Tuesday, July 17, 2018

A Letter to Readers: Friends, Family, Acquaintances, Everyone


Dear Readers,

I have been absent. Even in my writing, I have been absent. Not that it’s any of anyone’s damn business, but I’m going to explain, for me.

For three weeks in May, I experienced a highly violent mixed episode that turned my world upside down. I was cutting, violently and frequently. Daily. I required stitches over half a dozen times. My brain was constantly spinning unless I was cutting. I was angry with myself and ashamed of myself, but knew of no other coping strategy that was successful. I tried klonopin. I tried painting. I tried walking. But at the end of the day, I would cut. Then suddenly, one Monday in late May, my brain slowed down. I was calm. It was strange, yet welcome.

But it didn’t last. Quickly my mood deteriorated and I became depressed. So depressed that the psychiatrist tried Prozac, which resulted in a day of vivid suicidality full of intrusive thoughts and images. I had relief when I was pulled off of the Prozac, but my mood wasn’t done spiraling. The Prozac incident happened on a Wednesday. The next Tuesday I was en route to El Camino Hospital in Mountain View. 

I stayed at El Camino for sixteen days. The psychiatrist named my underlying issue: it wasn’t depression, it was anxiety. And she insisted that my aftercare be residential. Which is where I am now: Santa Fe, New Mexico, Life Healing Center.

My stay is 28 days long. My agenda was to learn how to regulate (control, in my book) my emotions and learn how to express emotions not just verbally but with tears and tones of voice and facial expressions. So far, no cigar. Just a couple of cigarettes to take the edge off a trigger.

But what I have learned is how to empathize at a level I didn’t know I was capable of, and how hold someone’s story, someone’s pain, but not carry it inside of me for the rest of the day. Which is highly useful considering my desire to be a therapist. I’ve also learned to be okay with not being okay, and to open my mouth when I need help . . . before I’m suicidal or triggered to self-harm. And that often, when I’m upset about a situation, it’s because I can see myself in someone else’s misfortune. And nobody helped me, so I feel the need to help them. I’m learning to let go of that need. And being here has reinforced the importance of art in my life: pastels, acrylics, words—written and read, watercolor pencils . . .

I’m learning to breathe through the discomfort. I’m learning how I see God. I’m learning about crystals and energy and shamanic traditions and oriental medicine. And I love it. I don’t know how I’ll translate it into Theology courses at Western Seminary, but I’m not worried about it.

I’m not looking forward to the transition back home. Because it involves a lot of phone calls, a lot of monetary challenges, a school program I do not feel prepared to engage in . . . essentially it involves responsibility I have been blessed enough not to have had over the last twenty-four days. But, it is time.

Thank you for the prayers, the good juju, the energy, and the love,
Annie

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

A Letter to Anxiety

Dear Anxiety,

Enough. Enough already. You weave lies into elaborate stories with beginning, middle, and no end . . . worries stretch into infinity. You darken my depression and exacerbate my agitation. You make me crazy.

You take me out of the present and muddle reality. You keep me spinning--everything is a blur. You make me deaf to the truth. You torture me with your repetition and chaos.

You take away my freedom.

ENOUGH ANXIETY. GO HOME, ANXIETY.

Good riddance,
Annie

Monday, June 11, 2018

My Greatest Fear

"I put my head down on the table and cry. Because it's happened again. I'm found out. I'm damaged. Fucked up. Broken. A fraud. I knew he would figure out sooner or later that I was impossible to love. And now he has, and I love him, and I'm certain he has tried, really tried to love me back. But trying to love me is too much for any sane person to bear. I watch their backs, one by one, as they walk away." Marya Hornbacher Madness

That's my greatest fear. This rings way too true. I went on a couple of dates in the midst of my mixed episode, and I truly liked the guy, but, I'm crazy, am I not? He doesn't know I'm here. He probably thinks I've fallen off the edge of the planet or I don't like him after all.

I hate that this is my reality. And I make myself all the more difficult to love by my lack of congruence. I'm unpredictable because, as the psychiatrist said, I swallow my pain. And you can only swallow so much pain before it spills out, often in extreme manners because the pain is extreme, because it has built in my inability to regulate emotions and breathe through discomfort.

But I'm not supposed to be thinking these things about myself. That I'm damaged or fucked up or broken or a fraud or unlovable. Those are the negative thoughts I'm supposed to control. But as I mentioned in my last post, I don't know how to do so.

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Regulating Emotions and Being Out-of-Control

It often appears that I am regulating my emotions well, when in all actuality I'm putting up a veneer of calm and cool, under which operates any range of out of control emotions.

The truth is I don't know how to regulate my emotions--this is why I cut, shut down, shut out, and fly into episodes seemingly without warning.

I say seemingly because there are plenty of warning signs, but they are hidden under that calm facade. The only person who might be attuned to these signs is me, but of course, I'm not, because that would require turning inward, which is painful.

So when the psychiatrist asks me to use my need for control to sort out negative thoughts, I draw a blank. And then I spiral, because my reaction to that request is evidence that despite my best efforts, I am out of control.

Friday, June 8, 2018

Hospital Prayer

God--

WTF. How can you not protect my mind within a protected setting? Why do you allow the intrusive thoughts? Are you paying any attention to me? They say these thoughts are not from you. If that is true--the devil is triumphing. Evil wins. And laughs as I continually stumble and fall.

How long will this go on? Forever? Is it my fate to wrestle with my thoughts daily? This is torture. Answer me.

The psychiatrist tells me there is hope. She is very matter of fact about it. Her faith is greater than mine.

So I will lean into her faith. I will report faithfully my experience to her. And I will try to believe, try to believe that you are guiding her hand, that pharmaceutical wonders are at work, and maybe even miracles.

Amen

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Hospitalization 5

I'm writing this post from El Camino Hospital. This is my fifth hospitalization.

I am primarily anxiety right now. It burbles up through all the medications, anxiety does. I am afraid of discharge. I am afraid of relapse. I am afraid of sickness. Historically, my hospitalizations have come in twos: 8-12 days in the hospital, 10-two weeks out, and back to the hospital for 18-20 days. I don't want that.

Yesterday I would have told you I would rather die than go through that again. Than get sick again.  This morning I would have said the same: Life with this psychiatric disorder is NOT worth living. It is miserable. It is unpredictable. It is tortuous. I should have stayed home and killed myself.

Something has shifted just slightly since I took a dose of 25mg Seroquel for rising anxiety and agitation. After feeling like shit for about 45 minutes and then feeling nothing for 15 minutes, a peace came over me. My anxiety dropped. My agitation dropped. And then I became hyperaware. And I couldn't relax into the lack of anxiety. It was as though (is as though) I am living in high definition.

--------------------

This hospitalization is different. The psychiatrist is empathic and insightful. She called me on my shit right off: you don't talk, you internalize everything, you don't reach out when you're hurting.

What is the point of this post?

To speak, for a change. To say, I'm hurting. I'm anxious. I'm upset. And this is hard. This is really hard. And it's going to stay that way. It's going to take pills and skills and a lot of patience to see through to the other side of this. And it's going to take faith I don't have to believe in another side.

This is real, people. Anxiety, bipolar, intrusive thoughts. This is my reality. With help, and hope (and, according to Euripides, "nothing is hopeless.")--an inconceivably small amount of hope, I will see these shadows become just that, shadows.

Saturday, June 2, 2018

Depression Walks into a Bar


Depression walks into a bar. Not alone. Never alone. With a posse of guilt, shame, exhaustion, self-hatred, avoidance, isolation, loneliness, and whomever else fits the bill.

Depression orders a drink, something to make it bold, all encompassing, omnipotent. It can do that, you know, be omnipotent.

Depression swells with drink to sizes unfathomable. Its size only reinforces its authority. “When I say you are a self-centered, terrible person, I say that with authority and insight. I come from within. I know your inner workings. You’re lazy and incompetent.”

Depression takes. Energy, appetite, interest, affection.

Depression says, “don’t try, you’re incapable, you know that. I know that. Go to bed.”

Depression almost seems kind, encouraging you to sleep. But if you knew his motives you wouldn’t be fooled. Depression slowly takes over with every excess hour you spend in bed. Soon you see no one, talk to no one, eat nothing, stay in your pajamas . . .

Depression kills. Because it helps you create a life worth not living. A life to be ashamed of. It encourages activity and inactivity that elicits guilt. And with enough shame and guilt, suicide seems the best option. The only escape.