I’m Tired.

I’m tired today.

  • I’m tired of trying so hard to keep it together every day.
  • I’m tired of following a sleep regimen and still waking up fatigued.
  • I’m tired of trying to do everything “right” – going to the gym, losing weight, calling friends, not drinking, being vegan and not eating anything processed, and still not feeling good or having extra energ.
  • I’m tired of not being able to have more than a day or two of stability and balance.
  • I’m tired of having to make decisions.
  • I’m tired of not having a purpose that isn’t about myself. While I don’t miss working crazy long hours, I miss having a job where I am spending time thinking about others and doing work for them.
  • I’m so tired of seeing all of the hate and ignorance in the world today. Of watching history repeat itself.  Of knowing it will never stop and will only get worse. And not knowing what to do. Because $15 isn’t enough. Volunteering isn’t enough. There isn’t a job that will be enough. And people don’t really want to listen, to learn, to compromise, to change. I don’t want to stand aside – but I feel so useless.
  • I’m tired of not liking myself.
  • I’m tired of trying to understand why I do not like myself.
  • I’m tired of being told to have hope, to think positive, to just keep trying.
  • I’m tired of not being able to help the people I love. To watch them in stress, in pain, in sadness. Shitty stuff happens, but I wish I could just alleviate some of it.
  • I’m tired of the constant shame I feel about who I am.
  • I’m tired of the guilt I allow myself to carry.
  • I’m tired of not knowing what to do next.
  • I’m tired of not knowing the “right” thing for “me.”
  • I’m tired of caring so much, about everything. Of feeling so much.
  • I’m tired of trying so hard to just keep it together for everyone: my family, my friends, my therapist and psychiatrist. I’m just tired of feeling responsible for adding stress or pain to their lives because of my stress and pain. Of trying to make them happy or relieved.
  • I’m tired of all the dichotomies in my life. Of wanting to be alone but feeling so alone. For wanting to be happy but feeling like it’s a charade anyway. For wanting love but not the strings that come with it.
  • I’m tired of being so scared to do things. I don’t know when I became this way but I’m so fucking tired of it.
  • I’m tired of feeling like I have lost so much time in my life, so many chances, so many opportunities, and still wanting sometimes to just end it all because I’m just too tired to try to catch up.
  • I’m tired of my fucking side effects.
  • I’m tired of trying to imagine what it feels like to wake up without a mental illness. To have shitty days and stress and life, but not have to take drugs that make me feel like shit to just survive them, while others take none and are able to function just fine. To go to bed without fear that tomorrow I might not be able to get out of bed. Or wake up without knowing if I will be able to make it through the day.
  • I’m tired of feeling so guilty that I want more. That this is unfair. That I don’t deserve this. And then feeling guilty for thinking that. It just cycles over and over again.
  • I’m tired of having to change. To constantly fight myself, to unburden others, to hold back my anger, my frustration, my words to not hurt others. To get up every day and try to want things, work for things, be effective, have goals, work to get better at who I am. To push down the bad thoughts, the urges, the desires, to assuage others.
  • I’m tired of never knowing who to blame: is it the meds? the disease? my circumstances? me?
  • I’m tired of only seeing the mistakes I make. The failures. The not good-enoughs.
  • I’m tired of having hope. It’s almost more exhausting than just admitting defeat.
  • I’m tired of thinking.

I’m just tired.

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How Can I Move Forward if I Can’t Trust My Inner Voice?

I have come to understand that it takes me a lot of time to process most decisions. It’s not that I don’t understand them – it’s that my mind needs time to explore and analyze the issue from different viewpoints, possible understandings – it needs to ask further questions. People don’t really like this. In the hustle and bustle of life, having someone hesitate to react, to want time to think things over, doesn’t settle well. Still, I am trying to quell my initial response. What may feel like anger when a friend does not react as supportive as I want, turns out to be fear that they may not love me. My feelings and choices, therefore, change drastically.

Well, that’s one way of looking at it. I mean, that’s what I tell people and what I try to tell myself. But the truth is: I am terrified that no matter how much I process something, my answer will be wrong. And I have begun to realize that perhaps part of this “processing” has to do with the events from my past that have made me constantly question my choices, feelings, and thoughts. I worry that the processing might not be me trying to find the truth, but rather trying to push aside the doubts and the voices that tell me contradictory, “truthful” answers.

Since I was a child, people have told me that I am over-sensitive; I think too much; I over-exagerrate the impact of things; that my memories are embellished and magnified; that the things that happened as a child didn’t really happen the way I felt them happen. In short, that what I think and feel is wrong, misguided, naive, and warped. This all was supported by my low self-esteem, and growing depression and anxiety.

I stopped trusting my decisions. I forced myself into situations I did not want to be in; I pushed my feelings down; and I hated myself and felt so ashamed and disgusted at myself for even feeling what I felt. I lost all trust in my abilities to make decisions, to know the right thing to do – whether it is how to feel about what someone has done; how to react to something; what life decisions are “right” for me; if it’s okay to make decisions others think are wrong, etc.

I still constantly question what I feel. I wonder, is this real? Am I making this up? Why would I make it up? Am I being reasonable? Is this okay? Am I being a baby? What is the difference between what I feel and what is real? I question my choices because I question the validity of my inner voice.

I question choices as simple as what to eat or what to wear, as well as large decisions like what step I should take in my life. I have so many voices in my head telling me completely different “truths” while questioning each one of them. It’s like they are all yelling their answers at me and getting in side arguments with each other – in my head; at the same time; while I am trying to decide whether to leave the house or not. It’s exhausting.

It leaves me wondering which voice is authentic. Which one is “right,” and which one is trying to somehow lead me to ruin and self-sabotage. I get so far in my head about what is in my head, I find myself frozen, confused, panicked. In the past, I think alcohol helped slow my thinking down; allowed me to make decisions without actually feeling whether or not it was what I wanted – just doing whatever others wanted. It was a way of temporarily fleeing from the chaos of fear and failure that I felt constantly.

They say that in all real relationships you need trust. But if you can’t trust yourself, I don’t think you can trust anyone. I want to believe I trust people, but I constantly imagine what they must be really thinking in their head. They say they love me, that they understand, that they support my decisions; but maybe it’s actually disappointment, forced sympathy, perhaps adulation in hopes of getting what they really want. Which one is it? Is one simply what I want to believe? Should I trust what I feel? Or am I being naive, trying to believe something because it’s what I want to be truth. How do you know which “truth” is right?

If without trust you cannot have intimacy, authenticity, depth, love, or truth in a relationship, where does that leave me – with both myself and others? How do I move forward? How do I let people into my life and believe they are there because they sincerely want to be? How do I stop freezing up with every decision because I have lost the connection between what I feel and what I think? I believe that is the core of the problem. If your inner truth is found through mind and body, and you no longer trust your emotions, thoughts, or feelings, how do you make a decision?

This component of self-hate has stifled so much of my life and led me into traumatic events which I now have to face. It’s frightening and I’m scared.

At least I think I am.

Facing Facebook: Lamenting the Losses of My Past Life

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I have a complicated relationship with Facebook. When I was in DC, it was a great way to reconnect with old friends and to highlight the civil rights work my organization was doing. I used it to complain about society, my life, and post fun, witty comments. I interchanged with a lot of people and it was a convenient social outlet.

After my first breakdown, I came home and lived alone for a year in Berkeley. Facebook became a feeding ground for my depression. As we all know, people don’t really post about shitty things in their lives. They paint this magical vision of perfection – with their child, on a cool vacation, laughing with their friends. I also didn’t know what to post. I knew people would want to know where I was, what I was doing. I felt like if I just vanished completely, then no one would ask and I wouldn’t have to say how I was unemployed, living with my parents, doing nothing, thinking about nothing, and just breathing, eating, sleeping, and crying. As much as I wanted to see people grow, at a certain point it started to feel masochistic.

Since then, I have gone on and off Facebook. I have deactivated and then reactivated. I have agreed to only go on once a week to see if there were any birthdays. I have taken people off my news feed who upset me. I have stopped posting.

However, a lot of the jobs I am currently looking at, want to see you have social media experience. They also do research on prospective applicants online. So even though I am currently in a phase of deactivation, I went on today to review my previous posts and make sure there wasn’t anything too inappropriate.

Looking back on my posts from 2009-2012, before the breakdown, I feel this melancholy for all I have lost. Not just in time, but in friendships. I started thinking about all of the people who enjoyed me, even as acquaintances – from college, previous jobs, interns, people I had met through others, roommates, even childhood friends. Even though we might have only connected when they liked an article I posted, or when they were in town, and even though I can tell I was bullshitting my “I’m a happy go lucky gal,” it was still a human connection process.

So yeah, I’m sad. Not just because I lost touch with so many people, or because I can’t remember who they are. It’s because I wonder what my life could have been if I had been the person I am now. I wonder how different work would have been. I wonder if I would have actually gone to the events I wrote about, or actually met up with the people in town. I wonder if I would have utilized Facebook to keep myself connected and bolstered with friendships. (Looks like someone has the case of the “what-ifs.”)

I told my therapist that the idea of looking for a job right now is scarier than when I was fucked up. Because I knew how to live life and do the things you do when I was fucked up, because that was just who I was. And even though you would think I was weaker then, now, not being clinically depressed, and having gained strength in my understanding of myself and the damage I have incurred, I feel so vulnerable and that makes me feel weak.

I mean, I don’t know how to live life as this person I am now?! Technically, I have more skills for how to deal with stress, anxiety, and bad days, but they’ve never been tested “out in the field.” (I don’t count being able to go to the grocery store alone even when I feel like crap as “out in the field.” That’s more like basic training.) And feeling vulnerable before jumping into a new world, especially where old habits will most likely feel tempting, I guess I’m just scared for and of myself.

I wonder if this new me will be a person who goes on Facebook? Who reintegrates back into her old world but as a different person? Am I still that person? Can I be that person without the crippling depression, anxiety, and hypomania? As I question whether I am strong enough to have a job, I also wonder if I am strong enough to be actively involved on Facebook. I laugh and resent that Facebook has the power to invoke enough thought for a blog post. But I do believe it is another thing from my past that represents a larger component of life and has brought me pause.

Like most things in life, Facebook can be an asset and a danger. It can connect you to the world, and it can also make you wonder if you are meant for this world. I no longer look at people’s pictures and feel shitty about myself. I am happy for my friends and I know that their lives are a lot more than a post or two.

And maybe, one day soon, I will be ready to be present…on social media. But for now, I need to put my energy into forming and strengthening the beginning of a person I might one day become. I have to be ready to be present…in the present.

I know, within myself, that I have a lot to be proud of, but none of it can be displayed or captured on Facebook. And that’s okay. Because it’s bigger than a picture, a video, or a two sentence quip. I am in a state of growth, a complicated, undefinable, unknown space of evaluation, process, experimentation, and decision-making. It’s hard and shitty, but amazing and special – and I don’t need to share that with anyone for now. Well, I guess, except with you. :)

I Fell Off the Wagon.

Disclaimer: This blog post does discuss self harm and suicidal ideation. If these are triggers, please protect yourself.

So I’ve been avoiding writing mostly because I’ve been ashamed and angry with how the past 5/6 weeks have been. I’ve spent a lot of time in my head, and perhaps writing would have been better. Maybe I didn’t want to see it written down. Maybe I didn’t want people to tell me it was going to be okay. But I’m still feeling scared and a bit weak, so I’m going to try and see if it helps. Apologies if some of this is repetitive from previous posts.

Ok, so I’ve been on Klonopin for what, 13 years. This is a controlled substance that you’re supposed to take for emergency panic attacks or maybe for a week or so to help bring you down. That’s because as a controlled substance, it’s highly addictive. Not like I crave it, but my body clearly does. Even if you’ve only been on it for a few weeks, it can take over a month to taper off – so trying to get off of it after 13 years…well it’s a very long process.

The Klonopin doesn’t actually do anything for me, except ensure my body doesn’t go into withdrawal. Since I’m going to London in September and their healthcare isn’t as tip-top in terms of mental health (which is saying a lot given how shit ours is,) I figured if I could get off of it, that would help. It also is known for impacting memory – in fact recently, they were recommending no one over 50 take it. The only comforting thing about this is that it could be one of the reasons why my memory and cognitive skills have been getting worse over the years. Given I’m about to go into an incredibly rigorous academic program, I want to have as much of my brain functioning as possible.

Anyway, I was really pushing my psychiatrist since I’ve been better to start tapering. I guess I was only thinking about the physical side effects of withdrawal and figured I could handle the shakes and sweats and vomiting – whatever happens when you withdraw from Klonopin (I naively based this on movies where people detox.) So I pushed her and we went down by .25. Ok, evidently that’s a LOT. You’re supposed to go down by .125 every 3 weeks or some shit like that. Anyway, I didn’t realize there would be brain chemistry psychological effects and I became very depressed.

It’s been over a year since I have had clinical depression and all of a sudden I felt the weight and pain again. That sucked, but even more so, it scared the shite out of me. It also brought some old depressive thoughts to the surface again. Ok, so after a week, we went back up to my original dosage. But the depression didn’t pass, which I still don’t get, but whatever. So then we tried to give me some extra short release tabs of meds I am on that helped with my clinical depression and they did jack squat. But each day my depression was getting worse and my bad habits came back to town.

Still, after this past year, I knew what it was like to not be clinically depressed and I could differentiate when it was the depression guiding my thoughts and when it was me. I really tried to be compassionate to myself. I excused not going to the gym, or thinking about my future. I allowed myself to not leave the house for days. I don’t know, I suppose I thought if I resisted it, it would just make it worse. But it was like the angel and devil on my shoulders – they were fighting each other. And so the mood swings went from fine to so fucking low I wanted to die. And while in my heart I knew the depression was chemical, it still feels rational and true. And so the same things that before might have made me anxious but excited, became terrifying and pointless.

And then I fell off the wagon. It’s been over a year since I’ve self-harmed.

Looking back on that Friday, I had been in therapy earlier that day. I had been told that there was another life path that might be better than going to LSE which had kind of mind-fucked me since I was already doubting my ability to go, and decision-making is my number one anxiety-maker. And my therapist, who is still an intern, told me that she would not be able to communicate with me if I was in London, or out of the state where I currently reside.  I have known this was a possibility for a while. It was part of the reason I deferred from LSE last year. I wanted more time to work with her. Anyway, she told me and I kind of just voided it. I guess it was just too much for my mind to handle so I put it in the emotional void of overwhelming news and went home.

I was cooking dinner, watching some tv, and all of a sudden, the depression just hit me. I mean, it came from nowhere. I wasn’t ruminating about anything at the time and then all of a sudden it was like I had just been punched in the gut. I couldn’t breath and found myself bent over in absolute mental pain. Everything imperfect, all of my doubts, it all came to the surface and slapped me. I felt nauseous. I tried to cry but when I opened my mouth nothing came out. And then the craving for self-harm felt no longer like an option but like a need.

So I did. And at the time, it felt amazing. I guess what it must feel like when you slip from your recovery and go back – that first sip or hit in a year, it’s intense and satisfying and feels fucking amazing and you wonder why you ever stopped. But I quickly realized it was escalating not calming me. I wanted to do it better and I was worried I wouldn’t be able to stop. I went through the tiny rolodex in my mind of people I could reach. This person wouldn’t be available, this person couldn’t handle it, this person shouldn’t have to. I truly didn’t want to call anyone but I guess I knew I had to do it. I was at my threshold and I just didn’t want to tip over because I think there was still a part of me that knew it wasn’t real – that it had just happened too fast to be right or rational and I just had to stop it before I did something I couldn’t come back from.

I didn’t want to bother him, but I called my brother. I’ve called him before. I hate doing it because he has so much on his plate and he’s just such an amazing person and I don’t want to hurt him, but I also know he’s a police officer, so out of everyone I know, he has seen it with others and can understand it without freaking out. When I called him sputtering and hyperventilating, he went into police mode – asking questions to ensure I was safe, if I needed to go to the hospital, or call 911. I was yelling out everything I thought meant I couldn’t do this anymore but he somehow got my breathing to slow, to pull me back or out of wherever I was. He was at work, helping on dispatch – the irony of others calling 911 while he talked me through my emergency was not missed.

And he just stayed on the phone with me. He told me some funny stories about ridiculous debacles of the day, he talked about the chaos of his life, mundane and big. He kept me listening, asking questions, laughing. I patched myself up while we were on the phone. He stayed on the phone with me as he finished up work, got in the car, drove home, fed the dogs and started eating his dinner. And when I knew I was okay for the night, when the exhaustion of it all hit me and I knew I was too tired to think or move, we got off the phone. Thank goodness people like him exist in the world and I am beyond lucky to have one in my life.

The next day is always the worst. Not only do you feel the ramifications of your actions, you feel stupid and ashamed. It all felt so silly – and worst of all, I had broken my streak that had become a badge of honor. But I made it through that day. And I made it through the next and got to my psychiatrist. It was easier to tell her. She has known me for a long time, since the ECT stopped working. And she’s known me when this was a regular thing. I guess that felt better because I didn’t feel like she was judging me, because both of us at that moment, knew it was clear that it wasn’t me.

I had spent the week overanalyzing if I was making things worse, fighting to not feel better, trying to exacerbate the depression. But saying it out loud, it just made no sense. It also made sense why I felt overwhelmed – I was questioning my next big move, and my therapist and I were going to have to end our relationship. I was also turning 35 in a few months and even if I wasn’t clinically depressed it was still a heavy date to approach as I had declared it, when I was 33, as the last day I would live in the pain I was in. Even if I wasn’t clinically depressed this would have overwhelmed me.

So I’ve been recovering this past week. The med change seems to be working, and I can handle the side effects, which in the past with this medication, seem to dissipate over time. The cravings aren’t gone, but the temptation is low,  especially every time I see the evidence of last Friday and realize how ridiculous it looks and the amount of work that will go into hiding and healing.

Funny enough, we are doing distress tolerance in DBT, which is meant for situations just like those. It started four days after the incident. I’m still unsure if I’ll make it to the gym today. And I’m unsure if I’ll be effective or what choices I will make. I still know deep down that the problems that arose when I was depressed are real. The way I handled it wasn’t me, but it doesn’t mean the issues don’t still exist. And I do have to deal with them. Maybe not today, but I have to apply for my visa in two weeks, so soon.

I’m hoping in another week or so, I can look at that moment with some understanding and compassion. To see it not as a failure, but as a reality check of both how far I’ve come and that it really is a disease and not the true me. So many of my scars are memories of a time and place. I used to think of them as tattoos of where I was was and what I’ve been through – and maybe these too will come to serve as mere place markers in my life. But for today, I just have to decide that no matter what I do, or how effective I am, it’s ok. Because it is what it is, and for now, that will have to do.

Fighting Depression: A Sword Duel With a Wooden Spoon

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Wooden, Silver…You get the idea.

Well, it’s been a few weeks since the tapering debacle. Since about Thursday, I was feeling like I was coming back to “normal.” I will say this past episode really did a number on me…

and it reminded me of a few things:

  • medications are not cures.
  • in terms of mental illness, healthy sustainability, consistency, or complete “repair” are never viable realities.
  • patience is necessary for managing mental illness. and i am shit at it. too bad they don’t have a drug for that.
  • medication is a delicate dance with brain chemistry, and you can only take one step at a time. each time we try to change a med by lowering or upping, i can only do one, and have to wait weeks to see if it works, or if side effects pass or stay. if the med is not working, that means i have two to four weeks of feeling like shit, hoping that maybe it will work. and if it doesn’t, i try a different one and wait.
  • memories may fade, but the feelings of pain you feel from depression never leave you and you never really feel safe.
  • bad habits never truly die, and they feel so comfortable, right, and easy. even when you know it’s wrong, it still seems, at some place in your brain, so very right.
  • and so, every minute of every hour of every day is a fucking testament to will power, resistance, and opposite action, and it’s exhausting.

the scariest part about this past month was how low i got. the thoughts i had. the close calls. being ripped from my path of self-healing was brutal.

i wonder if it’s because my brain has gone to a very deep, dark place in the past. and so when i get depressed, it goes back there. like, if i had never gone that low, then my brain wouldn’t get there right away. but i think of it like a neuro “path” has been burned to that area of thinking in my brain, and so now, when i get sad, instead of just going to point A like a typical sad person reaction, my brain goes all the way past to point B.

and point B is a volatile, dangerous place.

i will say the fact that i know it’s my brain and not “me” really shows the progress i have made and what a lifesaver having this past year has made. because i now know what normal is, and so i know when my brain isn’t at its’ right chemistry. i think it’s what allowed me to reach out and ask for help when in the past i would have spiraled alone.

still, it didn’t matter because as we all know, when your brain tells you stuff it feels real and right and makes sense so it’s really difficult to fight it. it also makes the bad decisions even worse since you know you can do better. it’s a fucking temptress. (what is the male version of that word – tempter?)

i’m just a jumble. i feel great for 12 hours and then i panic and want to drop everything and disconnect. i use my dbt skills and get myself to do something i’m afraid of, and then 5 hours later, i’m sitting there and i just can’t use them. they seem moronic, useless, and dumb.

yesterday, i sat across from my psychiatrist and i talked. i gabbed, really. it might have been the caffeine, but at the end i said to her, “so it sounds like i’m back.” she agreed. and then i got in the car and started to drive. five minutes later i was crying. i got home and didn’t leave the apartment, answer any phone calls, clean, or doing anything positive for myself.

i’m either having mood swings right now as i recover, or i get excited that i’m doing better and am self-sabotaging to protect myself. or both.

either way, i don’t know what to do. or maybe i do, but i can’t. or maybe i can, but i don’t want to.

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.

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.

Part I: Learning to Forgive Yourself

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?

Shock it to Me: Me and My ECT

Disclaimer: So clearly I’m not an expert on ECT. I’m just one person who did it, and have some opinions on it. Take it or leave it. Also, this is a long-ass post. Feel free to skim or ignore.

Ok, I know it’s not a well-known procedure but wow, you’d think with all the mental illness coverage in the news, people would fucking … nevermind. why actually know what you’re talking about before you judge it? where’s the fun in that? it’s almost become “unamerican” now to not judge a book by its’ cover. ECT gets such a bad rap – and it’s so uncommon. If people were dying left and right, I could see why people are so terrified, but the disgust people show when I mention it, it’s just so unfounded, uneducated and rude.

There’s a long, not always glowing, history behind electroconvulsive therapy. It started basically as a way to completely erase people’s minds, and was used as torture starting in the 50’s. (I’m not a historian and too lazy to look up dates, so consider this a generalization.) However, like most cutting edge science, it takes time to figure out the best way to administer a treatment. How many vaccines killed people before they figured out the right antidote? How many procedures of the heart, lungs, pancreas failed miserably before they could do transplants, remove polyps? How many people still die today due to unforeseen complications? Any time you have a procedure, there’s risk. ECT is not terribly higher than other procedures – I think that’s just a misconception.

And as we mentally ill know, scientists are still way behind when it comes to the brain. They study the shit out of it, and come to a lot of theories, but it’s still such a complicated piece of machinery and no one quite knows how it works. After all, what makes me bipolar II and someone not? Why do some medications work on some people and others with the same illness have no relief? Just like each one us, the study and research behind medical advancements in mental health take time, missteps, trials, and perseverance. Ok, I’ll step off the soap box now.

So why did I choose to get ECT? Let me tell you, it wasn’t at the top of the list. I had been on medication since I graduated college. I went through the alphabet of drugs – since there’s no real “test” to know what illness you have, doctors generally give you meds until one works and then treat the other symptoms and side effects with other meds. For a while there, I couldn’t even keep track of the drugs I had taken. At this point, most drugs sound familiar. I hated my psychiatrist in DC, but I was too depressed to change. Besides, nothing was working and it gave me someone to blame besides the illness which felt like a part of me, which I already blamed enough. Needless to say, I’m shocked I lasted as long as I did before my breakdown.

By the time I moved back home to California, I was a mess. I didn’t have good weeks – I barely had good days. And I was going to be turning 30, only I decided that I wouldn’t. At the time, I had found a psychiatrist who was amazing – even though the medications weren’t working, she was thoughtful, and went above and beyond to think of ways to help. But I think at a certain point, we felt like we were out of options. I had tried medications and DBT and therapy, and nothing seemed to work. I was getting worse and my birthday was approaching. She had actually done her residency with a doctor who studies and performs ECT and brought it up.

I didn’t really know very much about it, besides “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.” I read “Shock” by Kitty Dukakis and I sat down and thought about it:

  • There is a tiny chance of death, like most surgeries anesthetic complications, etc. But I was planning on killing myself so if this was the worst case scenario, what me worry?
  • It could effect my short-term memory. I had completely destroyed my life – why would I worry about forgetting if I had gone to the store or not? Besides, I’ve been an airhead since I was born.
  • I could have headaches after the procedure and possible body aches. Well, my depression was giving me severe migraines, and at the time, any pain felt deserved.
  • ECT is still viewed as “freakish” and “horrific” in society. Yeah, well so was my life.

Now maybe I got lucky, and maybe my memory is fuzzy, but when I think back to my time doing ECT, I have great memories of a calm, positive time in my life. My doctor was a genius. Plus, he had this amazing combination of being serious and then cracking a dry joke out of nowhere. The nurses never looked at me like I was a beaten puppy. They asked difficult questions but there was no judgement in their eyes. I have shitty veins, so I do think when they saw me, they probably played rock, paper, scissors to find my vein, but they knew my name, smiled, and I developed a pattern that they all knew. My anesthesiologist – I wanted to adopt him as my uncle. Turns out my family actually knew him, but I didn’t remember him. He was this sweet, cuddly man who was light-hearted, but confident. I just trusted him completely.

So every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, my mother would wake me quite early in the morning and drive all the way into the city. (Yes, she received her 8th sainthood medal at this time.) She would sit in the waiting room but she loved it (unless she lied to me to make me feel less guilty but I choose not to dwell on that) – she got to drink coffee and read her library books which she generally never got around to when she was at home. Meanwhile, I changed into my robe and the doctor came by and put my tres fashionable stickers on my head, chest and foot.

They’d wheel me to a room and I would see the post-op nurses and we’d exchange jokes and pleasantries. Everyone on the medical team had this ongoing joke with me. Well, they thought it was hilarious – I smiled because hey, these people had my life in their hands so whatever they want, they get. So when I first saw my doctor, he asked for my allergies. I was nervous and when I get nervous I tell the truth – but like way too much truth. So I mentioned that I was allergic to eggplant. Clearly this is not a problem in a surgery situation but every time I wheeled into the room, there it was – Allergies: latex, codeine, eggplant.

They gave my fentanyl, which honestly, is the best drug I have ever had. If you could have a crush on a drug, it would be fentanyl. Anyway, they check all your vitals, and stick all the cords into your head and chest, etc. I can’t imagine how awesome I looked. In the past with ECT, one of the problems was that they gave the seizure and people’s bodies would obviously seize as well. Hence, biting their tongue or hurting themselves accidentally and having major muscle aches afterwards. I don’t know how they do it, because doctors are magical beings, but they have now figured out how to temporarily paralyze the body except for the right big toe. When they are attempting to find the right level to engage the seizure, the big toe moves and they know from that and the screen that the seizure is occurring.

Now I’m one of those people who overcompensate my fear when in front of others so I was always making jokes and teasing. But I was always scared that they would start the procedure before I was fully asleep. Totally irrational but scared every time. I told the nurse the first week I was there to promise not to start until I was out. She promised me and took my hand. From then on, every time I went in, she held my hand as I counted backwards. Evidently, the procedure only takes 15 minutes. Pre-op and post-op are what take so frickin’ long.

I was friends with the post-op crew – they knew what I liked after and how to help when I had the occasional headache. They would let my mom come in and visit me, which was actually the hardest part just because – I can’t really describe her face. I imagine it’s frightening to have your daughter have “surgery” three days a week for months on end. And while I was feeling better, she also saw my memory slip a bit, my headaches, and I’m her baby – I just felt like I saw all that on her face, all tied up in an attempt to look brave and happy.

I’d usually go home and take a nap until the meds wore off. I couldn’t drive, but as I started to feel better, I would sit in the car while my mom ran errands. I started to have dinner with my family, until I remembered that meant eating with my father. I started taking the dog on walks. I called my friends.

I had found my cure and I didn’t care about the side effects. I didn’t want to die anymore, and the deep pain had passed. I was high on hope and it was awesome. The more I did it, the more I did notice my cognitive skills slipping a bit. I would ask my mom a question and then ask again five minutes later. We assumed it was ECT and made tons of jokes, but honestly, I still do that sometimes now – like I said, born airhead. I guess I started to feel cured. I was ready to get my life back. I wasn’t in therapy or on meds but I started to look for jobs. I had to stay in California – if I could have had a leash, I think my mother would have bought one. I had scared the shit out of them, and I think they had more trepidation than I did. I don’t think I was numb, but I definitely wasn’t how I am now.

I thought it was my new normal, I felt lighter, calmer. I got the job, and it was two hours away. Once I got there, I started to feel like shit again. So I started trying to go home every other week for a treatment. That was when I noticed I would come back to my job and I didn’t feel better. I just started to feel worse. I also couldn’t remember where I had saved documents.

I called my doctor in a panic – I was slipping again. We tried more treatments and then he and my psychiatrist gave me the news. See, ECT is really good for schizophrenia, major depression, and bipolar I. And I had always been diagnosed as having major depression. But bipolar II, which I had never heard of, had a caveat with ECT. It would work the first time, but once you stopped, if you went back, it wouldn’t work. In fact, it wasn’t until then that we knew I had bipolar II, which in the end was a blessing because it explained why my meds weren’t working and I probably wouldn’t have found the cocktail I have today.

But at the time, I was devastated. My safety net was gone. I couldn’t remember shit. I hated my job. I was back to my self-harming ways. I kicked ass at my job but I went home and just laid in bed under my covers. I avoided all my friends and left really vague texts with my mom. I finished the event I had been planning and then started to miss work. It was Washington, DC all over again. I quit my job, came home, and then spent another two years in bed, trying to find the right medication mix before I decided to stop trying.

The rest is history and irrelevant.When I speak to people about ECT, I talk about it with joy and hope. While it wasn’t the right fit for me, I saw it change people’s lives, and for a bit there, it saved me from myself. ECT is not a cure-all. It will not fix you completely. You will still need to supplement it with medication, therapy, exercise, the whole song and dance for mental health quality. But for those of you who have tried and just can’t get up anymore. For those of you who are just hurting everywhere and it feels like it pulsates from every pore of your body, I think it should be something to seriously look into.

They are constantly improving, understanding the brain more and more and making the treatment faster, more effective, and with less side effects. They are researching the shit out of it and kicking ass and taking names.

II know this sounds weird, but I miss those days. Between the depression and the ECT, I really don’t remember most of the last decade – but most of the memories were shitty, and the good ones my friends and family tell me about. I am happy with my current set-up of medication, therapy, and besides this insomnia, keeping my body healthy. I have bad days and I go to the gym when I don’t want to, and I deal with the side effects of my meds, and I push past my anxiety as much as I can to take steps towards finding myself. And it doesn’t feel quite as good, but it feels real. Not having clinical depression, it’s like redefining a life I never knew I could have. It certainly isn’t perfect, but there is some hope, some laughter, and hopefully a future.

I see so many people in pain, who could be freed from their agony. i see people taking medications with such severe side effects and I just think – if only they would try. While ECT stopped working for me, it was a blessing, not only while I was doing it, but because it helped us see that I actually was bipolar II, change my medications, and now I feel so much better.

I truly believe I would not be where I am today without the ECT. I would not have survived to be able to fight today, tomorrow, and hopefully into the future. So yeah, I’m e.c.teed_off and proud of it.