Returning

I haven’t felt myself lately. Where “lately” is “the last nine months or so.” Maybe longer. I was so sick last spring semester that perhaps the depression was already at play, earlier than I thought, masquerading with physical symptoms. In fact, it seems likely.

(The good news about this is I’m slowly re-adding soy to my diet and with no ill effects!)

I first recognized it yesterday after I signed up to volunteer at an event in February. In days past, this would not be something of note, as I was frequently volunteering in some way or another. But in the past six months, I’ve been afraid to leave my bedroom, much less go somewhere public to volunteer. Not only that, but signing up to volunteer required me to answer questions like, “Describe your level of experience working with people with disabilities.” I didn’t write a Nobel Prize-winning essay to be sure, but a month ago, even two sentences would have seemed impossible.

I started walking home from school on days where it is nice (read: not raining and above 25*F) and running for 20 minutes with a toddler doesn’t tire me out to the point of being incapacitated the rest of the day. I can arrive on campus early and tolerate being around people for the “extra” time. I speak out, take the lead in discussions. I make witty reparte’. I look at what remains of my schooling and think, “This is do-able.”

I sit down in front of a blank page and can find a way to put words on it.

I am returning to myself, slowly but surely.

Unexpected Vacation

I mean, if that’s what you want to call two weeks in the hospital. I’ll spare you details, but it was a couple days in ICU, then I got transferred to a locked facility which, so far as those things go, is a rather nice one. And I wasn’t made to wear the turtle suit, which was a welcome surprise.

I also had my own room and bathroom, which was great since I am not a people person, but really poorly planned in terms of safety. I had to have a “bodyguard” occasionally, but otherwise was free to “move freely about the cabin” as it were. For the post part, this wasn’t an issue and my room was just a place to escape the din of the dayroom and/or sleep, but I couldn’t help thinking about how easy it would be to use eating disorder behaviours while there. To my credit, I didn’t (much), but it was certainly tempting.

Overall, it was just a long, long stay and it is nice to have returned to the real world, where I can buy a diet coke and drink it at any time of the day and be trusted with pens not be forced to eat dinner at 5 pm, which is entirely too early. (But really. And the ward below us ate dinner at 4:15! I would have just lost it.) Unfortunately, the depression hasn’t abated much, and there is now the added issue of schoolwork. (Work-work I am eager to return to.)

The stress of this semester certainly played into this episode, though I can’t blame it all on that. On the whole, my self-care and taking time for me have been far superior to any other time in my life. This is a lot chemical, and I know that, but we still have no idea how to get me out of this pit. I’ve been on just about everything, which is why it begins to seem hopeless.

The doctor tried one medicine in the hospital that made me a bit hypomanic and so the doctor discontinued it immediately, much to my dismay. After many days of raised voices and complaints and me giving in by “taking” (er, cheeking) the medication he was so set on, he finally agreed to let me try this drug again. I told the doctor that I am not looking to be hypomanic all the time – I know that is not sustainable. But I’ve been maxed out on the only two antidepressants that ever worked for me for over two years. I don’t want to be hypomanic – I just want to get up in the morning and not kill myself.

All that to say, I have returned to school. And if my anxiety about school were high IN the hospital, it seems to be even higher out here. Mainly, just being on campus is throwing me into a bit of a panic, as I have class in an hour or so and am no doubt going to have to answer a number of questions. I really don’t know that I can handle all of that right now.

But I don’t really have much of a choice, do I? Onwards and (hopefully) upwards.

Good News/Bad News

Good News: I seem to have figured out what is causing my stomach pains!

Bad News: It’s soy, which is a) my primary source of protein and b) in ev.ery.thing.

Good News: I have a new job caring for a young adult with special needs.

Bad News: He’s male, which I have some issues around, because trauma.

Good News: Only four days until the semester is done for me!

Bad News: Still need to write four papers, complete two presentations and not die from sleep deprivation.

Good News: I finally managed to say some very necessary words to a person in my life with the intent of ending the friendship.

Bad News: This was done in response to his calling ME to apologize for things I assumed he was totally oblivious to – and wanting to repair the friendship. So now I’m confused.

Good News: Since realizing how my lack of self-care was affecting my mood, I have been showering every day and feeling, on the whole, much better.

Bad News: No bad news there. Sincerely thankful for that.

 

On the whole, life is good. The only thing I really need right now is more time cuddling babies. Good thing I’m headed to my hometown this weekend. :)

One Year: Pain, Sadness, and Resurrection Life

So. On April 10, 2013 I checked in (voluntarily this time!) to Center for Change in Orem, Utah. In a lot of ways, Utah still has a piece of my heart. It certainly saved my life. And I’ve been thinking a lot the past couple of weeks about my time there. 

I didn’t refuse meals and boosts like I did my first time there. From day one, I went in to fight and eat and gain weight and health. Which means that I have been taking care of my body – consistently – for over a year now. I have been at a steady, healthy weight for almost five months now. I can count on one hand (nay, finger!) the number of times I have self-harmed in those same five months. I walk to school and play with the baby at the park, but rarely (if ever) do I step foot in the gym to pound out miles on the treadmill. If my body is tired, I sleep. If it’s hungry, I feed it. I am taking care of my body and treating it well.

This is, in part, the source of my great frustration these days. I am being good to you, body. When the hell was the last time I did that?! But you’ve decided that now that I’m treating you well you’re going to freak out? Stabbing stomach pains. Constant nausea. Never-ending menstrual cramps. (Never.Ending. I wish that were an exaggeration.) If we’re looking at this logically, I should be feeling really, really good.

But I’m not. The ultrasound I had a couple of weeks ago had no answers. A referral to a surgical specialist had no answers, just another referral. So I keep the pain and anti-nausea medications at hand, never quite breaking over to use them because I really need to be able to be coherent for the last few weeks of school.

There’s plenty of research about chronic pain and depression. And even in my last entry, I noted that the pain was wearing on me and bringing down my mood. I just don’t think I realized HOW depressed I’ve been until I woke up earlier this week with a bit of spring in my step. 

Thursday I was finally able to see objectively all the red flags that I should have been seeing all along. Wearing the same outfit for two or three days in a row because I was simply too tired (after 9 or 10 hours of sleep) to pick out a new one. Never mind the fact that it had been three weeks since I did a load of laundry. And while I’ve turned into something of a dirty hippie since moving to the mountains, not showering for five days should have set off all sorts of alarms. As strange as it sounds, the fact that I haven’t watched TV in three weeks is a bad sign. It means I’m not getting up early enough to have a sit-down breakfast and watch the news. It means that I’m spending all of my spare time in my bedroom, in bed, not in the living room. I’m isolating.

I met with my psychiatrist on Tuesday and we agreed that, so far as medication goes, this is as good as it’s going to get. The thing is, if this is as good as it gets – I quit*. There is not nearly enough joy and happiness in my life to make me want to stay around for the long-term. I feel numb and dead more often than not. When I’m feeling actual the feelz, it’s usually betrayal, sadness, guilt, loneliness, shame – all manner of negative emotions that leave me in tears. (Not that I’m knocking tears. That is progress.) I stand in church and sing and know that there was a time when I felt His presence deeply. I want to cry out to Him and yet it seems so hopeless. 

And I know this IS NOT as good as it gets. I just don’t know how to reconcile that truth with what I’m feeling now. I don’t know how to capitalize on those good days and try to stretch them out. I don’t know how to keep going when it feels like there is a block of cement on my feet, constantly dragging me down and back. 

I should know how, right? I mean – that’s what I’m in school for. There are very clear behavioural changes that I can make to try and relieve some of this depression. But how do you make yourself exercise each day when just the idea of walking to the apartment gym is exhausting? How do I eat “better” when I don’t have enough energy to stand for five minutes while I put together a salad? How can I possibly sleep more than I already am and still get things done? How do I pray when it takes me two and a half hours to put together a paragraph about how I am feeling?

Today is Easter – a celebration of resurrection life. I’m ready to feel alive again. 

Pray with me? Pray for me?

xoxo

*Fear not – I have no intentions of “quitting life” any time soon. Based on genetic samples (aka parents and grandparents), it would seem you are stuck with me for at least another sixty to seventy years.

You Know It’s A Good Day In Therapy When…

Your therapist threatens to send you inpatient.  Twice.

In response, I attempt [unsuccessfully] to fight back tears because all I can hear is my worst fear:  You are never going to make anything of your life because you are going to be in and out of psychiatric hospitals for the rest of your freaking life.

It’s a fear I’ve had for a while — since I’ve been making yearly trips to treatment and/or the psychiatric ward a sort of annual thing.  And I’ve got to DO something with my life, right?  I’m “gifted,” I have “so much potential,” I could “change the world.”  Sure, if I didn’t have half a dozen psychiatric diagnoses that threaten to derail everything I have worked so hard for if my nutrition and chemical balances aren’t just so.

In general, I try to keep my emotions under wrap.  I just don’t have time to acknowledge them if I want to maybe possibly stay on top of my schoolwork and eating.  And who really wants to sit with the shit that’s beneath all my shame and self-contempt?

So yeah, when you ask me how I really feel, if I feel safe, I’m going to tell you.  I feel empty, sad, lonely, hopeless.  You ask me what I want to do and I’ll tell you.  I want to quit. I want to curl up in a corner and just wait for life to be over.  I want to speed up the process by starving and drinking and slicing up my arms and legs.

It doesn’t mean I’m actively thinking of suicide.  It just means I’m tired.  And yes, passively suicidal can turn to actively suicidal in time.  I understand your concern.  I understand that you can’t let me leave your office if you think I am even remotely a danger to self.  I understand all this professional ethics bullshit.

My point is, don’t push so hard if you don’t want to hear the answers.  Because dammit, A, if you’re going to push me, YES, we’re going to go into dark places and I probably WILL want to kill myself.  

But your suggestion of finding “someone else who can help me” is just as heartbreaking because you are, hands down, the most competent therapist I’ve ever had.  The only therapist I have ever really trusted.  The only therapist who is willing to put up with all my stupid games and push me and tell me I can have better and deserve better.

You haven’t given up and that’s the only reason I haven’t.

And It All Comes Crashing Down

Okay, so it’s not entirely crashed down, but this week has been pretty shitty.  And it’s only Wednesday!  At least I’m over the hump, right?

The quick recap:  Therapy Monday.  Insanely difficult.  High self harm urges.  I decided to stop for a 6 pack of beer on the way home and proceeded to drink most of it.  Then, around three AM, I decided in my drunken stupidity that I may as well just self-harm.  What could go wrong?

As it were, a lot could go wrong.  A lot of Tuesday was spent nursing a hangover and forcing myself to eat, not to mention the hours I spent at the Student Health Center.  I had a meeting with my new dietitian, then sat and waited in the health center for someone to see me.  They don’t even bother to look at my leg and make an appointment for me for later that afternoon.  I start freaking out over the fact that my appointment is really close to my two PM class, but the triage nurse assures me that there will be no problem and I will get to class on time.

Luckily, I thought ahead while I was sitting and waiting for my appointment and e-mailed my professor and told him in the vaguest of terms that there was an incident related to my “documented disability” and could I please make up the quiz if I get to class late.  An hour and some stitches later, I arrive to class in the middle of some sort of presentation about the honor society and while interested, berate myself for ever thinking that I might be able to qualify for something like that.

I skipped my Tuesday night class because I just could not deal.  I couldn’t handle the thought of being awake and alive for three hours worth of research methods so I bailed and asked one of my classmates to catch me up on anything that I might miss.  (Most of the notes, etc. for this class are online, making it really easy to miss a class without getting behind.)

Among the accommodations I requested when I went to my school’s Office of Disability Services at the beginning of the year was my “worst case scenario” accommodation:  my disability may at times require me to miss class or need an extension in deadlines.  This was there just in case I wound up in the hospital for some reason.  But there was no way that was going to actually happen.

Or so I thought.  Last night was the first time I really considered that I may not be able to make it through this semester.  2013 is the first year in a few that I’ve NOT had a trip to the psych ward.  I sort of assumed that I’d be able to make it the whole year and break that little pattern.  But last night I seriously wondered about how the next month or two are going to go — while my depression isn’t so bad that I’m thinking of suicide right now, there is definitely something going on with my brain chemistry and my depression is worse than it’s been in a while.  (And yes, I am taking my meds!  Every day!  As prescribed!)  And I’ve proven to myself that I can do quite a bit of physical damage — so what happens if I accidentally cut a bit too deep?

I am certainly not posting this to be attention-seeking or to make people freak out.  I’m posting this to try and make sense of my own thoughts.  I am posting this because I need my hands to be occupied.  I’m posting because I need ideas on how to make this insane depression abate so that I can be the totally kick-ass grad student I know I can be.

Because I will kick-ass.  Grad school ass.  ED ass.  Self-harm ass.

An Explanation (Finally)

So last Sunday’s post left a lot to be explained.  If you missed it, basically it was something like, “I would like to carve up my arms like a Thanksgiving turkey but I don’t keep real razors around for exactly that reason, DAMMIT.”

This week has been incredibly rough.  I went home last weekend to go to a football game and came home on Sunday night with the intention of hunkering down with my books and completing the outlining I had begun earlier.  That was all derailed around the point that I decided that I should probably check my school e-mail account (having not done so for three days) and discovered an e-mail from campus police alerting the student population to a couple of sexual assaults that had occurred on Friday.  While the term “sexual assault” isn’t one of my favourites, it is one that I have learned to handle and can somewhat distance myself from.

However, for whatever reason, the campus police decided it was in the best interest of the students for this e-mail to also contain the men’s names, the amount of bond they were being held upon, and their f**king charges.  When I read “second degree forcible rape,” I froze.  My mind completely blanked and forgot how to close the internet window. After I finally figured it out, I sat in a ball on my bed with my hands pressed into my eyes trying to stop the flow of tears.  (This was before I even realized that it was TWO charges of second degree forcible rape.)

I did my best coping (and it was pretty damn impressive).  I Skyped with a friend, putzed around on Facebook, and finally decided to just say “screw it” when it came to schoolwork in favour of taking some meds and passing out.  Before I was able to do so, however, I needed to check an event on the school calendar and found out that the ENTIRE WEEK was basically an awareness week about sexual violence because it was the 24th anniversary of two women being abducted from campus, raped, and — in the case of one of the women — murdered.  

So I begin to flip out.  Again.  Fetal position, trying to halt the tears, never mind the images.  I e-mailed my therapist and let her know what had happened so that I wouldn’t have to explain it all when I arrived in her office on Monday.  And then I took some klonopin and curled up and cried myself to sleep.

Monday morning was work, so I was able to distract myself for a few hours by the utterly adorable little boy I take care of.  But then I had a two hour drive to therapy.  And then therapy itself.

There are times when I wish that I could record my sessions with my therapist, because we discuss things that are big and important and revelatory and I want to be able to make sure I don’t forget anything.  This was NOT one of those times.  I remember entirely too much of the session as it is and wish I could completely block it from my memory.

To cut straight to the chase, I wound up having flashbacks in my therapist’s office and eventually wound up in a ball on the floor, crying.  I spent another half hour crying after the session and God bless Alie, who was willing to listen to said crying and help me come up with a plan for dinner.  Which I had pretty much planned to skip/restrict even before my therapy session, but with her help managed to eat according to meal plan.

The triggers have just continued to come this week.  One after another.  I am having to make pointed, conscious efforts to stay present and protect myself from going into flashbacks.  I have more than once had to literally bite myself to keep from bursting into tears in the middle of a class or meeting.  I have had to go back to making short-term commitments to safety because I simply don’t care to stay safe (but neither do I care to explain stitches to my therapist, dietitian, professors, or cohort).  I am disgusted by my body and want to scrub off my skin with steel wool, but I can’t stand to even see my body.

Eating disorder thoughts and behaviours have, naturally, been sky-high this week in conjunction with my self-harm urges.  I’ve been drinking, though never to the point of drunkenness and I’ve been able to justify it by saying that I need the extra calories.

Because, apparently, I do.  That was the other upsetting thing this week — I switched from my dietitian at home to a dietitian on campus because logistically and financially it made the most sense.  So when I met with this new dietitian on Tuesday (for the second time), I was already on edge, only to find out that my weight was down (again).  I haven’t been restricting (I don’t think) and I drank at least four nights out of the week prior to our second appointment.  There is no reason my weight should have been down.  No reason that I should have to be looking at weight restoration – again – this time on the outpatient level.  I texted my dietitian from home and she confirmed that I have “quite a bit” to gain before I reach my goal weight.  Awesome, right?

So even knowing that I need to gain (and having a pretty good idea of exactly how much), knowing what size my clothes are, being able to walk into a store and reach for the smallest size, knowing that what I’m seeing is [probably] a distortion — I cannot get over how huge and gross my body is right now.  And all I want to do is restrict and run.  GOD, what I wouldn’t do for a run.  I’ve been trying to stick with the plan, but it seems like it’s falling apart.

I want to trash all the food in my refrigerator, not to mention the two pounds of candy that I bought at the general store yesterday to challenge myself and get some extra calories in, and go headlong into restricting again.  If I’m right about my weight, then I could easily be back down to my April admit weight by Christmas.  Easy peasy japanesy.  

But I do NOT want to screw up this shot at grad school.  I do NOT want to have to take leave or drop out entirely and go to treatment for the fourth time in as many years.  I do NOT want to live my life like this.

And so begins the season of my “awkward harvest.”  This blessing is my prayer morning and night as I stumble through this season.

Image

From John O’Donahue’s “To Bless the Space Between Us”

Chin Up, Buttercup

This week has been miserable.  And I’ve only really been making it worse by isolating and staying away from people.  Then, of course, I freak out that everybody hates me because they don’t want to hang up with me when…uh, I’m the one who refuses to hang out?  Or who is a total Debbie Downer while doing so?  Get a grip, kid.

The flashbacks on Monday really, really shook me up.  I honestly think that has played a big role in my mood this week.  I’ve never had such intense, uncontrollable flashbacks before.  Not even in the months after the rape.  And while I did talk about it, I also found myself ruminating on the thoughts and the images and the fear I felt in those hours.  This has made me a not-so-fun person to be around.  A friend phrased it today as my being “melancholy” as of late.  I think he was kind in that assessment and didn’t want to say, “You’ve been a fucking pain in the ass to be around the past week, please cheer up.”  But I digress.

A friend of mine led a conference call tonight for Good Friday and we went through the stations of the cross.  I didn’t know how much I needed it.  I love old spiritual practices and the rhythm that liturgy provides to the year.  It has been a long time since I have done the stations of the cross, and all those times, they were self-led.  My friend read the stations to us and I just laid back and absorbed the reality of what this day commemorates. I contemplated Jesus on his walk to his death and how many times he stumbled, how he had to humble himself not only to death on a cross – but to accepting help with someone else.  I was struck by the the level of human suffering he endured – by choice – and how the walk to the hill made him even more acutely aware of the human condition and human suffering.

He’s been through it.  He’s been beaten down and stripped of his honour and dignity and died a shameful death.  And he overcame it.

He went through it so that he could walk us through it, knowing exactly the depth of that suffering. He desires to be with us, to lead us, ultimately, to our own crosses – to kill self and take on the resurrection life that we celebrate on Easter.

Moody

This is the worst my depression has been since my first month in treatment.  It’s getting harder to deal with and I’m not sure how to bring it up in therapy.

I’m not sure how to discuss it at all, really.

I’m so disappointed in myself.

For being this depressed all over again.

For relapsing into my eating disorder all over again.

For just being me.

It feels hopeless and I wonder why I keep trying at all.

 

Untethered

I keep looking for words, but they won’t come.  Even poetry and quotations, which can usually break through the fog in my head and provide inspiration, fall flat.  My own thoughts are too morbid to voice, too dangerous to speak out loud.  I speak candidly in yesterday’s therapy session, regret it almost immediately.

I spend half an hour last night with a friend, taking inventory of all the pills I’d been saving, listening to her flush them down the toilet, then call my therapist.

I’m pissed.  I am skipping the gym for this.  I am scaring my friend.  I have made her cry.

And my escape route from this hell has just been taken away to boot.

Inevitable.  That’s what I told my therapist yesterday about my committing suicide.  It’s always just been…inevitable.  I’ve known it for years.  Everyone has.  It’s something of a small miracle that I haven’t done it yet.

My therapist tried to convince me that it would be hurtful to those around me, selfish to kill myself.  She asked what I thought their reactions would be and I stared blankly at her before muttering, “They’d get over it.”

And I wonder if dragging it out, slowly killing myself by starving, isn’t making it that much worse.  Is it not better to just get it over with and done and let people move on?  Is it not better to just be dead already and stop worrying people and sending my parents into debt for treatment that clearly isn’t doing a whole hell of a lot?

My sister and I planned a trip to Disney in two weeks.  I don’t want to go.

I don’t want to think about having to live another two weeks.