in their 20’s. In my 20’s, traveling alone made me feel like an adult; now given what I’ve gone through, I’m in my 30’s, but I feel like a child. As I’ve often said, now that the clinical depression has lifted, it turns out I’m still 18 in a lot of ways. And I haven’t experienced very much as a stable, sober person. It also, unfortunately, feels like a bit of a test. I actually think that is one of the main reasons I’m going. Everyone is watching to see – will I actually jump? Has all this work proven that I am strong enough to challenge myself and not have a breakdown or end up in a drunken stupor or hiding in my room with a clif bar because I’m too afraid to go out? And it’s not just them watching – I’m just as curious to see myself.
My family and I discuss the reality that I may never be able to hold a job; that I may never marry; that I may be financially dependent on my parents for the rest of my life. That my expectations of what my life will look like may have to be very different than the picture that was drawn for me or even the one I attempted to draw for myself.
Taking these steps are the only way to know how far I can go and where my stop-point will be. If I can go to graduate school, can I work full-time? Or will it be too much? Do the things I need to be healthy – like the gym, my eating habits, my therapy – which take priority and require time that therefore cannot be provided to other tasks – will that constrict my choices? I know I need these things to be healthy – if I didn’t have them, I certainly couldn’t have a job anyway, as a breakdown would more than likely rear its’ powerful force. So what can I manage while still maintaining my mental health?
And the truth is, I can only know by trying. And that jump, that unknowing, scares me. I want to trust that the parachute will open. Deep in my chest, I hope that I will soar and land softly where I am meant to be. That I will no longer be the person that everyone tip toes around; who if she doesn’t return a text, gets 12 right away with panic; who earned those concerns by pleading for death as I laid in bed for years.
This disease does not go away. The work I need to do – on my self-esteem, my anxieties, my weaknesses – that hold me back from being the person I want to be (or even knowing who that person is) – that’s never going to be “fixed.” My life may end up looking different than I imagined. I know that. I know that there is always a chance that everything I have been fighting for this past year might be taken away. The medication could stop working; I could have a breakdown at school and need to leave. The foundation I have been building could be demolished in a week.
And for so long, that possibility kept me from making the jump. And while I’m terrified, absolutely numb with fear, there is a part of myself, a voice inside that has slowly gotten louder though still timid, telling me to jump.
If not now, when?
(If you write something, does it help you believe it? ‘Cuz while that may be an inspiring ending, the nausea I feel ensures me I may still have doubts.)
Well, I finally did it. I went to a restaurant and ate alone.
Yeah, even writing it feels like a little bit of a letdown – given I have feared it for so long.
I had horrible teeth and then braces all four years of high school. During that time, I was extremely self-conscious, especially of getting food in my teeth. I also didn’t like to eat in front of anyone. I imagined that they would watch me and think “no wonder she’s so fat” or “someone like that doesn’t deserve to eat.” Actually, starting in second grade, kids would fat-shame me and it continued for a while. And so, I would wait and eat when I got home, stuffing my face even more, trying to push the shame away with even more food. Punishing myself for being overweight (though in retrospect, I think I was just a chubby kid – but hindsight wasn’t available at the time.)
Even when I got older and lived in a house with five people, I hated cooking or eating when they were there. I just always felt ashamed, and continued the pattern of never eating in public and then stuffing my face later.
But I’m going to London alone. And as of now, I have no male partner in sight. I have very few friends. Realistically, while I luckily enjoy cooking and it’s easier for my vegan diet, there are going to be times I will want a meal and maybe not just take out. And maybe someone won’t be available or doesn’t want what I want. Besides, I’ve always admired the people I see, out by themselves, enjoying a meal and a book. They seem so confident and content. It looks amazing.
I can do coffee and a muffin, that’s not a problem. But the idea of biting into something and getting it in my teeth, or people thinking I have no friends, it’s always scared me. And I just don’t want to do that in London. The truth is, I will hopefully be cooking in to save money and that’s the benefit of an Airbnb, but if there’s a great restaurant, I’m not going to go alone for dinner, but maybe lunch? I also always wanted to go get a drink by myself at a pub. Funnily enough, I feel safer trying that one out in London than here where I live.
I also dropped my phone in water on Wednesday and have been without one for two days. It was good in a lot of ways: I couldn’t distract myself, I couldn’t turn off, people couldn’t reach me and I couldn’t reach them – so if I was panicked, I just dealt with it. And I’m going to have that a lot in London because there will be an 8 hour difference and also, part of moving forward ,is continuing to get back to my independence without a safety net glued to my body.
So yeah. I ordered a sandwich at a restaurant. I did not play on my phone, though eventually I did pull out my computer. I ate quickly, but spent time after. I paid and then ran some errands. It wasn’t as hard as I thought, and it felt great to check a fear off the list…at least for now.
Now onto going to a movie, and going by myself. One fear at a time.
I have been trying to cut down on apologizing. I don’t mean that I irrationally yell at someone and then refuse to say sorry, or I stand someone up and don’t apologize. I’m talking about the common sorries that (often women) are taught, in order to be liked, proper, and polite.
Here are some of the ridiculous examples of my automatic apologetic responses (please feel free to share yours):
I apologize before I complain to a customer service representative. (Partly because I imagine that most people take out their anger on them and they are innocent victims of the crimes their companies perform.) I apologize when I order food and ask for something to be taken off the meal that I am paying for and that will make me sick if I eat it (though I was a waitress, and I know how annoying that can be.) I apologize when I hit a wall or door by accident (yes, to an inanimate object.) I apologize when someone steps ahead me at the grocery store to get the produce I was looking at. I even apologize if I get near a person looking at the produce that I want to see. I apologize if I open a door and the person insists I walk in first. Did I mention that I apologize to walls?
But I want to stop apologizing when it is not necessary. Just today, and so many times before, I will be on the phone/walking/in a restaurant with a friend. I will be talking and a baby/cashier/stranger will start speaking to them and they will have to cut me off to answer/take care of the baby/deal with the issue at hand. And my very first reaction is to apologize. And I think that I’m apologizing for speaking. It’s almost as if I cut the other person off. I’m embarrassed and feel shame that I am talking about myself and at that. I start to think: “Am I talking too much? Am I boring them? Do they have something else to do?” And while those questions are common for someone who is insecure, saying “sorry” when I haven’t actually done something is like a natural reaction. I am apologizing for taking time away from their lives for myself – but that’s what talking to your friends is – two people sharing stories about their lives.
It’s particularly bad when I’m angry and trying to express my feelings. I’m constantly trying to invalidate and apologize for my feelings. I’ll say: “You hurt my feelings when you teased me about this issue I have, and I know that I’m horrible and I’m sorry that I’m being such a nag. It just hurt my feelings but I’m really sensitive and I’m sorry because you probably didn’t mean to hurt my feelings and I know that.”
I think part of it is fear that somehow I’m wrong to feel frustrated or slighted; a part of me tries to empathize with their side of the situation – and so while I’m angry, perhaps there was a reason for their behavior.
But I am allowed to express anger and frustration, even if in the end, that wasn’t the intention of the person. I also have realized that at its’ core, unnecessary apologizing comes from a place of self-hate and shame.
Think about it. Each of the examples demonstrate my feelings that I am less valid than the people around me. My feelings don’t count as much as theirs; I don’t deserve the same respect I give them. I think I am apologizing for existing. Wow. That’s awful.
If I’m going to try and find some sort of contentment in the long-term, I have to be able to own my right to take up space, to have opinions, to feel emotions, and to express myself. I have to respect myself as much as I respect others around me and know that my feelings are legitimate and valid.
Sometimes you have to perform an action before you actually believe it internally. Like in DBT, there is a skill called “half-smiling.” It’s exactly what you think: basically it’s fake it till you make it, but in this case it’s fake it until you start to feel it. If you smile long enough, you will start to feel better. So maybe if I control my apologies, over time, I will realize why I deserve the respect to exist, to want, to need, to feel, to be who I am. I want to be worthy – not only to others, but more importantly, to myself. And I’m not sorry about that.
Insomnia begets itself. This was my sixth night. I’m running out of patience…or maybe that was three days ago and I’m just too tired to be angry anymore.
At least if I couldn’t sleep, but I could get work done and be effective, I could see a small positive to this aggravating problem. Or maybe if I didn’t have a mental illness that made it really important to get sleep, it’d be okay. I mean, there are people that have full lives on 4 hours of sleep. I used to idolize them. Now I just hate them with a deep, dark, irrational jealousy.
But the real bitch of it all is that insomnia’s such a bully. Here’s just a sampling of a few of her dick moves in my battles with sleep. Note: I never seem to get a word in edgewise:
Insomnia: “Oh, you want to sleep? Did you just close your eyes? How cute, with your little mask. I should totally Instagram this. But wait – you’re not forgetting your schedule tomorrow, are you? You think you’re going to be able to get to the gym? Are you going to fuck something up? Oooh, what if you wake up depressed? Or sad? Or fatter than now? But seriously, you don’t want to be tired or you’ll really fuck it up even more than you were most likely going to. Wait, did I interrupt you?”
Insomnia:”How adorable is this. You are trying mindfulness exercises? How’s that ‘breathing’ working out for you? Are you sure your toes are really relaxed? You know, you should really do this better – this whole relaxing, meditative shit. ‘Cuz you suck at it. Maybe you should meditate on that for a bit.”
Insomnia: “You think you’re drifting off thanks to the meds? Well don’t forget you’re sleeping alone, running out of money, still not in shape, and your kitchen is a mess. But seriously, think of ocean waves – that should help with your failing life. Quick! In about half an hour, that sleepy feeling is going to wear off and if you’re not asleep by then…well then you just wasted a very expensive Xanax, you pill-popping loser.”
Insomnia: “Did you fall asleep?! Well I’m going to have you continue your conversation in the dream out loud until you realize you are speaking to yourself in your room and wake yourself up. (And then continue the conversation until you finish your sentence because you clearly were passionate about the argument you were making.) Maybe I’ll even have you physically get out of bed in the middle of your dream, half-awake, and then once you’re up, have you forget what you needed or why.” (snickers…)
Insomnia: “Okay, you got to sleep. Kudos. Let’s see here…yup. Here’s a dream where everyone is yelling at you for something you didn’t do and for some reason no one is listening. And you can’t apologize, and you can’t fix anything, and you still don’t get why everyone is mad. Are you catching the theme that you suck and no one likes you? Okay, just checking. Enjoy.”
Insomnia: “You think you are dreaming, don’t you? Then why did you just make him come back to talk to you? Are you actually trying to ‘replay’ that ‘scene’ again? You know you are totally awake and directing this dream, backseat driver. There’s no REM in that but enjoy what we here in the sleep world call ‘daydreaming.’ Oh, and even though you are directing the dream, he’s still not going to come back and tell you he likes you. Sorry if I ruined the ending – but was it really a surprise? Yeah, that’s called throwing shade.”
Insomnia: “You think you’re asleep? Oops! Well, it looks like you have to go pee. Careful not to wake up. But hey, while you’re peeing, don’t forget this list of things you might fuck up. Ahem, number one…”
Insomnia: “Oh shit! Wake up! Wake up! Are you up?! Syke – I totally got you! It’s only 4am and now you are wide awake. Muhaha, bitch.”
Insomnia: “Girl, you really should get to sleep. It’s really not a big deal. You know you want to. I know you love sleep, and hey, from what I hear, sleep loves you. After all, aren’t you about to take on a shitload of responsibility when you go to London? You better be awake for that. It would be so sad to see you squander all your money just because you need your ZZZZ’s.
Insomnia: “Oh and P.S. You look worse than shit. There is no concealer that can fix that mess. Maybe you should become an extra – I mean, zombies are really ‘in’ right now and you would really help cut costs – no makeup needed! I’m just trying to be helpful.”
See, she’s a total bully. But damn, she’s good.