The Forgotten

Trigger Warning: alcohol use, sexual assault

There have been two times in my life where I’ve ‘lost’ chunks of time – without the aid ill-advised beer-before-liquor combos.

In my last “the Appointment” post, I mentioned that I had seen a new doctor, and will be seeing her shortly one more time. Something she said in that appointment struck me, and I’ve been thinking about it since.

She asked me if I’d ever ‘forgotten’ a chunk of time, and of course I had; not recently, but twice as a child. So I told her as much, and she replied that it must have been scary.

I nodded, feeling like that was the right response, and not sure how to explain the truth – that it wasn’t, not at all.

It was a huge relief both times, to go on with my day without the weight of whatever those minutes or hour (it’s difficult to know which it was, as I didn’t admit to anyone that I’d lost time) would have brought upon me.There was also a vague fascination with the idea that I could just suddenly find myself transported safely out of a terrifying situation. To my young mind, it felt like magic – and I did chase magic for as long as my youthful naivete allowed me.

Later in life, I would remember that relief when I systematically drank to blackout each Friday night in my first year of school, crying it all out without the burden of remembering my shame and loss as a result of sexual assault earlier that year.

I had less “embarrassing” fits of crying in my crowded dorm room. I could make friends and focus more at school. My flashbacks became fewer and more far between as I drank, cried, forgot, lived, repeat. Just like magic, it was over – I thought.

I no longer get blackout drunk, for safety and for my friends’ sake, who would remember me falling apart each Friday even when I, blessedly, could not. But neither do I have a moral to the story.

I guess what I’m trying to highlight is the complexity of the apparently not-uncommon experience of dissociating. It certainly doesn’t feel like a box I can check on a symptom list and be diagnosed. I’m certainly still confused about what it meant to me.

Not to mention the unsettling fact that my teenage binge drinking produced the same not-unpleasant ‘shielding’ effect as my own brain had done earlier. I was lucky that the drinking didn’t have worse consequences, and have only incredible friends, female and male alike, to thank for protecting me. I am aware that alcohol often has deadly serious consequences. It is the #1 date rape drug in terms of popularity, and I take that very seriously.

But first-year ‘me’ was certainly too overwhelmed with trying to forget previous assault to be worrying about the possibility of any in future. I was raised in the widespread culture that tells us rapists are few and far-between ‘monsters’, and I had assumed one was all I was ever going to meet – this was false, unfortunately.

Thanks for reading,

– C.

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Anxiety and the (Now Properly Medicated!) Girl

ImageDear friends, 

It’s been months since I’ve last written, and I apologize! I find that when too much is going on and changing in terms of my frame of mind, I need to sort of just experience it – and reflect later. Besides that…I don’t know. I come here to write and I want so much to say something worthwhile, to say something uplifting. When everything is too confused in my head, when too much is changing and when the way I see things is changing too much, I just – I don’t want to spread the confusion.  

There is a quote I like that I can’t quite remember, about not splaying your emotions carelessly on the paper, I think by Primo Levi. And I really do feel that way – whether to protect myself, to not look like a total fool on the internet, or you – because I do not want to bring anyone reading down, just because I am feeling down. 

So. Another year has begun at school. I will be (gulp!) mentoring a younger student with anxiety at my school, as part of a program I have signed up for. It’s so scary yet exciting!

As for my life? Well, of course nothing is perfect. But I am once again taking the one medicine that has ever worked for me in terms of daily pills to tone down anxiety. This has given me the space to fix my sleep schedule, to begin preparing my own food again, make lists, make time for friends and to generally have a better handle on my life. It is not the pills on their own that are improving my quality of life. They do, slightly. But the bigger change is brought about by the positive changes I am able to make in the moments when I once again feel well enough to prepare for and prevent some of the more difficult moments. 

PS. Italy was awesome. There were Italy-specific anxiety triggers, interestingly enough. There were also friends, family. cappucinos, gelato, beautiful architecture, a day at the beach, and that magnificent language. Ahhh. 

– Catalina

Anxiety and Depression – An Update

Dear Friends,

I did go to my therapist, and happily it isn’t as big of a problem as I thought.

This Scientific American article explains that,

When people feel stressed, their sympathetic nervous system** typically revs up, releasing energy and preparing the body for action. Then the parasympathetic nervous system steps in, and the body stabilizes to a calmer state. If the parasympathetic nervous system is somehow unable to do its job, a person will remain fired up and may experience the heightened arousal characteristic of a panic attack.

Beyond this, the article explains that both the chemistry and electrical characteristics of the brain change due to anxiety but are reversible through therapy. Then, although the mechanism is not understood, it is clear that on a cellular level anxiety can lead to depression symptoms. I was afraid that my sporadic symptoms of depression would require some extra, extensive treatment, but you know what? I’ve been working hard in therapy to treat my anxiety “chicken”, and am confident that the depression “egg” will fade as well as I decrease my anxiety. When I’m not exhausted by anxiety, my brain will adapt to protect itself from the depression as well.

And that is that for now.

 

** To quickly clarify, the sympathetic nervous system is what gives us the “burst” of adrenaline coursing through our veins when we’re anxious.

Anxiety and Depression, from my perspective

As my anxiety symptoms have been apparently improving, the apathy of depression has been creeping up on me. 

I am unsure what to do, and to be frank am hoping it’s just some really horrible PMS. I will of course be asking my therapist for guidance (as I hope you do too, if it happens to you – the reason I know embracing these feelings is a dangerous road to continue on is because I’ve been here before).

It’s almost laughable – am I really going to cheerfully tell her I’ve stopped feeling love, feeling much? So often in the middle of a panic attack I prayed for the red-hot burning of my feelings would subside, thinking I would explode with the force of them, not being able to contain them any longer. I suppose they have subsided, or at least been numbed. Unfortunately you cannot numb negative feelings without numbing positive ones as well. 

This comes to mind: http://hyperboleandahalf.blogspot.ca/2011/10/adventures-in-depression.html

Maybe I won’t say anything at all, maybe I’ll just hand the therapist this cartoon. Maybe it will get a laugh?

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. 

Going to sleep.

What shall I do when I feel that I haven’t accomplished enough today to sleep?

This is the way my anxiety keeps me up, and maybe this is the way it does the same for you. Maybe I don’t deserve to sleep.

Maybe I won’t be a good person unless I am up too late suffering.

NO.

This is where the ‘thought-stopping’ is about to happen. This is where I will pull a new thought, a different thought, out of my back pocket and say instead,

I am a kind person, a capable, intelligent person worthy of love. Of my own love. Now it is 3:25 am and I am worried about myself, just as I would be of anyone dear to me, or really anyone at all, in my position.

Have a cup of warm milk, brush your teeth, set up your meditation playlist, and cuddle into bed, Catalina. Tomorrow is a beautiful other day.

Goodnight.

– C.

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.

photo (3)

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.