shit day at therapy

i hate when i leave therapy feeling worse. usually, there is a feeling of relief and safety. not only am i able to speak to someone who understands and does not judge my irrational ways, but that i know cares about me, believes in me, and is there for me. but that didn’t happen yesterday.

she was gone on vacation last week and i only see her once a week now. it felt like forever. throughout the week i wanted to call her – that dependency scares me. it was a bad week for her to leave since i was still having after-effects from the klonopin disaster and had had a few close calls.

i brought up yesterday that i feel like big issues come up and we table them but we never actually get to them. i think i had brought that up six months ago as well. that’s mostly me – i usually come in there like a whirlwind just spewing the latest drama of my family or school or friends. but as i speak of the week, my issues with sexual trauma, self-esteem, boundaries, loneliness, sense of self and purpose continue to come up. and we say “yes that’s something to explore” and then i continue with some inane decision i have to make.

i asked her about it yesterday and she said that she just didn’t want to make me talk about something until i brought it up and was ready to go into it. i dunno, maybe i need to write out a list so i have a better sense of the things that ruminate in my mind all day and that i catastrophize at night. can you go into therapy with an agenda. “today we shall talk about your issues with men. and…go!” But at the same time, i kind of want to scrape at these now, in a safe environment, before i go to london.

the point is, listing the things i wanted to work with and then leaving, i just felt awful. i told her that while i understood that these past few weeks i was clinically unstable, the ideas in my head weren’t invalid. the intensity of which i handled them were – leading me to very dark places. but they are still truths (not facts) in my life. and even feeling better now, they’re still there, taunting me from feeling confident in decisions or in waking up feeling safe in the morning.

when i was clinically depressed i was exhausted all the time. the sadness tired me out, and the pain, both emotional and physical would wreck me. but i’m still exhausted. from my nightmares and anxiety dreams; from my self-doubt and fear of the future; and the idea of what’s next – be it next year, next month, next week, next day, or the next few hours. the problems are still here and i felt like i opened a box of fear and sadness, time ran out, and i was left in my car driving home, thinking of all i have yet to approach.

i hate shit days at therapy.

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Looking Back On a Self-Made Tornado of Catastrophe

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I wrote this a few days ago and was rereading it and chuckling. Not “haha” chuckling; more like “fucking a, I’m crazy,” chuckling. This is literally how my brain works every day for pretty much every situation. No wonder I always feel exhausted even by the idea of going to CVS. I wonder how many other people do this? I wonder what it would be like to be a person who DOESN’T do this?  Anyway, this took place last Wednesday: 

It’s 12:15. I have to make it to the gym by 1 in order to be back and ready to get in the car and drive to DBT. I have to go to DBT because I paid a ton for it, money which I don’t really have, and I hate missing things I put money into. If I don’t go to the gym, I might spend the next four hours angry at myself for not going and therefore find it even more difficult to get in the car. I’m scared to go to the gym because I haven’t gone in over a week, I have gained weight, and I am tired. I am worried I will have a shitty workout but I also know if I don’t work out it will probably attribute to my continued lack of good sleep and how I feel so fat and ugly it’s hard to leave the house. I’m scared I’m going to gain all the weight back, that the more I don’t go, the harder it will be and this will all be for nothing. But maybe I should be compassionate and not go. Maybe I could be constructive and take a walk – find exercise without the pressure, but that feels too strong for where I am – too positive and self-coping for how I feel right now. Plus, what if people see me and they see my exercise clothes and they wonder why I’m even trying and how I am ugly and fat.

Am I doing this to myself? After all of these months of working and forcing and pushing and doing, am I driving myself down? Can I say it’s the medication and just give myself another few days? At what point is this me? Or if it’s not me, at what point is the medication not working? Or is that me too?

I don’t want to do this. I want that on the record. I didn’t intend to do this. I don’t know how to stop this. I think maybe I should get in the car and just get to the gym and decide then. Then a part of me thinks to drive to my class even though it doesn’t start until 5:30 just to make sure I get there. Am I really back to that point? For how long? I keep waiting to find the strength again – to get that feeling of, yeah it’s hard but we can do this and therefore we will. It’s like that voice is sleeping. I have to believe it’s sleeping rather than it being muzzled by the illness.

I’m catastrophizing. I should use my DBT skills. Put my face in cold ice water. Take deep breaths. Do opposite action. I feel like I can’t. Or is it that I won’t? Why can’t I decide that. I am scared to go to DBT. I don’t want them to see it. I am the put-together one. I want to hide. I want to watch TV until I go to sleep at 1am.

I feel so fat and disgusting. I am so angry at how much my body hurts. I can’t decide who to blame, what to blame, where to put the accountability. I don’t know what to do but I feel the panic starting to set in and I worry I am about to ruin my day. I’m so sad that I’m so weak.

Depression and Hope Are In the Ring: Who Will Get the Final TKO?

i went to my psychiatrist yesterday. i told her about how the tapering seemed to throw me into a depressive episode and since i’ve gone back on, i haven’t been the same and i have been blaming myself. i’m worried i’m somehow allowing this to continue, that i’m not working hard enough. she basically told me that that is exactly how the depression would make me feel. evidently i’m not going to be able to taper just yet and when i do it’s going to have to be slower. and it’s not a good time. but when will it be a good time? anyway, so she put me on some short release tablets of the drug i’m currently on. kind of like a short term coffee high to get me through the morning and afternoon until i finally balance off. if that doesn’t work i guess i’m going to go up on that med. i’m really scared because i just don’t think i’ll ever be safe or ever be able to fully relax in how i feel. and i’m exhausted. and i’m bored with it.

i wonder a lot lately if i had just tried harder in dc if i could have prevented the last four years. if i hadn’t called uncle and moved home maybe i would have eventually found the right psychiatrist and maybe changed my job or something. and then i wonder, could i just force myself back? i mean, that’s what i did with the job in santa cruz, but what if i went back and even if it was awful, did it anyway? even if my bad habits came back, pushed on like i did for almost 25 years anyway. at what point did i become too weak to suffer?

maybe i’m not meant to find peace. maybe i’m not meant to live long, or have a boyfriend, or a job that i love, or feel secure or sexy or happy. maybe i’m meant to be sad and to give up. the whole point of coming home was to have the breakdown and then go back. and somewhere along the way, i didn’t go back and that breakdown took something from me. it just changed me into a different person. someone who just can’t. i can’t lie to people around me, i can’t admit my destiny is for shit, i can’t allow myself to lose my hope. and i just feel like i’m being pulled in both directions – the depression and the hope – fighting for me, plying me with their charms.

oh shit. i’m still depressed.

Finding My Safety Raft In An Unexpected Depressive Storm

Disclaimer: Possible triggering ideas in this post, specifically in regards to suicidal ideation and self-harming.

A few weeks ago, I attempted to withdraw from one of my medications. It doesn’t do anything for me now, but it’s a benzo that a horrid doctor gave me over a decade ago, and therefore my body is completely addicted. My psychiatrist and I have thought about weaning off of it for a long time, but wanted to make sure I was stable before endeavoring to mess with my system.

I started by dropping my dosage by .25 mg. I wasn’t naive enough to think there wouldn’t be withdrawal symptoms. I was prepared for tremors, sleepless nights, nausea. I was even prepared for a bit of mind scrambling and an increase in anxiety. What I was not prepared for was the onset of clinical depression. It’s been over a year now since I have found medication to stem the depression, but I knew it was there after about two days. I was exhausted, lethargic, and one day I drove to CVS and I couldn’t get out of the car. Everything became overwhelming and I found myself in corners of rooms rocking myself while crying. Most of my DBT skills went out the window (which is actually funny because it’s really intended to be used when people are really in the thick of things but whatever.) I didn’t have the wherewithal or desire to use them. I stopped going to the gym and my diet became unbalanced. My nightmares became intense and shadowed me all day. Talking, thinking, moving – everything left me feeling like it would take days to recover.

I was terrified. I couldn’t tell: was this the meds or me? Was I exacerbating the withdrawal? Feeding into it and falling down into the ease of depression I have been fighting every day for almost two years?

I gave it eight days. It only got worse. And then I went back up on the meds. But I wasn’t feeling better and panicked again. My doctor assured me it would take a while for my brain chemistry to get back on track. I was scared because all of my habits I have developed over the past year had gone out the window. I think it freaked me out not only because I didn’t know I could get them back, but also how quickly they had stopped. I’m always aware in the back of my mind that my medication might not last forever. As has happened in the past, sometimes meds just stop working. I was so disappointed and frightened at how, when I started to feel depressed again, how quickly everything I use to handle daily life just felt too exhausting to use. The depression had not weakened, it was merely in a medical coma and when it awoke, it was as strong as ever.

But I hoped for the best, and started to notice I was slowly getting a little better each day. Even though I felt like shit, I still made myself leave the house once a day. It didn’t matter if I just ran an errand like going to the bank or picking up mouthwash; I just needed to leave the house. I drove to the gym. I didn’t go in except once, but I still tried to get there. I didn’t miss my appointments.

Two days ago, I just jumped into a spiral of despair. I wouldn’t go to London; I wouldn’t ever get a job; I wouldn’t ever get to a point where I would be comfortable with a man and deal with my assault; I would never be able to find a life with the pieces I believe I want. I got home and put together a kit of everything I might need for the ritual. I was so hesitant to call anyone – especially my family. I didn’t want them to start thinking I was back to my old ways after spending so long trying to earn back the trust I was better and could and would take care of myself.

And then I just stopped for a second. There was something inside of me that knew this wasn’t me and that I didn’t want to, no matter how much my mind was telling me to.

So I called my brother. I told him I needed his help, I was scared, and I couldn’t be alone. He came and listened, and we talked. Something about being with someone who is stable felt normalizing. And I realized that this was different. I got out of the house every day. I made appointments on time. I called my therapist a few times while panicking. And at the end, when I could have made a destabilizing decision, I asked for help.

Yesterday I had a training session in the gym. I was so scared that I had turned into a lump of mush, but after, in my soreness, I felt strong. I embraced my screaming shoulders with happiness. I came home, showered, ate, and watched TV. I still overate later in the night but decided that I would have to figure out in the next few days how to work on getting back to my old routine given my new instructions with my sleep.

I fell into depression this month. I tripped and stumbled down some steps and was facing my irrational demons. I was weakened and at times, fell into old habits. I cried at the terrifying understanding that I can never truly be safe or out of the woods completely. I even had a moment of suicidal ideation that felt, at the time, so deeply right.

But I kept going. I did what I had to do. And I reached out for help. I am still scared and know I’m still not myself. But for now, I feel safe. Weakened but safe. Because I made different choices, even when I didn’t want to, and I saved myself. And I hope to do it today. And that hope, no matter how small it is, doing something today reminds me that I haven’t lost the battle yet.

Who Am I: A Life With Fleeting Memories

I hate filling out medical history forms. I don’t remember family history, or what year I saw a doctor, what medications I have taken, surgeries I have had.  In the past few years, now that doctors have online patient portals, I can look stuff up online, but otherwise, it’s a call to my mother for a history of all things about me, my body, and my mental health. As I was filling one out yesterday, I became incredibly agitated and sad. Then this morning, I had to go over dates for my upcoming move to London. I had prepped this stuff when I thought I was going last year, and while everything felt familiar, it was annoyingly still new. The dates were on the tip of the tongue, I just couldn’t pull them out.

When I was prepping for ECT a few years ago, one of the possible side effects was short-term memory loss. For a lot of my friends, this seemed like a scary prospect: to not remember what happened the day before or even a few hours ago. For me, I was at a point where I didn’t feel like I was creating memories anyway, except for maybe sad ones that involved me lying in bed, angry at every breath that continued to push its’ way in and out of my diaphragm. I went three times a week for about a year. A few months in, we noticed some changes. I might ask a question and then half an hour later, ask it again. This was usually on the days of the treatment itself so we would laugh it off. As for the blur of memories of that year, it wasn’t like much was happening. Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, my mom got me up early, I changed my pajamas into other sweat pants, and got in the car. I had the procedure, slept in the car, got back home, usually slept some more, and then watched tv until I fell asleep. I’m not sure what I did on the days when I didn’t have the procedure. I might have walked the dog, or driven in the passenger seat while my mom ran errands. I realized that the tv I was watching, the books I read, probably would blur. Conversations with my friends probably drifted off after a day or two. I probably should have kept a diary so I could reflect on it later.

After about a year of treatment, I was feeling better and I decided I wanted to go back to the world, happy and healthy. I took a job a few hours from home. It wasn’t what I wanted to do, but it was something I was familiar with and good at doing. I continued to receive treatments every couple of weeks, though I’m not sure how I did that, since they didn’t offer them on weekends. Evidently, my memory got worse. My mom told me I would call in a panic forgetting where I placed a file on the computer. I don’t remember this but that’s what she said. And I was starting to get depressed again. It could have been because I didn’t really like the people, the town, or the stress of the job. I knew I was doing well and that people liked me, but I could feel the depression coming back in. I started missing more and more days, until it became weeks. I finished the project and quit. I came home to continue doing treatments full-time. It was at this point, the treatments stopped working and I was re-diagnosed with bipolar II.

But in all honesty, the memories I miss most are not from ECT. Most of my childhood through college, and then my seven years in DC, a year in Berkeley, and the two years after the year of ECT. So yeah, pretty much my life. Sometimes I think I have a memory when I look at a picture, though I’m not sure if I’m just looking at the picture and envisioning a memory from it. Sometimes I tell a story about my childhood and a family member tells me that it was actually them that did that or it wasn’t like that or that never happened. I remember specifically horrible times. When I was bullied as a kid, the times I have been sexually assaulted, some of my self-harming episodes. Mostly, I remember feelings. Like when I think about someone, I get a feeling inside. Or when I think about a time in my life, I have a sense of how moments made me feel. My friends might describe a night in college when I did something particularly ridiculous – I usually don’t remember the moment itself, but I can remember that feeling of doing something ridiculous – the high of making people laugh and feeling free to be myself.

I don’t remember a few weddings – just what others have told me. I barely remember my best friend’s wedding and I was the maid of honor. I recently caught up with someone I haven’t seen for five years and evidently, I did some amazing things to help her while I was in DC.

I also don’t remember things people have told me. Stories of my grandparents, family history, names of people I have met, people I have had coffee with, conversations I have had with people, things I have said or done.

I joke that my best friend and my mom are memory banks for me. I call them sometimes to ask if I went to something or if I liked something. If I had a feud with a certain person or why we no longer kept in touch. Sometimes I will complain about something from my childhood and my mom will tell me that they did actually do something or it wasn’t how I remember it to be.

I laugh it off, but the frustration and irritation lingers and grows. I not only feel I have lost something precious, I feel bad for my friends. They had me in their life-changing moments, and I can’t even remember the speech I gave, or what conversations were had. I know I was there, but can you really share a moment if you can’t remember it? For the most part, I have tried to take this all in stride. I believe the depression blurred a lot of my past – making my memories lose focus, and become distant until they faded. I don’t know if the ECT has anything to do with any long-term memory – they say it’s only short term. For most of my life, we all blamed it on me being an airhead – and that is true. Sometimes I really am listening but almost too hard and I don’t actually absorb the information. I avoided pictures most of my life because I hated looking at myself so I have few pictures to help me store my memories. I rarely kept journals, only when I was really depressed, and in college, I evidently expressed myself through poetry which I can no longer access because Microsoft has some shitty software problems. Most of my time in DC, I complained that I didn’t want to remember – but now there are documents I created, bills I helped fight for, and I can’t even remember unless I look at the date and know I was working at the organization at that point.

I tell people it was all worth it. That maybe that was the sacrifice I had to pay. Maybe it was my brain’s way of protecting me. Or maybe it was depression’s way of punishing me. Maybe my brain is picky, and only maintains what I need to know when I need to know it. Or maybe I’m a free spirit and I live in the moment or some bullshit like that. But the truth is, I miss my memories – good and bad. I feel so empty sometimes, just a body of emotions. It’s embarrassing to look through my contacts and not remember why I know someone, or worse for someone to contact me and I have no idea who they are. I hate having to rely on others for my memories. It’s not that I don’t trust them, but memories are subjective. I take what they say as truth, but deep down I still wonder if maybe I do remember it correctly – and they just remember it their way.

I’m about to embark on a few intense adventures and while self-doubt is a learned trait, I think that my memory loss scares me as well. What if I don’t remember how to write as well? What if I don’t remember what I have learned, or worse, what I am going to learn? I have to write a dissertation, read tons of books. I will be living in a fast-paced environment. It will be an intense, fast year of my life and what if I don’t remember it? What if all the medications, the depression, the ECT – what if it has changed my brain chemistry and I have limitations now that haven’t been tested but I will soon find out through my failure – either at a job or in school?

Not everyone has a rock solid memory bank. While a lot of people I know do remember quite a bit, I was talking to my sister the other day about our childhood. I mentioned that I can’t remember us spending time together growing up. That maybe I was wrong, but I just remember her being gone, and by the time my memories do start, she was already disconnected from the family, out of the house. She told me she doesn’t remember much of childhood at all, so she can’t really tell me if we did spend time together or not. She might remember a memory here or there, but not much. She didn’t seem upset about it – I suppose she knows the main components and remembers what she needs to, and I know she remembers other aspects of her life. So maybe we all just blur parts of our childhood.

But it makes me feel like a liar. I tell a story and I wonder if it’s the truth. I try to express a relationship to someone or to explain a person’s personality and I wonder if I should be trusted. I know at some point, I knew the time and circumstance for each of my self-made scars. Now, I only remember a few, and I don’t even know if I’m right. I’m not planning on having children, and I suppose maybe I will need to get over my self-hate and start taking more pictures of my life. I don’t know if I will never be able to really store information long-term. I don’t know the implications in the long-term, devices I may have to employ, the radical acceptance I may have to have.

I hear people talk about the time when they were five, and I crave to tell a story as well. I keep a general diary card for DBT and my coach will ask what happened that day to make me feel a certain way or give in to a certain urge and I can’t remember. I suppose I could keep copious notes, that’s probably the solution, but I’m bitching now, so no need for thinking rationally.

What I do know is that for the first time, I am angry about it. I suppose that is a good thing – wanting to be in a place in life where I care about remembering. But while I believe we are who we want to be, I still think our past plays a large role in who we are. And if I can’t remember my past, then how can I know who I am, what I have become, what I don’t want to become, and who I strive to be? I feel like an outline, a resume of facts and vague overtures of experiences. But at my core, I feel empty and for some reason, a liar within my own body. People see me but I feel paper thin, merely an echo, an imprint of the experiences that have formed me, but which I cannot remember.

Sitting Alone with My Loneliness

I remember how lonely my depression was. Not just because it often led to cutting people out of my life to “spare” them a burden they couldn’t understand and would never be able to fix, but also because my depression craved to be alone with me, a captive and her abductor. Still, having someone to turn to, even when I resisted, felt sometimes like being saved – whether that person knew it or not.

There were times, sitting in my room, questioning the continuance of living, when someone would happen to text me a message telling me they missed me. Or I would listen to a voicemail (I generally didn’t pick up the phone at that point,) and hear such happiness in a friends’ voice. I knew that even if they couldn’t understand, there were a few people that if I would have been brave enough, would have come to sit next to me or take a walk with me – if I had only been strong enough to ask for help. Just knowing I had that support and that people loved me, gave me enough strength to give myself another day.

I suppose, even though I detest asking for help, I have always felt reassured knowing it was at least there. I never really believed people liked me and therefore would want to help me, given how many times I was discarded growing up. But by college, even though I kept my friends in the dark about the details of my sickness, I knew they were around and no matter how much I wanted to hide in bed, they would eventually come in and drag me out. When I came home after my breakdown, my mother was there for me, checking in every day, sometimes to listen, sometimes to get the wrath of my anger – but just knowing she was there, was a safety against being completely enveloped by the depression.

I have to say that my doctors’ support has also given me the protection and strength I have needed at times. Having people around me that believe me and more importantly, believe in me, gives me strength I never knew I had. Sometimes I worry that I depend too much on this support, but at this point, I need it too much to even think of letting it go.

I look around at others and most of them have someone nearby to lean on, to tell their stories – both important and inane. To get them out of the house or take them somewhere that maybe scares them to go alone. This could be a close friend, a neighbor, a boyfriend, or a husband.

As I have been preparing for London, my mom and I are trying to adjust our relationship by slowly pulling apart. If we don’t start now, I fear the intense change could be devastating for both of us, as we have become tethered quite tight in terms of dependency.

I attempted to withdraw from a medication last week and fell into a horrible place. They do always say side effects can include depression and suicidal thoughts, but I suppose I was expecting tremors and insomnia. I went back on the drug – I guess while it was small, having an addictive medication in your system for over a decade takes a long time and it looks like we are going to have to break the dosage decrease down even further. Still, while I have gone back up, the side effects still linger. I’ve been quite sad, thoughts appear I haven’t had in almost two years, and I find myself unable to leave the house, or do the self-care I have come to regard as a daily lifestyle.

And last night, as I sat against the wall, unable to sleep, crying because I just felt so weak, I realized how alone I felt. I don’t have a friend I can call at any hour. Most are married, some have children, and jobs they must be awake for every morning. My mom is out of town, but honestly, we are just starting to change our habits, and I don’t want to fall back to where we were and have to start over. My therapist is amazing and will arrange 15 minute calls to just let me vent and panic on the phone, which at this point, is what I really need. But I have to call and leave a message and then she gets back to me and then we arrange a time and by then, I have gone through so many thought cycles, I don’t even know what I’m feeling by the time I reach her.

It’s time like these that the loneliness aches so terribly. When I realize the difference a loving husband or boyfriend could make. Even just someone to hold me or distract me. I realize that not having developed a group of friends in the past five years has left me so vulnerable and alone. I literally have no support net to fall back on. I go through my rolodex of possible help in my head, and come up blank. Last night, as I sat there crying, I realized I was more than lonely, I was alone. Alone with my thoughts which are no longer completely my own as my brain still adjusts back to my medication. And it terrified me.