this too shall pass?

Something’s wrong. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but I can feel it deep within. I have decided to play this one out…see if I can wait it out until it gets bored and subsides. I know it’s a futile attempt.

This mounting, ominous presence has made my torrid relationship with sleep even worse. I want to outlast my inevitable sleep – a looming fear that begins when I wake up. Every decision I make throughout the day, I wonder “will this help tonight or make it worse?” I’ve become paralyzed. Complacent. Sad. Scared. I remember six months ago, when the medication was in full effect, still waking up scared, but excited too. I didn’t know if I would have a good or bad day, but I wanted to try. I miss that feeling.

For the past year, I have tried really hard to develop a sleep regimen to lessen my insomnia. I have to be in bed by 11, take my pills to help me sleep, and read, not watch tv. I turn on my fan and my noise machine, prep my eye mask, and as soon as I feel my eyes begin to tire, I turn off the lights and wait for my dreams or nightmares to come – I’ll take what I can get. But now, I feel a panic inside as I start to wash my face and begin my process for bed. I brush my teeth and I start to think about my day, my life, what lays in store for me once I get underneath the covers – the thoughts that will consume me no matter how much white noise I use to try and block it out.

I tried to avoid dealing with this panic for a few weeks by staying up until I was exhausted and over-medicating myself with relaxants. The problem was, I woke up painfully exhausted, spending the day with a headache, frustrated and sad, and unless committed to someone else, canceling all of the things I use to keep myself above the tow of depressive thinking because I was just too fucking tired.

Before I fell asleep last night, I reviewed the day. I did not get any errands done. I did not do any homework. I did not contact any friends. I did not do any cleaning. I did not go to the gym. I did not shower.

I opened the book I have attempted to read with little interest, and noticed the age on my hand: veins, dry skin, worn down knuckles. I am not a child anymore even though my life is like one. In therapy, we talk about trying to volunteer one day a month; we discuss learning who I am and who I want to be; what could make me happy; why I have so much hate and detest for everything I am. I have barely maturated past the emotional age of 15, but my age hasn’t. And I started to cry.

I cried for how little I have accomplished. I cried for the potential my life has and had that is slowly and constantly draining away. I cried for the exhaustion of fighting this disease even with medication. I cried for the craving I fight every day not to self-harm, to punish myself. I cried at how long I have been fighting this and how when each day passes, opportunities lessen. I cried because I am so painfully lonely. I cried because I never wanted to make it past 30 for this very reason. I’m getting older, but I’m not moving forward and my life is passing me by – unlived.

I cried because I’m losing hope in myself that I can be saved.

I woke up this morning, and did not want to get out of bed. Once I got out of bed, there would be choices to make, and I knew already that I wasn’t going to make the ones I wanted. And I knew that that was my fault. Maybe this weakness has been triggered by events beyond my control but I haven’t been fighting it, at least not enough.

Maybe tomorrow I will wake up and find the power to push past my fear. Maybe it’s just a phase in the process. Maybe it’s just a down time, “like all people have.” But maybe it won’t, and I’m scared, and I’m sad; and I’m just so fucking tired.

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Third Floor or The Penthouse: My Current Attempt at Climbing the Floors of Recovery

If I did reach the penthouse, it would most definitely have a bowling alley!

If I did reach the penthouse, it would most definitely have a bowling alley!

Disclaimer: I recommend not searching for images of “penthouse” on Google. I forgot there was a magazine by the same name…gross.

I was watching a television show the other night and this talented, made guy tells this new ingenue who’s just getting started, and I am paraphrasing: “You are choosing to jump from the third floor because you are afraid you’ll never get to the penthouse.” I.e. you’d rather fail now instead of risking the possibility of succeeding. I imagine you would do this because a) you are afraid you’ll never make it to the penthouse; and b) if you got there and had to jump, that’s going to hurt a lot more than just jumping from the third.

It panicked me, because sometimes I think I want to jump (metaphorically). When I try on hope and see the potential life may have to offer me, I don’t know what terrifies me more: not getting it or getting it and … whatever follows after that.

I don’t know what floor I’m on but I’m getting to a place of discomfort because I am now starting to do things I have only ever done depressed. So, for example, I have gone to parties, flirted with boys, lost weight, and lived alone – all while being severely depressed and often drunk with a touch of self-mutilation. But I’ve never done those things with my new brain chemistry, and sober … until now. And I don’t really know how to do it. I joke about how I’ve been stunted in so many ways by this disease – my experiences so fucked I find myself flailing at the maturity of a 14 year-old (Sometimes 22 – depends on the issue).

I went to a party where I only knew one person and I didn’t know who I would be. After all, in the past, I was “me”. But now, I’m me, but more raw, with possibilities racing through my head. I’m still thinking: “everyone thinks I’m too loud; I’m too obnoxious; I just did a gigantic overshare; wow, they must think I’m a big perv.” But I’m talking to people I don’t know, introducing myself, asking questions, dealing with my answers. Some things are the same: I’m pretty loud; I like to make people laugh; I will take over and “guide” the group if the party seems to be waning…and I am kinda pervy and tend to overshare when I’m nervous. I’ve always done that, but I didn’t know until now that that’s me, not my depressive self.

I’ve also just started to live alone. I totally can’t afford it, but it was my first big step towards independence. The only other time I’ve lived alone, I was suicidal and didn’t leave the house for days on end. So like, how do I live alone? What kind of person am I when I live alone? Can I do it? What if I do the things I did when I lived alone last time: stopped leaving the house; made pancakes every day; didn’t answer calls; self-mutilated in the bathroom. I mean, technically, that’s the example I’m working off of.

So a part of me says: “just pretend that you’re 26 and this is your first time living alone. And you are like this. Now…live.” What I’ve learned: I’m still pretty clean and organized, though not as OCD like in the past (as tempting as it is). I know that if I decide to cook or bake, I should do it around 3, and cook multiple things so when I’m tired at 7 and don’t want to do anything, I’ll have everything ready to go. I still talk to the television and myself, and still need my noise machine and an eye mask to sleep. I still like having systems and schedules – but this may be because I don’t have a job or volunteer internship yet.

Some days I don’t want to get out of bed or leave the house. I do get dressed every day even if I’m not planning on leaving the house so if I do, I’m ready to go. Sometimes I even put on gym clothes just to make it easier if I get an impulse. On those days, even if I just take out the garbage or walk to the library, it makes it different than before. And on those days, I’m just tired and cranky and maybe a little down about my life. This past week, I just felt tired for days, but I decided it was hormones and forced myself out today. I feel better. So, I guess this is what I live like when I live alone. This is me now, living in an apartment.

Unfortunately, for the past few weeks, I have also had cravings to cut. They come on kind of like food cravings. Sometimes it’s in the car, or watching tv, walking to the library, or when I’m getting into the shower. At first it threw me off. I panicked that the meds stopped working. But when I wasn’t thinking about cutting, I was level. I usually just keep driving, or watching, or walking, or washing until the impulse passes.

It makes sense to me. With all these changes, I’ve just been overwhelmed, worried, scared, sad, anxious, hyper, giggly, silly – kind of like being bipolar II but in a good way? I think my cravings are more about my need for control than about punishing myself. I used to cut when I was overwhelmed with pain and nothing else could tamper it. For just a moment, it became a vortex, pulling all my emotions into the act. It never worked the way I wanted it to, it never lasted long, and then I had to deal with all of the ramifications of doing it. Trust me, I know and did know, there are better ways.

But I think in all this chaos of unknowns, I have felt very little control over the big picture. I’ve been craving control and the possibility of a calm minute where a vortex could just quiet my mind. I know that the positive ways of providing some calm are breathing, mindfulness, stepping back from my thoughts, feeling into my emotions, and being in the moment. There’s also medications that can help and I’m not afraid to use them. But you know, sometimes it’s tempting to go with what’s rote than practice a new skill. Especially when you’re shaking and can barely breathe.

I’ve also noticed some changes in my eating habits. Partially it’s because I hurt my knee and my exercise regimen has decreased in intensity. (Man I miss those endorphins!) I have been successfully losing weight gained during the depression and between diet and exercise, I have been scared that the loss of intense exercise would throw off my goal. It seems I have become much more severe with my food. I’m vegan, so it’s not like I have a ton to go crazy off of, but it’s very easy to eat like shit and get some serious calories even when vegan. But I’ve been cutting back, controlling and watching what I’m eating. I find I am limiting my intake and have become far more obsessive about it. So this screams out, once again: control.

But what is also interesting, is that about 3-4 nights out of the week, I’m also bingeing. Not necessarily the kind where I literally am in a fugue state and can’t remember what I have eaten (though that has happened). But I’m angry and tired and scared, and while I have spent the day attempting to reign in those emotions by controlling my food and my schedule, etc., this seems to be more of an attempt to lose control, to literally feed the fear. Anyway, I thought that was an interesting juxtaposition my mind is playing into.

All of this is to say, I’m really scared and scarred. I only know life through a lens I currently don’t have. I’m trying to keep my eyes open, to keep stepping forward and trying new things that scare me. I’m trying to be compassionate when I chicken out and don’t do them. But in the next year, there are some major decisions coming down the pipeline – some of which are already on the calendar. I’m trying to sort out what my hopes, dreams and desires are. I’m supposed to be deciding who I want to be and what I want my life to look like and how to make those things happen without losing my shit completely. I truly feel like a child in an adults’ body and everyone is looking at me to know what a 33-year old should know by now. And I don’t. And I might not ever – because a lot of people don’t either.

I can’t control my destiny down to the next five minutes, let alone the rest of my life. But I know, in the end, I’ll never be in control. Everything inside me, based on my past, is telling me to jump from the third floor – “get off while you still can!” The safety of not trying tempts me every day. I look up at the penthouse and I’m not sure if I’ll ever reach it, or if I’ll even know if I ever get there. And there’s a part of me that doesn’t know if I’d ever recover from that – losing everything I have built and finding myself once again at the ground floor. I’ve done that a few times now, and it’s so fucking exhausting, I feel like it ages my soul.

So many emotional habits that I have built over time are trying to pull me down – telling me it’s not worth trying only to fail. But there’s this little part of me, I guess in this “new” me, that’s kind of like “Why not try? If you fall from the 3rd floor, the 8th or the penthouse, you’re going to end up in the same place, so why not move up and see what’s on each floor while you can? There might be free food! And maybe, just maybe, you won’t fall at all.” I usually giggle at that voice – partly because I want to believe her and I kinda remember her – like an aura of myself as a child surrounding me.

I don’t know if I’m going to make it. And while I really want to end this with something inspirational and uplifting, I don’t think I’m quite there yet.

But I will try to take a breath, become mindful, and take the next step forward by walking alone from my apartment to meet my family for dinner.

Self Mutilation: An Ugly Tattoo of Hate & Shame

Disclaimer: Let me first say that cutting, or “self-mutilation” is a horrible thing and I do not condone it in any way. I do not think it’s helpful, actually works in the long-term, or is a worthy form of positive self-medication. I’m also not going to go into details about how I did it or where I did it, because I always found that when I read about it, it was like a how-to with tips, and that’s not my intention either. If you find yourself cutting, you should seek help – whether by telling a friend or family member; finding a support group; seeking out a therapist; or calling a hotline. And if you are someone who is told that someone you love is cutting, the best thing you can do is ask them how you can help.

That being said, for me, cutting was a self-medication I began my sophomore year in college (see post on self-medication for background.) I will say that when I started, I was at a point where I felt like I was going to explode inwards. My pain was so severe and nothing seemed to dull it. I physically felt like I was throbbing with pain and bloated with agony. I imagined myself like a balloon that had too much air in it and needed a release. And that’s what cutting did. It was like I was letting a little of the pain out psychologically by creating a hole physiologically. The release never lasted more than 2-5 minutes and then the shame of having hurt myself plus now having to hide it led to other negative self-medication like binge-drinking and eating. But sometimes, it just led to a good cry. Not even a cry – a good all-out sobbing. And now I realize, that’s what I really needed and what felt so good. It wasn’t the cutting. It was that I was feeling so much I felt nothing and the pain of the cut allowed me to feel and then brought all of my emotions to the surface.

Like most self-medications, I became addicted quickly and learned how to hide it. Now, in retrospect, I think a part of me always wanted someone to see it. It was like I was waving for someone to help me from a sinking ship by flashing a part of my skin that hadn’t healed or accidentally showing a band-aid with hopes someone would catch me in a lie.

I also was struggling with some family issues at the time and was frustrated that I thought no one in my family understood my pain. As a child, I was deemed the sensitive, empathetic one. (And to be fair – I really was and still am.) But I had tried to explain to my family that something just wasn’t right since I was little. They would check my forehead, tell me I was hormonal, or just tell me I was taking things too seriously. By high school, that’s when I stopped complaining as much and took matters into my own hands. From my perspective, my family was too busy living their lives to see my pain and I was in this alone – the odd one out that never belonged there anyway.

And so perhaps a part of me cut because I wanted to hurt them and I wanted them to see my hurt. I wanted to make them believe my pain was real and not hormonal. I was sick and I needed them to see it. And so, after a few years of cutting, with some therapy to boot, I told my family. I want to say I felt sick seeing how it hurt them, and given my love for my family, it did. But it also made me see in their pain, their love for me. I know they have always had it, but I never really saw it, and I guess the cutting opened up that opportunity for me.

I’ll never regret the process of self-medicating. It’s what made me realize I needed to accept support from others, to get on prescription medication, to change my lifestyle, and eventually to get ECT. I still have the random bender where I cut, but it’s different now. The high doesn’t last, and I know now I’ll need to tell my family and I’ll be ashamed because I know how much time and effort and faith they put into me. I know that they themselves deserve more from me, and so do I.

Self-Medicating: How Can Something So Right, Be So Wrong?

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Mental illness or not, we all do it. No, I’m not talking about masturbation – I’m talking about self-medicating.

Life is a stressful, complicated, big blob of fear, anxiety, and failure, wrapped in a bomb with an unknown time limit before explosion and death. It’s no wonder people need a way to relax.

For some, they go the way of meditation, aromatherapy, yoga, acupuncture, natural and prescribed medications, exercise, and healthy eating – and I am in no way knocking these things. In fact, I have tried, and am doing, the majority of them. But sometimes, it’s not enough. And especially if you working with the complexity of life and a mental illness, it can be too much to balance with breathing exercises and a downward dog. Besides, medications are expensive and as I mentioned in my last post, take time, are unreliable, and have major side effects.

So we try to self-medicate first. For me, it started with food. I could stuff myself with food and just before I thought I would throw up, stuff myself some more. Then, by the time I got to high school and was constantly trying to lose weight, it became anorexia – trying to see how little I could eat to see how much control I could gain. But there was also alcohol and drugs. And it’s not like someone was asking me if I was okay because everyone was doing it, it never impacted my grades, I never got busted, drank and drove, or made those mistakes that some Beliebers do.

In college, I would outdrink the guys next to me and then make out with a few – trying my best to convince myself I wasn’t the ugly, worthless piece of shit I knew I was. It never quite did the trick and since I was too much of a control freak to sleep around, I started to wonder how I was going to find my release.

Somewhere around sophomore year, I found cutting, or as some call it “self-mutilation.” It was the best of times; it was the worst of times. It was the point I realized I needed therapy but it was also when I finally found a self-medication that did what I needed. I’ve tried to explain cutting to many, and I’ve learned from others that like most things, it’s different depending on the person. But I can tell you what it gave me, and why to this day I still miss it. But more on that later.

I know people self-medicate in different ways that take them on much more intense addictive paths. These paths exacerbate their psychosis, and can lead to, for example, homelessness, violence, and abusive relationships. While I know that prescription medications are not a cure-all (I’ve been “unlucky in love” with most of mine,) I think the difference is that self-medication is a short-term fix while medication and therapy seek to find a long-term solution. And given how exhausting this process is, I think the latter is what we’re truly looking for on this journey.