A Frightening Wake-up Call (trigger warning, self-harm)

A few nights ago, I told boyfriend leave my house. By yelling, repeatedly.

Go, Please just go.

Very understandably, boyfriend couldn’t wrap his mind around the fact that I really wanted felt the need to hurt myself. What I wanted was to find a way to make that miserable urgency go away. What he saw was that I was it hurting, and he wanted to help. I know how important it is to him, to be able to help somehow.

I told him the only thing he could do to help is to please call someone for me. He seemed upset; he was upset. He thought we would be able to solve this, just the two of us. He thought it was just an argument. I told him I’d find a way to help solve the argument tomorrow but for now I needed to talk to someone because something else was going on. I didn’t care about the argument anymore, didn’t care about much anymore except for the single-minded urge to go numb.

He left, thank goodness for both of us, and I called a helpline, and finally fell asleep when Charlotte curled up beside me, warm fluff nestled against my fatigued figure.

Here’s what they said on the helpline. Don’t worry  about anyone else tonight. Tonight just worry about yourself. Go through your evening routine, then go to bed. You need to do what’s best for you right now, and deal with the rest later.

The way I had felt was nothing like my normal state of mind. It was a numbing, a loss of hope, an inevitability. An instinct of sorts kicking in – maybe it’s fight, flight, freeze, float away? I floated away, the feisty me. And I wanted to give in, because I mistakenly thought it best.

It wouldn’t have been best.

Actually, it would have been the worst. A friend told me recently,

Life is too short to cash your own check.

And I believe it, 100%. But the truth is that I don’t know what happened the other night, and I’m well – scared to death.

Stay safe everyone. And never hesitate to ask for help – whether it’s from a 24-hour phone line, a best friend, a relative. In the worst, saddest moment, help is still out there. Hope is still out there.

 Note: I thought for a long time about whether this was the right thing to publish here. There is always a choice about what parts of your life to include or not on a blog. But I write here to feel less alone and to help others feel less alone, and I believe this post does that. Thanks for reading!

New year’s and Naiveté

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from http://www.trolino.com/

Happy New Year! Are you thinking of setting some new year’s resolutions?

Here are some quality ones.

January 2nd and already – I wanna just plop my bum down on the ground and give up.

I wanna give up, I wanna give up, I wanna give up.

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The cat lies, and I guess I do too. I wish I could catch that red dot too, buddy. From http://www.funny-memes.org/2013/09/if-you-look-into-my-resume-youll-notice.html

I wanna give up like a kid wants fruit roll-up, like a mouse wants cheese, like a cat wants the red dot.

I want someone to just tell me what to do for goodness sake, because I simply cannot think 2 steps ahead right now. It is tempting even to myself to think I’m immature, or that not being able to do a lot of key things by myself is due to some kind of sense of entitlement.

But the thing is, I remember being able to do things. I still am able to sometimes – and then, the relief is huge. It washes over me when some whisper in my mind reminds me what those little steps required to get moving are, or when some unsuspecting soul has to spell it out for me and I finally intellectualize the steps involved to..begin the day, for instance, or more pressingly on my mind right now, to write terrifyingly overdue papers.

I used to do it without even thinking – get up to an alarm, shower, get dressed, grab food, go where I need to go.

You don’t realize the millions of infinitesimal steps that make up the thousand tiny steps that make up the hundreds of small steps that make up your life – you don’t realize you know what they are on autopilot, not until your autopilot is taken over by your constant, low level terror.

You don’t know what you have till it’s gone. You especially don’t know how precious your health is until it fails you.

One more thing I want to talk about – those unsuspecting people I mentioned, the ones who love me so much they want to help. And – who I dearly love back. They are perpetually unsuspecting, these loved ones, forever telling me they will never really know how I feel. Forever bewildered because I seem so capable, that no matter how many times I struggle to do something ordinary as a result of my GAD, it is always a shock to them.

And I am forever stuck acting capable as things begin to crumble – too terrified that if I’m not ‘capable’, I don’t have value. Too terrified that if I’m not healthy, mentally, I don’t have value. Always hoping that tomorrow I’ll be a different person and this anxiety business will be something I can just quickly sweep under the table, no one has to know. Here’s an excellent article describing why new year’s resolutions don’t work, which in fact also explains why this fantasy of mine will never work as well. I won’t be a different person tomorrow. What I’ll be doing this year is continuing to try to come to terms with my limitations.

This is especially challenging given the stigma that mental illness carries.

So here I will personally address my unsuspecting, bewildered family and best friends. The ones (with the exception of boyfriend) with whom I have not been brave enough to share this blog.

I hear you, loved ones, waiting guiltily for the day this all ‘blows over’. When I go ‘back to normal’ and you can ‘stop worrying about me’. I hear you because I have just the same dreams and it all stems from the simple fact that we don’t see mental illness as an illness, not really. It’s there in that stinging phrase – “she lost her mind” – she couldn’t hold on to it, she failed.

She could ‘catch’ it again, that mind of hers, if she really wanted. Come back to her senses. Have some common sense. Buckle down. Pull herself together.

Sting.

To stop seeing my mental illness as a personal failing, as something that really I can just snap out of, is to go against the grain of not only my own underlying beliefs, but to go against the general attitude of society. I know, my beloved unsuspecting ones, that it is just as difficult for you to do, too. Perhaps I am impatient with you because I am so envious of your mental clarity.

You think, “how can I understand? I’m not even sick!”

While I think, “how can you not understand? You’re not even sick!”

I think it’s pretty funny, if I can look at it like that.

My Heartwarming Holiday Story, aka. Charlotte’s Internet Debut

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I’d like you to meet Charlotte.

Charlotte was found in the early summer of this year, so emaciated and pregnant that the vet could feel the lump that each kitten made in her belly. ‘Stray’ is what was written in her file, even though she wasn’t, not really. A cat as chatty and cuddly as her must have had a family once. Maybe they let her out on the edge of town one night, when they realized they couldn’t afford her and a litter of new kittens besides. 

She raised two litters of kittens that summer – hers, and another as well: those belonging to a mama cat too sick to care for her own. So the staff named her after Mother Theresa. Her last foster mommy and a friend of mine, K., changed “Theresa’s” name to Charlotte, and that really stuck – sophisticated, charming, lovely Charlotte. 

My boyfriend and I met Charlotte in September and fell instantly in love with her! I promised to look after her if K. ever needed it – but the opportunity never came up. Image

Until one day. I hadn’t seen K. in a while, and learned the heartbreaking news that Charlotte was back in the shelter for their annual adoptathon – and her last chance at a forever home. They would not be returning Charlotte to K. If she wasn’t adopted out, she would be put down. 

Two days later, I brought Charlotte ‘forever home’ – for good 🙂 She’s spent Christmas with me – through car rides and plane trips, no less – and I wouldn’t have had it any other way!

So, here’s a little something I wrote for her, when I was feeling especially warm and fuzzy about my warm, fluffy ball of love:

My Cat is a Friend

My cat is a friend, in the truest meaning of the word.

She is not only my friend. She is a friend of every other kitty she can charm, of every friendly hand that gives her a treat, of every person whose eyes fall upon her.

In this world of angels and devils, my cat is a blessing so great as to be indescribable.

My cat sits, tonight, in my boyfriend’s living room, with his mother’s two cats.

We are two peas in a pod now, me and my cat. She goes where I go, but she does not feel as I feel.

Rather, I learn from her, as she slips into each new environment with quiet wonder. With the dignity of a queen and the patience of a saint.

My cat does her best every single day to make herself and everyone around her happy.

My cat is a friend – and a friend to herself first. My cat will not torture herself nor others on a long plane ride in a carrier. Somehow, she trusts that she’ll arrive safely.

My cat is slippery as an eel when she needs to be. She teaches me no means no. She teaches me how to care for her.  

She speaks, this kitty, in little ‘murphs’. Whether she wants a hug, some food, or someone to help her bury her hairball, she’ll let you know.

I teach her things too, sometimes – like that you can’t bury a hairball in wall-to-wall carpeting – it is simply not feasible. It’ll have to go in the garbage. And I’ll have to take a minute and just laugh.

My cat is a marvel because she gives only what she can give and she asks the same from me.

We are not fair weather friends, my cat and I.

No – she is far too smart. If I were so shallow, well she would never keep me around.

Have a Happy Holiday and a Very Happy New Year everyone. More to come soon!

– Catalina

The Amazing Reappearing Anxiety Part 3

I once joked about how my anxiety always seeps out, one way or another. That it’s almost like a game – something’s gotta give, so what’s it going to be?

Whether it was Irritable Bowel symptoms, heartburn, vitamin deficiencies and sleepless nights from too much coffee and too many forgotten meals, lower back pain, or, finally, a generalized anxiety disorder.

I joked in a self-deprecating way, as though this anxiety was a plague that had been brought down upon me for unknowable reasons. As though it was a mysterious affliction, an unsolvable puzzle. But as physical pain co-mingled with emotional pain this morning, I realized yet another thing.

Back pain, IBS, heartburn, the anxiety disorder and any number of other symptoms are, bewilderingly, just that – symptoms.

Sure, the anxiety can be treated with therapy, love, medicine. There are supplements that can reduce my IBS symptoms (for me, they are called Align http://www.aligngi.ca/align-FAQ). Becoming vegetarian eliminated the heartburn. Sure, physiotherapy reduces my back pain if I am diligent with it.

Returning to the anxiety disorder, different therapies and approaches have helped me to psychologically handle a pain that comes hand in hand with my daily life.

So, what is the problem? Have you guessed?

I believe the problem is that there must be a painful stimulus in my life, which infuses my life with this medusa of difficulties, a new head popping up as soon as another is chopped off – a new symptom appearing as soon as the last is under control.

Painful stimulus? Check.

Yes, yes this is a cattle prod. Painful stimulus imagery? Check.

I’ve been treating my symptoms, even trying to improve my mental health in the face of this danger so as to better wrangle it. However – I believe – the cause remains.

I am living a painful life, and until I had a psychological disorder I accepted that – I could endure the physical pain of it. My whole being is rejecting the life I am leading, and I cannot keep ignoring that.

What must change, which path will I follow? I have a feeling I must already know, deep down, but it will be another while before I discover the answer.

The Amazing Reappearing Anxiety Part 2

Last night I stretched out on my back, with my knees butterflied on either side of me, like you do in yoga class. The tension in my lower back dislodged just enough for it to slip into my entire body. My whole body felt on edge as the burn radiated outward. It felt familiar, but I couldn’t figure out why. Until this morning. 

This morning, as I woke up, I was familiarly achy and tired. Unlike most days in the last while, I had to get up early. I didn’t have a choice – I had a hospital volunteering shift. 

I felt the pain sweep through me again, the pain that had released the night before from my back, mingling with the pain of anxiety. This mingling finally allowed me to truly acknowledge my anxiety as pain, and not laziness. To acknowledge it not only out loud or in print, as I have before, but all the way down to my heart. 

I was, mentally, healthier than I’ve been in a long while this morning. I’ve had a lot of help, and so I’m not entirely sure why. Therapy? Boyfriend? Neurofeedback? Happy anticipation? Who knows?! They might all have contributed. I had the strength to get up and work through the pain. I’ve been so relieved but shaky all day since. Shaky, but victorious! Sort of the way you feel when you finally get up on a bike and pedal all by yourself, with no one pushing you along. The way I felt recently, when I finally learned to ride! 

Boyfriend taught me, and believed in me all the way, through crashing his bike into trees and buildings, and eventually my own bike into a rocky wall that left “bicycle battle scars” on my arm. Boyfriend, who had me bike down a steep hill, bloody and covered in sand, right after that wall crash, because he knew, that the easiest and sometimes only way to keep the avoidance of pain from overtaking your life is to get back on the bike. 

What drives your anxiety?

About a week ago I posted about an exercise I had to do outlining thought loops: https://anxietyandthegirl.wordpress.com/2013/05/01/anxiety-or-anger-or/

I did this, over and over, for a few days. I wasn’t sure where it had gotten me, until sitting in the therapist’s office waiting my turn, I felt the pull to write again. Each person may come to something different individually. However, this is what I wrote.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

Is my anxiety always something that makes me avoid things that would be beneficial to do, a negative presence in my life, or is it ever something that keeps me away from things that are bad for me? Does my anxiety ever push me to do things that are hard and bad for me because I believe I deserve for my life to be hard?

I DESERVE FOR MY LIFE TO BE HARD. THAT’S THE ONLY WAY I’LL EVER BE GOOD. 

Is that true? I’m pretty sure that thought is anxiety fueled.

“You can do what is right or what is easy”, so the saying goes.

That doesn’t leave a lot of room for hope for a good life, does it? But that’s what I’m left with at my core. Do something hard, do something that destroys me, then I can finally be ‘good’. Then I can finally have relief – because that is all I think I deserve – relief, not joy. Then for once I haven’t been a bad person.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

Alrighty. So here we finally have come to the crux of the issue. My brains make my life pretty hard because for so very long, I’ve believed I deserve to be unhappy, to be unhappy forever. There are reasons for this outside of myself that are not fair to discuss here, for fear of violating others’ privacy. But – my prison was built brick by brick, and now I will disassemble it the same way.

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As you can see, she was not the first to recommend this. Sticky note pasted into the front of my diary by my boyfriend. I may not always believe it – but I am always grateful.

As sensuousamberville  advised (thank you!), I will repeat affirmations every single day to help myself reverse this harmful belief. 

I will continue taking my medicine (even if I must search for the rest of the day to find it in my room – oops.)

I have two ‘next orders of business’ in therapy – I’m supposed to do fun stuff. This is homework again, haha. I’m supposed to do what I want because I deserve to try to be happy, and this is hard to wrap my mind around. Hopefully those affirmations help!

Next…my therapist is going to hypnotize me. I KNOW I KNOW. This is strange new territory. Don’t worry, I will let you know how that goes.

Am I pursuing anything else by myself? Sure! I have three things I have put my mind to trying, neither of which I’m entirely sure will happen.

1. Create routines for myself. I have a huge amount of trouble with this and welcome any help.

2. Create a support group in my area. Perhaps this will help with point 1! 🙂

3. Get a doctor’s referral to…a neurofeedback clinic. Have you heard of this? How do you feel about it? Here is the wiki page: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neurofeedback

– C.