Friday, October 28, 2016

Simple Questions, Painful Answers


What have you been up to? Where have you been?

It’s a long story.

You don’t want to know.

Both appropriate, honest answers.

I don’t want to talk about it. (So I’ll hide behind a pen.)

Well. I was at Good Sam’s Mission Oaks campus for inpatient care from July 14th to July 22nd and then from August 3rd to August 22nd. Since I’ve been in one Partial Hospitalization Program (PHP) at Good Sam for three weeks, and then a different PHP in Santa Cruz for five more weeks. Having completed that, I am now just beginning an Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP). My brain chemicals were off, that’s why. The serotonin, dopamine, and lithium were all screwy.

How was inpatient?

Oh, God. I don’t know. It was extremely difficult. I don’t want to go back. I labeled myself damaged goods more officially than ever before. (Although I would never attach such a label to another person.) It was difficult and long and transformative (for better or for worse, I will never be the person I was before) and even good.

The first time they “let me out too soon.” So I’ve been told. But I felt so stable! I wasn’t. Ten days later I was back with my tail between my legs. I wasn’t well. In fact, I was worse than before the first admittance.

But, I made it. I cannot say enough about the nurses and their support. The psychiatrist was brilliant and the nurses were angels.

Yet I say I don’t want to go back. Truth: I’m terrified of relapse. I expressed this to a counselor at Good Sam’s PHP and she told me, “So what if you have to go back to inpatient? BFD.” (It took me a bit, but that’d be, “Big Fucking Deal.”)

That’s where I’ve been. How it was.

So where are you now?

Ugh. None of your damn business. In an IOP three days a week, taking a class, going to therapy, back on the schedule for work, and, well, slightly terrified that the hypomania I’ve been experiencing is a precursor to another fall. I know. BFD. “You can’t put a price tag on your health, on your life.” (Oh yeah? Let me pull up that insurance statement.)

I want security. I want to be able to be spontaneous and stable and secure. I want the moon. But I know that better is a myth. Healed is grating to my ears. I can manage my health, and sometimes management means a trip to the Mental Marriot. I cannot be healed. Not really. I can be better today than I was Wednesday. Than I was in August. I can be better in degrees, not in destination.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Hope from Scars


Scars. I hate my scars. No. Not hate. Am ashamed. But what else could I have done? No amount of ice would create the release I needed. No amount of wall sits or credit card scraping or other self-harm prevention procedures.

Prayer. Would prayer have made a difference? I don’t know. I have never prayed out of pain. It doesn’t occur to me to address God in the midst of depression or anxiety and panic. (It doesn’t seem to occur to God to address me, either.)

Self-harm worked. I’m alive, aren’t I? It distracted me.

Except when it didn’t. I still wound up in inpatient care for suicidal ideation. And self-harm followed me into Good Sam, where I broke plastic and sawed away at myself.

Klonopin worked. Lots of it. And Ativan, some Ativan. But more the company of nurses who gave me grace over and over again. Nurses who held candles of hope for me. Nurses who gave me “This is Water” to read and teased me and my shaking hands and taught me to play solitaire.

Each cut became a strike against them, it seemed. I think that’s why I stopped. Why I made myself do two minutes straight of wall sits instead of cutting. I would collapse onto the floor, out of breath, thighs burning, and liable to be dizzy if I got up too fast.

I am ashamed because I hurt others each time I hurt myself. I am ashamed because I couldn’t stop myself. It took sixteen of twenty days of inpatient to stop. And I almost lapsed my last night.

I was full of nervous energy, horrible anxiety, and I knew I would become destructive if not distracted. So I asked Angela RN for help. I played word search games, cleaned the day room, and went back to her. So she sat me down and taught me solitaire. Solitaire saved me. No. That just sounds good. Having Angela sit with me for the last ten minutes of playing cards saved me.

Maybe someday I’ll learn to look at my scars with compassion. Maybe I’ll look at them and see Debra, Irene, Laura LPT, Leslie RN, Shery RN, Angela RN, Dev RN, Tracy RN, Christine RN, Martel RN, Millie RN, and so many more. Maybe I’ll look and see their support amidst pain. Maybe I’ll see their hope amidst suicidality. Maybe the scars will someday remind me of what’s gone right instead of what’s gone wrong. Of people who have been there for me. Of love.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

I Dare You


Focus on the invitation of “I dare you” rather than the shadow of “should.”

That was my self-challenge for the weekend. Really, it will probably become a self-challenge for what remains of my life. I have lived under the shadow of “should” for long enough to be somewhat comfortable (as comfortable as one can become) in its dusky darkness.

“I dare you,” though, is playful. Satisfaction is more likely to be found in the playful self-challenge. Conversely, the looming shadow of “should” is often paralyzing. “I dare you” is the posture I can take when invited to show up:

Do you want to ride? No.
But, I dare you to ride. Hm. Okay.
            But, you should ride. Fine, but fuck you.

Efforts born of “should” are resentful, reluctant, and often unsatisfying. Efforts born of “I dare you” are possibly tentative but are more energized and are efforts made with a healthy pride. To dare myself and to then take up my own dare is to show myself my own strength.

I don’t know if it works. But now I have a post-it note on my bulletin board that reads “I dare you.”  Annie, I dare you to read the Faerie Queene. Annie, I dare you to try your take-home quiz. To reply to that email. To say yes to a bike ride. To meditate. To practice mindfulness. To breathe. Annie, I dare you to live.

I dare you.