the pointless nature of “crying for help”

disclaimer: some stuff about suicide, self-harm, and just basically scary, downer stuff. don’t read this if it’s going to trigger you. i assure you it’s not worth it: just some ramblings but without a filter.

They say that an attempted suicide is a cry for help. While I have never attempted, I will say that based on my experience leading up to a moment like that, you are definitely past a “shout out.” Asking for help can be difficult for anyone. Some people don’t like to ask for help doing a difficult DIY project. A lot of people think they should be able to deal with something on their own, or maybe they don’t want to bother someone.

But I’m trying to understand this idea of crying out for help when it comes to depression. I never have really understood it, even when I have tried to do it. So let’s see, sometimes when I’m getting down, when I feel myself getting closer to a destructive ledge, I may call someone. When they ask “Hey, how are you?” I don’t say anything like: “You know how it is…I guess I just feel like i’m getting closer to a destructive ledge.” I don’t think that’s actually what they’re expecting and frankly I don’t think it’s what they want to hear. I usually just ask them about how their life is. I’m trying to get better at not hiding everything, so I might even say, “Hey, I’m just feeling out of sorts and just wanted to hear your voice and focus on you, because i love you, and i need to get out of my selfishly depressed brain right now.” But people are busy. And you’re calling “just” to talk? That doesn’t really take precedence over preparing for a party, or going out to dinner with someone. it doesn’t take precedence over a crying baby, or a timer for the oven.

So then you get to that destructive ledge. I suppose you can call out before doing something. Sometimes i have called someone before I harm myself. It’s hard – trying to express you’re scared without freaking everyone out. Because they don’t know where you are: maybe you have the knife to your wrist; or maybe you just are in bed and don’t want to get out. And besides, by that point, I have either decided to do something or not. In fact, the only thing that might stop me is if someone called me right in that moment. But that’s not going to happen.

Then there’s the “I’ve already done it and I’m ashamed” call for help. I’ve done that one a few times. Not sure it helps. I mean, it pulls me out of the chaos usually. Makes me remember that I don’t want to hurt others or to scare them with my unacceptable behaviors. Situations, that if and when things settle, I will have to explain, will never really be understood by loved ones because it won’t sound like a “good enough” reason to have done something they think is so unnecessary.

Recently, I was sitting and i could feel the wave coming. And i could feel that I wasn’t strong enough to push it down. I couldn’t help myself. And that “couldn’t” was turning into a “I don’t wanna” really fast. So I think: maybe I text someone? Maybe something vague with this hope that somehow they see through it and understand I need them to come save me? Because honestly, how the fuck is a text convo with emojis really going to help? And haven’t we had this conversation before, the last time I was in this position?

Then, what if it does pass? What if it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be? Now I’ve scared them and they need me to call them all the time; they don’t want me to be alone. Now those things that took precedent before don’t, but you know it’s because of you, and the guilt is worse than if you had just gone through with it. By the time they call you back or get to your house, the immediacy has passed.

The thing about a call for help, is you have to want to make it. You have to have the strength and gumption to say that you need help. But maybe you don’t want to use up your “helps.” I mean, everyone says they will always be there, but lest you be the “boy that cried wolf.” Plus, you are bothering that person, you are impacting their life in a selfish way, so you kind of want to use those moments when they really matter. But then of course, how do you know if this time will matter, and what if you realize it but you’re too far committed to turn back and make that call?

I don’t know about this cry for help. During a time when I feel pointless, frustrated, exhausted, tired of trying, I am supposed to call someone and tell them that I am feeling those things and that I need them to help me. I mean, isn’t that contradictory?

And now it’s time for me to go off topic, because it makes sense in my head.

I was writing to a friend today and wrote this huge explanation of the past three months: what has happened, how i have felt, all the shit. And then I erased it. I didn’t want to freak him out. And I realized, I only share, I only ask for help, after I don’t need it anymore. So i will tell someone that the night before, I had wanted to die. I will email with a friend across the pond to tell them about a scary period of time I had the past month when I didn’t know whether I was going to be ok or not.

Because if provided through this viewpoint, it’s something they can handle. They need to know it’s ok so they don’t feel helpless. And I don’t want to burden them with something they can’t control – so i tell them after, as if it was just a momentary weakness. And you have to, because if you don’t, then they don’t trust you. When you say you’re ok in the future, they don’t believe you. They call you all the time or attempt to subtly make sure you’re alive by “just passing by” or “thinking of you and deciding to call.” And it’s funny, because even though at one point I thought that was what I needed; by that point, it just feels like they are reaching out for themselves. So they feel better knowing they were doing “their part.” In fact, I’m not sure they actually want to understand what I would need in terms of help.

Many people offer their help to me and in doing so, I see the love they want to provide. They are good people; caring people. People I am lucky to have in my life. But they don’t get it. I don’t know if they can’t because they don’t know what it feels like, or maybe because they aren’t really listening to me the way I need to be listened to. Or maybe I’m not being clear because I don’t know what I need, let alone what I need specifically from them.

To me a cry for help needs to be answered immediately and never is. To me a cry of help is yet another pathetic demonstration of why no one should answer. Honestly, i’m pretty sure just a good cry would be more helpful than anything else.

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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.

Driving Around in My Angermobile

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The groundhog pretty much captures my face when I’m in my Angermobile. Truly a striking resemblance.

Evidently I have a problem with anger: I have difficulty/don’t express it and do not allow myself to truly acknowledge/feel it. Generally, when something “angers” me, it quickly turns to sadness and then to an inner-anger of shame. I believe this stems from the verbal anger I witnessed as a child.

Growing up, I had to listen to some incredibly loud, mean, abusive rants and fights. I had no place to go to escape the noise and fury. Even in my room, with my fingers in my ears, I could hear it. A part of me wanted to run out and protect her. I wanted to yell back at him and break him down with my words. But mostly, I just wanted it to stop. Sometimes, it was at the dinner table and I could never figure out if I should leave or wait it out. I could physically feel the anger, as if the sound was holding me down. It left a presence in the room after they left. It felt dirty. And I was so scared and so sad and so mad that it happened and that I could not fix it, stop it, or prevent it.

So I suppose that’s why anger scares me and I avoid it as much as possible. It’s volatile and it can hit whatever is in its’ range of rage. It’s usually an instinct rather than a processed idea so it’s hurtful and thoughtless and empty yet riddled with evil. It destructs. Verbally, it is used to hurt, to damage, to destroy. It becomes a giant and steps on anything in its’ path. And I hate it. Huh. I’m angry at anger. That makes me sad. (See!?!)

But I do have my car: my “Angermobile.”

I live in a suburban area so I have to drive quite a bit. And man, people are just horrible fucking drivers. The point (if indeed I am attempting to make one,) is that the only place where I do express anger is, you guessed it, in the car. Now, I don’t yell with the window open; if I give the finger I do it below the glass; and if I pass by you after you have done something asinine and dangerous, I don’t look over and give you the “fuck you” face and hand routine; but I try to grimace and look frustrated. (I’m pretty sure my face looks like I’m farting or have to pee really bad, but whatever. It means I’m mad, dammit.)

And you should hear what I say with the windows closed.

I raise my voice. I get that Hulk treble in my tone. And I use swear words in creative and abusive ways. I say things to you that are demoralizing, mean, and angry. I tell you what’s what and then some. I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take your shitty driving anymore…without at least yelling like a mean, bad ass.

Besides an occasional argument with my family, who all have louder voices so I think it just naturally gets louder quickly, I never raise my voice to people. I do not confront people. If I was angry, I would never be rude or use a swear word. I generally apologize before I complain. And yes, I think a lot of it has to do with my past, as well as cultural expectations for women, and because I am terrified the other person will yell at me.

My therapist wants me to work on my anger. Just for clarification, (because I asked,) she doesn’t mean throwing something at someone or bitching them out. She means sitting with the anger, feeling it, and not turning it into sadness or shame. (I also think she is talking more about my interpersonal relationships and not the shitty driver who cut me off.) She wants me to validate my anger because it is justified and not be afraid to face it because it is an important emotion and can help me recover from past trauma.

And anger can be effective and positive. It is telling you that the person did you wrong and it was not your fault. It is saying that you deserve more and you will not allow it to happen again. It is a promise to yourself to fight back, and it is a powerful energy that can propel you forward in an empowering and passionate way.

So I’m going to work on sitting with my anger. Because unfortunately, I’m pretty sure I have been harboring it, storing it in a “do not open” box, and it’s pretty full.

Still, I think we all need some form of an Angermobile – whether we are too passive or overly aggressive. We all need a place where we can let it all out without hurting someone or ruining a relationship. Maybe for you, it’s yelling into a pillow. Maybe it’s writing in a journal or on your blog. Maybe it’s listening to angry music really loud and thrashing about. Maybe it’s kneading dough. Whatever your pleasure. As long as it’s safe, and it alleviates the tension and undercurrents of hate/frustration/anger that we obtain throughout the day, I say: “go on with your bad self.”

I like who I am in my Angermobile. I’m not like the people who yelled when I was a child. But as a person who is so controlled in public, it’s fun and refreshing to use some of my favorite words (oh how I adore swear words,) in the safety of my climate-controlled, ideally (and hopefully) sound-proof car.

Can You Live With An Empty Soul?

Yesterday my therapist and I started to dissect my issues with intimacy. There’s a long road of traumatic events that have lead to my fear of getting close, both physically and emotionally with men. But as we reviewed components that have lead to my current, frustrating state, the rejection and dismissal by girls kept coming up. Because while I was dealing with my feelings about men, my wants and needs, the feeling of self-worth and value kept coming up – and a lot of that had to do with the rejection by girl friends.

I was friends with and then eventually cut off by a different group of people every year from second grade through seventh. Sometimes with a note, or just three people refusing to acknowledge my presence one day. Each time I joined a clique, after some time, I was told quite clearly that I was no longer wanted. After a horrific experience in seventh grade, I decided never to have “best friends” and just be friends with everybody.

I suppose the thing that crushed me the most was that I never knew why or was given any explanation for friends’ abandonment or sudden disgust with me. The first few times, I just felt confused, but after a while, I started to evaluate what I was doing wrong. What was it about me that made people, after a time, not want to be friends with me? What was so rotten inside me, that as soon as people started to know me, they wanted to flee?

I didn’t know what I was doing. So instead of trying to get people to like me and want me, I tried to get people to need me. Being a friend meant getting things for people, doing favors, embarrassing myself to ensure they laughed, helping them with boys, picking things up – whatever I could do that made me a convenient and helpful addition to their lives. This backfired at times, as some girls felt I was overbearing, trying too hard. I adjusted when that happened and eventually I found a way to balance helping people but giving them space long enough that they couldn’t get sick of me.

Looking back, I had convinced myself that I, as a human being, had no value to people. Just being me was not good enough. I had to earn friendship by providing something they needed. True friendship does involve giving – but it’s supposed to be two-ways. I always felt safer from rejection if it was one-way. In fact, I hated when people tried to do something for me or compliment me. Still, even doing this, people ditched me.

So now not only was it that I was of no value, that I was worthless; but there was something so disgusting and annoying about me, my giving just wasn’t enough. I was ugly, irritating, awful. Deep within the core of myself, there was something so bad, they couldn’t speak to me or sit with me anymore.

After the most painful rejection in seventh grade, I realized that limiting yourself to a few friends to have intimacy and closeness, was simply too dangerous. And for someone like me, to get too close and allow someone to see me, meant eventually they would flee. So I became friendly with everyone. I didn’t sit with anyone specifically. I spent the majority of my time making people laugh at my expense – but it worked. People thought I was “funny” and I was generally friendly with everyone. This continued in high school. I would have a few closer friends, but I often would distance myself if I felt we were spending too much time together, avoiding any chance of rejection. If I didn’t invest too much in them, and I still ensured my value by giving – whether that was providing a place to drink, or making snarky comments at the chemistry teacher, or railing on myself for my braces and fat, it was worth it to get them to laugh. If I could make them laugh or get them something, they would let me stay, and in that way, I could make myself of value.

But underneath that was the constant fear that they would find out I was worthless. That they would see this sickness in me, and run. By then, I stopped trying to figure out what I was doing wrong, and just accepted it was me as a whole, I was simply damaged goods. My goal was simply to hide my true self.

To this day, I feel fear in all of my relationships – with doctors, family members, the barista, and most importantly my friends. I only have a few friends, and they have stuck by me throughout my depression. But I am still scared to lose them. I find myself in the middle of a story horrified that I’m talking too much and trying to switch the subject back to them – people like being listened to and heard. I try to remember if I contacted them last, and will wait for them to contact me, lest I be hanging on them too much. And it’s why I hid and often continue to hide my mental illness. I talk about it, quickly, flippantly, and with humor, but in general, I skip by it quickly, don’t answer the phone, or just leave out the emotion or truly devastating fears. My best friend told me last year that she never knew so much and that she couldn’t help me if I wasn’t open to her. In the past year, I have tried to be more honest. The other day, I called her and cried on the phone, hysterically vomiting my thoughts and concerns. I apologized the next day and told her it was fine. I felt bad I had put her in a position where I needed something that no one could provide. I worry if you become a task too heavy, people will leave you, as my roommate and friend right after college did, by moving out of our apartment because she told me I was a “burden” and she couldn’t handle her own life because mine was so oppressive.

Obviously, if you think you have no value and that people are disgusted and want to leave as soon as they know who you really are, this is going to impact your sexual relationships as well. I have never really dated anyone. I have never had an intimate encounter sober. I haven’t had many to begin with, and some of them were assaults, so I’m not sure they count. There have been a few guys who liked me, but they were intense and they seemed to compliment me a lot. They kept saying how great I was, smart, pretty, and they had only been seeing me for a week. I broke up with those men. Partially because of my self-esteem and sexual intimacy issues, but mostly because I knew if they really “saw” who I was, beyond the humor and bullshit, they would see how hollow and truly pointless I was.

I think we are going to try and focus on my history some more and reinterpreting my thoughts. My issues with men are much more complicated, which is annoying given my love for them. But as I got into the car to drive home, it really actually hit me – what I had said about 10 minutes before the session ended. I have learned, from a very early age, that I add no value, and am either empty or bad inside. I am, by definition, worthless. And so much in my upbringing supported that conclusion.

My therapist asked me if I ever knew why people decided they didn’t like me. There is only one person I still know from that time period that was part of a group that cut me out. I feel bad, but about once a year I bring it up. I ask her to remember what it was that started the decision for the three of them to stop talking to me; to cough pig when I walked by. Who decided I was out and why? Was it something specific or my general personality? And why did she do it? Was it peer pressure or did she hate me as well? I just wanted to know what I did wrong for so many years, to try and have some understanding of why so many people left me. And every year, she pleads with me to let it go because she can’t remember. She isn’t sure who started it, and she isn’t sure why. There wasn’t a specific moment or a group meeting that she remembers. She just knows that it happened and she was a part of it. And that she’s sorry. And that by high school she thought I was really cool and wanted to be friends with me. I still can’t seem to satiate that need to understand and evidently it didn’t impact the people who did it to me enough to remember.

And now, through college and DC, and my depressive years, people tell me they wish I knew how great I was. That they don’t understand why I am so hard on myself, why I can’t see why I am so “amazing.” They tell me I am attractive, kind, funny, witty, smart, emotionally intelligent. They tell me there’s no reason I shouldn’t be in a relationship or try to make friends. And with every compliment, I feel sad because I have duped them as well. What they are seeing is what I choose to show them. But it’s all a charade, bullshit, a song and dance.

The truth is, I can’t decipher what is “really” me and what is something I do to make people accept me. Am I actually a person with some of those traits? Is that, at my core, who I truly am? Or is this all a sham, and behind it all is something truly ugly, something so terrifying, that the only person who really sees me is the depressive voice inside me that is the only real voice of truth. A part of me knows that that voice is my sickness, that it’s not real, but every time I listen to it, it has a point, and evidence to go along with it.

Maybe, I never developed a voice or inner being, what some see as a “soul.” Maybe I have no self-esteem or self-worth because I don’t have anything true and tangible to hold onto. I have spent so long developing what felt like facades for so long, I can’t tell if they are actually me, or still simply illusions. Could I just be, behind the green curtain, not a great wizard, but a silly, sad, insecure person, with nothing to show? Could my soul simply be an empty shell with nothing inside?

One Extra Pill: My Brain is Such a Drama Queen

Besides the constant tremors and occasional rapid heartbeat and dizziness, the new drug regimen I started last Tuesday seems to be working. I feel different. More steady. Anxious more than sad, which while anxiety sucks, still feels safer than sadness.

I am astounded at how incredible the mind is. Changing a medication by .25 sends it into a rapid depressive episode that last for weeks. Upping a drug by 100mg makes the person feel ready to face the day, even on the days she doesn’t want to.

Don’t misunderstand me. It doesn’t fix you. I still have dark “abnormal” thoughts about myself and my life. I worry I will, like before, suddenly spiral into destructive behavior. I’m not normal, whatever that might be. And I never will be.

But for now, at least for today, I’m pretty sure I won’t. And that is amazingly different than just a week ago.

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.

Living vs. Being Alive

Today would be the day I registered for my classes if I had gone to London. This past week, I’ve approached each day in relation to what I would be doing if I had made the decision to go. And it’s made worse by the fact that I’m basically doing nothing to move my life forward. After all, I decided not to go because I wasn’t emotionally ready and wanted to grow stronger. I’ve spent the last month taking two classes at a community college and going to the gym when I can get up the nerve. I’m guessing this isn’t going to cut it.

When I tell others about what my day “could have been like,” they tell me not to worry; I’ll be there in a year. I mean, that was the plan in deferring. But I think I know I’m not. I wasn’t even planning on going, the whole idea was just an experiment to see if I had the guts to apply. And then once I got in, it was just assumed I would attend. A part of me thinks I said I’d go because I wanted to be that person who could.

I know you never know when you’ll be ready for something in life. And that you can find reasoning and purpose behind almost all choices. But I feel like I failed. I’m angry that I can’t be that person and that I may never be. I can’t even tell if I want to be that person that could. And I hate the people who can.

One of my main issues with my depression was that I felt like I was alive but not living. I was breathing, peeing, eating, sleeping, but I wasn’t living, not really. I was sticking around physically for the people around me so they wouldn’t have to deal with the grief of my absence. I suppose they preferred the burden of my depression, rather than the grief of my passing.

The chemical depression has mostly worn off. (More on that later.) But I still don’t feel like I’m living. Sometimes, I’ll be engaged in a conversation with someone and for those minutes, I do feel alive. When I’m in class, or doing homework, I feel alive. And then I walk back to my car and I feel alone – just me and my breathing. Time passing, me just being.

At what point is being alive not enough? I suppose it has something to do with hope. With believing in a future. With finding peace in the present. I keep thinking to myself: “What would it take for you to feel satisfied? To feel you had a life worth living?” And then I take a propranolol and turn on the tv. It’s just not a question I’m willing to face.

Today would be registration day. Today I could be living. Today I grieve who I am and what I have lost or never have had. Maybe tomorrow will be different.

My Failed Attempts at The Pursuit of Happiness

This is not only the kid from the movie

This is not only the kid from “The Pursuit of Happiness,” he is demonstrating my feelings on finding happiness.

Every time I see my therapist, she asks me what I’m going to do between then and the next time I see her that will make me happy and bring me joy. And every time, I come up blank. I can list things that make me feel productive, helpful, or good. And I suppose in a way, those things make me happy. But like I tell her, happiness to me is a fleeting emotion. Contentment is what I think we are all aiming for. After all, contentment implies an acceptance and peace with the life at present. While something might give you a kick of happiness, contentment means you are okay with your life, warts and all. Maybe you still have dreams, and you still want to move forward and achieve things but when you sit down and look at your life you think: “Yeah. Not too bad. Good job self. We should rock out because things are what they are and they are good.”

Ok, so I’m not really content either. But I felt so sad when I couldn’t think of anything that made me happy. I think part of it is because of where I live, the fact that I do not have many people my age with my shared interests around me, and because it’s so much easier to do things because you are supposed to do them, than because you want to do them. With choice of your actions, comes the stress of fear and failure. What if it’s a bad decision and I don’t enjoy it? What if I do something wrong or embarrass myself? What if others look at me and think I’m pathetic? I’ve always had so many fears, some instilled by my family and friends, others created by me, that have held me back. I’ve spent the last three years just trying to stay alive – so I’m a bit thrown by this idea of doing something that I want to do not because I have to, but because I want to and because I know it will make me feel joy or strength or confidence.

In the past, I think I did things I thought I should do rather than things I wanted to do. I mean, we all have to do those things. Sometimes I need to cook, keep the house clean, get books from the library. And I enjoy most of these things – but do they provide me with happiness?

In the past, going to work was also on that list. I liked people-watching but in retrospect I think it had a lot to do with being depressed and being curious to watch others around me that seemed to have their shit together. I enjoyed public spaces because I could step back and see how unique and odd we all are. I liked museums because certain art makes me feel something deep inside me, but I always felt so sad afterwards. I actually think a lot of things that would give me happiness, have in the past brought me down hard afterwards. The feeling could never be sustained.

So I look at my life for signs of happiness. I mean, I enjoy spinning but does it make me happy? It makes me feel strong, accomplished, and I get a little endorphin kick for the day. I like hiking but I never do it. I like walking around the city but I don’t live there so I rarely do that as well, and with my knee, it’s not as fun as it used to be. I used to really enjoy giving platelets but evidently in the area I live in, the nurses are just unable to find my veins and give up on me way too easily. I enjoy a good talk with a friend or a successful social encounter, but those seem so fleeting and usually leave me coming down, exhausted and nervous about the fragility of the future conversations.

As my therapist continues to ask me this question and I continue to look at her with a wincing face of self-doubt and frustration, I am truly trying to figure out what my barrier is that is blocking my mind from finding something that I could do to make me happy. A part of me knows it’s out there. I imagine it would be something simple – I tend to roll that way. Maybe it’s something I’ve done in the past but given all of my worries, anxieties, and self-doubt, I’ve never really been able to feel the full effect of the deed at hand. Maybe I haven’t found it yet – it’s waiting for me to take a taste and understand that it’s what I am meant to do when I need a little extra “jazz hands” in my day.

I want to find things that make me happy. I imagine as time goes on, especially if and when I begin to work again, I’m going to need things in my life I can turn to for relief – and not just the gym or volunteer work. Or maybe those things?

I’m jealous of those who have a passion. I can see it when they are talking about it – that high they get from whatever it is. For one friend, it’s running. She doesn’t do it to stay fit (though I’m sure that’s a side perk) but because she truly enjoys it. Before, during, and after. My mom even has something – she just loves to garden – I don’t get it, but it truly gives her pleasure. It’s adorable but frankly I find it quite dull.

Do you believe in the idea of happiness? Joy? Contentment? Are they different things to you? How do you define these ideas? And more importantly, what do you do to find them? What do you do for pleasure? If you had a day ahead just for you, what would it look like? What do you do to make you happy?

I guess all this thinking of happiness makes me feel empty, boring, and melancholy. After all, isn’t life about the pursuit of happiness?

Not to Rock the Boat, But Something Good Happened

A dream come true or a mental breakdown waiting to happen?

A dream come true or a mental breakdown waiting to happen?

So I’ve been writing a lot about the stress of “moving forward.” What does it look like? When will I know I’m ready? How will I know if it’s the right step? What if my chemical depression comes back and brings me back to nothingness?

For the past ten months, I have tried to find my action steps. It was like “I’m going to go to the gym today; I am going to call a friend; and I will turn off the tv by 10pm and read a book instead.” And I would bitch and moan to my therapist about how this wasn’t enough. I wasn’t “moving forward” fast enough. Where was the volunteer work? The job? The boyfriend? Why the fuck wasn’t my life perfect?

Perhaps I wasn’t trying hard enough? Or maybe my “steps” were too little? But what if I tried something too big – that might set me back. And then she, in her kind, thoughtful demeanor, suggested that perhaps my life has been  moving forward without my conscious effort to do so.

After all, I go to spin four days a week. I have stayed with my vegan diet. I live in an apartment alone and still manage to leave and make appointments. I have begun to socialize and inhabit this evidently “funny,” odd, and loud person it seems I am, especially when around people. I have made some decisions that others have disapproved of, but that felt right to me. I make mistakes or bad choices, I get pissed, and then I move on…eventually.

So, one of my undemanding “goals” was to apply for this Master’s program. I actually had applied for one at a different school last year and didn’t get in, but this was different. This school has been a dream of mine since my senior year of college. I always imagined, even in the depths of my depression, that if I could go there, I would find my true self and be this mythic version of myself. But every year, it just wasn’t a good time and the fear of getting rejected from my dream was just too traumatic.

So, five months ago I get an email from them and they are starting this new program. And it’s basically about the things I love to study, argue, and discuss in life. There’s no specific deadline (I think they weren’t sure if enough people would apply) so I set a really relaxed goal – I gave myself almost a month and a half. And some nights, I’d work on it. Maybe one day, I’d go to the library and write something up. And piece by piece, I actually applied. I didn’t really tell anyone besides my therapist. For me, the purpose was to apply – to face the fear of failure and do something I had wanted to do but had always been too depressed and insecure to do. And I was proud of myself. It only took 12 years, but hey, I fucking did it.

But then about one month ago, I’m lazily doing my morning email check and see an email from them. It was an unconditional offer of acceptance. Ok…see…that wasn’t what I was expecting. I was actually prepped for not getting in – had a whole “philosophy” on how I was going to see the positive of it all. And the school that I got rejected from earlier is nowhere near as competitive as this one. So yeah, I would say pure shock for the first 24 hours. I mean, I felt nothing. I told my therapist who cried because she was happy for me. (She’s the best.)

I saw so many reasons not to go – money, pragmatism, what if I wasn’t ready? I mean, I didn’t know if I could commit to volunteering and I’m going to go to another country for one of the most intense academic experiences ever? A part of me wished I hadn’t gotten in just so I didn’t have to deal with whether it could be a possibility.

After all, I have been depressed almost my entire life. I have missed so much because of my own self-hate, doubt, and depression. I have missed out on opportunities I craved. I have spent so much time, in bed, feeling that I was breathing, but not living. I was truly staying alive for my family but not for myself and I told my mom she had me until 35 and then I was done. Was this one of those things that “moved me forward” without me intentionally doing so? Did getting in signal the next step in my progress?

It did catch me at a weird time. I’ve been actually “settling” into my life slowly. And while there is always anxiety that it might get boring, this was an explosion. It brought up a lot of my past feelings of competition, passion, worthiness, independence. Also, four years ago this August, I had decided to kill myself. I spent a year and a half in electro-convulsive therapy. I wrote wills. I self-harmed. I cried until I gagged. And some of this was still happening ten months ago. Sometimes I still feel like I could fall and there wouldn’t be anything to catch me.

But I have wanted this. I have dreamed about this. And I fucking deserve it. I don’t know what the rest of my life is going to look like – I might get depressed again, I might never have a job I want, or find someone to love, I may gain all my weight back and end up back at my parents house, in bed, for days.

And for a while, I knew so clearly in my gut that this was the right step. This was all part of moving forward – of things just happening that push me ahead without my complicit and thoughtful attempt to do so. Here was a chance to do something totally impractical, definitely not pragmatic, most likely useless to my career, and potentially awesome. After three years of living at my parents house and wanting to die, maybe this was my “Welcome Back” cake to the world of possibility and happiness.

Pragmatically, going makes no sense. It’s going to drain all of the money I have, I’ll go into debt. I haven’t been in a classroom for over a decade and I’m going to be with the most elite academics who have been in school recently and I don’t remember how to write an analytical essay. I might hate London – fog hates my hair, that I know. Maybe the grey will depress me. Maybe the men are all prats. Maybe it won’t be the fairy land I have made it to be in my mind. Maybe I’ll fall into a deep depression and have to drop out or maybe I just won’t be able to cut it and I’ll have to drop out. If I can’t find a job there or the man of my dreams (definitely on my to-do list) than I’ll come home, in debt and without anything added to my resume that’s going to give me a leg up.

Plus, their health system, while free, is not so much evolved in terms of depression. From the research I did, it’s like the country hasn’t technically agreed that “depression” is a real disease, let alone bipolar II. Will I be able to establish a strong enough support system (not just people but things) that I have developed here to maintain my health and sanity? Will I even have time?

Then, just for shits and giggles, there’s an additional complication. I received an unconditional offer which means that I can defer for a year and attend next year without having to reapply. During this deferment, I could take a trip over and see the campus, sit in classes, check out where I might live. I would have time to apply for some scholarships and funding and even if I didn’t get it, I’d know I had tried. I could apply for housing early so I actually lived where I wanted, learn where things were, and just get a better sense of what I was getting into and make a more clear, decisive decision – even if it meant not going after all. It also gives me another year to strengthen myself. I know – it sounds great. In fact, every time I had a conversation with someone, it always ended with us agreeing that deferring was the best decision. But I still didn’t. I’ve had a shit ton of these conversations. And yes, they all end with me agreeing with deferment. But I stopped myself last week, sitting, looking at the page on my computer where you fill out the deferment form, and I couldn’t do it.

Maybe I’m afraid if I don’t go, people won’t really believe I’m better. Maybe I’m scared if I don’t go now, I won’t ever go. Maybe I’m worried that by next year, the medication will have stopped working. Or maybe I will realize this really isn’t what I want or I’ll have gotten a job or someone will need me to stay for something. I know this is not a decision you just allow to happen. After all, the amount of work I’ve already put into this is gross. And I’m not even talking about the emotional toll. For the past 10 months, I haven’t needed to take xanax or had panic attacks. In the past three weeks, I have had three panic attacks and have begun to take xanax on a relatively regular basis. But I mean, even someone without depression would be probably needing a xanax when trying to understand a visa application.

It begs the question: how do you know if you’re ready? I mean, I know I’m not ready to work full-time. When I’m out all day, even doing different things from 9-5 or if I am engaged with people for five hours in a row and be “on,” I’m exhausted and need two days to recover. Without the depression, I’m starting to uncover some abusive situations I allowed during my depression and their impact is growing as the depression lessens. I still can’t sleep no matter how hard I spin, and I am either groggy until noon or I wake up at 5 in the morning and I can’t go back to sleep. Clearly, I’m not just a work in progress, I’m a mental mess of work in progress. Maybe this is too big of a step. Maybe I shouldn’t do it. I still have time to pull out and defer. Give myself more time to decide.

There is no clear answer. When I sit with myself and try to clear my brain and feel, nothing clear comes to the surface. I don’t trust myself but I can’t make this decision based on anyone else’s opinion. It has to be mine. Every time I think I know the answer, eight other questions arise that pull me back to a state of cluelessness.

I don’t know what I’m going to do. Sometimes when I’m nervous, I tell people I’m going so I don’t have to deal with the not working conversation. It felt good to tell people from my past and see their eyes light up and hear their happiness and pride for me! I haven’t heard that in a long time. Even the things I have been proud of, I don’t think most people acknowledge how big those steps are – but this is a validated societal step up.

Is there a right reason? Is there a clear answer? Who knew an accomplishment could be such a dilemma of confusion, fear, and doubt. I know that I love the issues. I know I like winter clothing. I know that 12 years ago, I loved sitting in a classroom and having my mind blown. I know that I have been searching for the past 12 years (minus a few) for how to make an impact, share, learn, teach, change. But maybe this is just a distraction from the fact that today I had a crying fit and couldn’t figure out what exactly was causing it.

How can something so “good” be so…not?

I’m Mad as Hell and I Don’t Want to Take It Anymore: My Latest Hissy Fit

mad_as_hell

This past week I have been angry. Pissed off. “Mad as hell.” The little girl inside my head is lying face down on her bed, arms flailing, kicking her legs and screaming into her pillow: “No! I don’t wanna!”

I’ve found over time there is such a thin line between sadness and anger – at least for me. I’m lying in bed, feeling a profound weight of sadness, and after two days of wallowing in both my depression and pajamas, I realize I’m no longer sad – I’m fucking angry.

I suppose I could be angry at my psychiatrist for still not getting my “concoction” of meds correct. Maybe I could be angry that my friends didn’t sense my depression from 3,000 miles away and call me constantly to see if I was okay. Hell, I could even be angry at my parents for creating me to begin with or for someone in my family tree for passing this disease along into my genetic code.

Unfortunately,
A) I know none of these people are to blame nor should feel my “wrath”
B) I have no “wrath”
and C) I don’t really “get” angry.

I mean, sometimes people anger me and I mutter something under my breath but I don’t/can’t actually yell at someone. Even in the car, if I flick someone off, I do it under the window so they can’t see it. But maybe that’s why my anger and “wrath” is directed to the easiest, most convenient, and easily found target: me.

Since I was bullied in second grade, I have always found a way to turn the anger I felt onto myself. I am angry at myself for letting others abuse me, angry that I allow myself to feel so sad, angry that the medications aren’t working because maybe I’m just not doing something right or trying hard enough. And I do think I am responsible for some of my pain, and I suppose I am angry with myself for that.

But obviously that’s what is so perplexing and futile about this disease, and particularly with my new diagnosis of bilpolar II. It encourages you to get a running start and then out of nowhere puts a wall down in front of you, which you then charge into like a clown, sans hilarity. It’s like your life is like the fucking Hunger Games – a gamekeeper constantly changing the course, hoping for you to fail, give up, and die. And I assure you: I’m no Katniss.

I see all these stories in the news about people who overcame the odds, changing the outcome of their lives. A man who is paraplegic fighting to get feeling back in his arms; a woman who lost her legs in the Boston Marathon bombing but ran in the marathon this year; someone who found themselves homeless and started an organization to help their community and now has a place to live and food to eat. Whatever spark of determination and drive those amazing people have, I lack completely.

I idolize those people but I am so jealous of them, it just makes me angrier with myself for not being more like them. After all, who am I to wallow when others are pushing through their disabilities and misfortunes? Even writing this, I can see the cycle of depression alive and well inside my brain: somehow all of this is my fault and fuck me for being weak; for not deserving the air I still get to breathe.

I was speaking with a friend the other day and I told her that I feel like I have spent the past two and a half years fighting to get better for everyone around me. I have pushed past suicidal ideations and wishes, undergone procedures that have pretty much eradicated the past two years of memories, and taken a variety of pills to help me wake up, get out of bed, leave the house, and then help put me to sleep. Drug after drug – and for what? I am still living at home, unable to keep a job, my creativity all but vanished, weight gained, no boys in sight, let alone to cuddle with. Where a good day is leaving the house or not having a crying fit.

And this pisses me off…again: why am I trying so hard to stay alive to get better so I can have a life “worth living” even though in truth, I never actually get to that worthy life? I spend each day just trying to get somewhere that I may never be? Am I really going to spend my life fighting, agonizing and painfully trying to just be okay but never actually move forward? Am I doing this for myself or for others? What kind of life is worth living when you live it more for others than yourself? When you stop seeing a future and only see time passing, you struggling, feet stuck in the quicksand of depression?

I believe that life, even without this mental illness, is an uphill battle; a series of events that push you to live and thus write the pages of your life. Life isn’t meant to be easy – after all, how can you enjoy pleasure without understanding pain? How can you fully rejoice in happiness if you have never felt true loss? But I feel like I keep aging, days and weeks and months pass by, and I am still on the same chapter. It’s something like:

“Chapter 30; Age 30: Ava struggles with depression and anxiety. Tries new medications. Tries to start working but must quit because she is unable to get out of bed. Tries new drugs. They give her horrible side effects. She feels suicidal. Her family and friends surround her with love but her depression impedes their efficacy. She gets up, hates herself and every imperfection she sees with each breath she takes but doesn’t want to hurt the people she loves. She takes a bunch of pills and finally falls asleep.”

“Chapter 31; Age 31: Ava struggles with depression – see Chapter 30.”

On a more positive note, a few days ago I started a new medication and I’ve felt better the last few days. I’m still anxious and having a hard time sleeping, but I wake up and while I still feel like my actions are pointless, I do them anyway. I’m not going to say I have hope because that’s a bit premature but I can’t help my brain from starting its’ bout of lofty ideas of my “future” self. I’m reticent and sad because I wish I could just enjoy not feeling like shit today. But I can’t help but wonder if tomorrow I will wake up and it will stop working. Oh…hello anger.

And yes, while I am a cynical pessimist it’s more than that – it’s the scars of experience telling me to watch where I’m looking because I don’t want to look up to the beauty of the sky where my hope lives and hit that wall again with the same ignorance I have done so many times before. (See metaphor above of running into walls.) And I’m angry because the truth is it might last and it might not, but if it’s only going to last for a little, I should forget the wall and enjoy the sky but I’m just not built to do that.

The last few days, I can feel my anger slowly turning to sadness – a good sign really. There is a peace that comes with sadness when your anger melts away – maybe that’s the medication working. And I might just have to accept this is where I stand right now. Not blind to the reality of my possible futures that include this same monotonous cycle, but also willing to look up now and again at my “sky of hope” and maybe let myself dream without the fears of walls…at least for just a little bit.