Archive | January 2014

Blog for Mental Health 2014 – From the Inside

I introduced the Blog for Mental Health Project in my last post. Check that out here: Blog for Mental Health 2014 – From the Outside. In case you’re too lazy to click that link, I’ll do a quick review. A Canvas of the Minds is hosting a project called Blog for Mental Health that is promoting understanding, support, and awareness for people that are struggling with mental health issues and their loved ones. You can find lots of other people’s wonderful blog posts about their experiences on the Blog for Mental Health Blogroll.

The pledge for the project is: 

I pledge my commitment to the Blog for Mental Health 2014 Project. I will blog about mental health topics not only for myself, but for others. By displaying this badge, I show my pride, dedication, and acceptance for mental health. I use this to promote mental health education in the struggle to erase stigma.”  

But anyway, this entry is a continuation of my From the Outside post, only this time I’m writing about what my mental illnesses have been like for me (on the inside).

I don’t know how long I’ve been struggling with mental health issues, mainly because I don’t remember much of my childhood. I don’t remember a lot beyond recent months actually, but my memory almost completely falls apart around seventh grade. My mental health was never up to par, but that year was when things started getting really bad.

In 2008, I started lying compulsively to my friends, from making up various things about my physical health to fabricating stories about fictional people. It was almost immediately out of control. It wasn’t even a conscious thing. It just sort of happened. I needed people to care about me. I remember feeling so empty and alone. I wanted my friends to be concerned about me. I needed people to know that I wasn’t okay, even if they didn’t know the real reason.

By the beginning of 2009, my mom had put me in individual therapy. I was furious. I didn’t want to go. My first sessions were silent, with my young therapist occasionally asking me questions. Her words fell flat on the floor in between us as I avoided eye contact and refused to speak. I didn’t know what she really looked like until my fourth or fifth session because I was too pissed off to look at her. After a while, we just played the Ungame. Every. Damn. Week. If you don’t know what the Ungame is, you’re lucky. Unsurprisingly, I kept getting worse.

My self-harm started to become noticeable. I told a few of my friends. Of course it was extremely hard for them to handle. I was 13, and most of my friends were 12. One day, I took a razor blade to school. A friend of mine wrestled it out of my hand. She went on to give it to her mom much to my horror. Her mom called my mom, and my mom called Crisis Intervention. I ended up in the ER being evaluated for hospitalization. They let me go home, but my mom realized that my therapist hadn’t been helping at all.

Psychiatrist. New therapist. After a five minute appointment, I was put on antidepressants and antipsychotics for voices that I heard in my head.

During my first session with my second therapist, she brought up the possibility of me being sexually abused. That was the first time that anyone had even mentioned those words in relation to me. I was so shocked that she would suggest it that I didn’t have time to make something up. I finally admitted something that I had been avoiding with everyone, even myself. Within a few hours, the police and Children and Youth were at my house instructing my dad to pack his things and get out.

It wasn’t long after that that even more red flags started popping up. Flashbacks, panic attacks, more voices, even more self-harm, the works. I attempted suicide twice in August of 2009 and was hospitalized. Another psychiatrist. Another therapist. More medication. I was discharged to an outpatient program after a week in inpatient. Another psychiatrist. Another therapist. More medication.

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I don’t remember anything in between that and my next hospitalization, which followed an attempt to drown myself. New therapist. More medication. 16 days inpatient. Back to outpatient. New therapist. More medication. Again it’s just a blur of therapy until my next hospitalization. New psychiatrist. New therapist. New social worker. More medication. 6 days inpatient. Back to outpatient.

By this point, my main diagnosis was Major Depressive Disorder with psychotic features. New diagnoses were thrown at me with every new psychiatrist I got.

Freshman year I got another new psychiatrist and therapist combo. I was slowly weaned off any medication only to be put back on it after things got too rocky a quarter of the way through my sophomore year.

January of 2012 saw me into a residential program in Belmont, Massachusetts. Another psychiatrist. Another therapist. Taken off medication again. It was there that I was first seriously introduced to Dialectical Behavioral Therapy and the possibility of having Borderline Personality Disorder. BPD seemed to fit a lot of my struggles when my PTSD symptoms were taken out of the equation. The type of therapy that this particular treatment center specialized in was and still is a huge part of my coping skill set.

After my discharge and return back to Pennsylvania, I began seeing my current therapist. I’ve been seeing her for the longest I’ve ever seen a therapist. I think that speaks for itself. She’s cool and we get along pretty well. She totally reads my blog too, so I’m holding back, but sometimes you just gotta keep ’em guessing.

I saw her for a little bit, and I kept struggling with my family problems and various other things. It was up and down a lot for a while.

Then Isaiah died. Everything was turned upside down. My emotional state plunged once again, this time more dramatically than ever. I was put on Klonopin for my increasing anxiety and my self-harm became relatively severe.

I was hospitalized twice in 2013. I saw an intern as a therapist. New psychiatrist. New social worker. More medication. There I was diagnosed officially with Borderline Personality Disorder, an impulse control disorder (inspired by my running away, self-harm and punching and kicking things while in the hospital), Bipolar Disorder not otherwise specified and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. 

Nowadays, the diagnoses that my therapist lists on our receipts are Borderline, Bipolar and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

The trick about having diagnoses is in separating yourself from them. It’s tough, especially with BPD. Even the name seems to imply negative things about me as a person. It’s a personality disorder. Does that mean my personality is disordered? Am I simply existing wrong? The answer is no. There is a lot more to my existence than mental illness, even if it doesn’t feel like it sometimes. I am not defined by my problems or sicknesses. No one is. It took a long time for me to realize that.

I struggle with mental health issues.

I am a person

And I am not alone.

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I know I said my next post would be Blog for Mental Health 2014 – From the Inside, but I’m not quite done with that entry and something else has come up.

I’m sorry to say that yesterday I fell back into self-injury. At day 131, I stumbled. I can feel myself slipping further and further down, and I’m clawing desperately, trying to grab onto anything I can to hold me up if even for a moment. I won’t be able to stand it if I get back to rock bottom again.

My struggle now will be dealing with all of the backlash, both internal and external. Perhaps an even larger battle will be not allowing this to take over again.

The fight continues.

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Blog for Mental Health 2014 – From the Outside

I have recently learned about a project done by A Canvas of the Minds called Blog for Mental Health. The project’s goal is to raise awareness, understanding and support of people who deal with mental health issues.

The pledge for this project is as follows:

I pledge my commitment to the Blog for Mental Health 2014 Project. I will blog about mental health topics not only for myself, but for others. By displaying this badge, I show my pride, dedication, and acceptance for mental health. I use this to promote mental health education in the struggle to erase stigma.”  

Anyone who has read my blog knows that mental illness has largely affected my life in my 18 years.

I’m going to break this post up into two parts so it’s not just one rambled mess. First, I will talk about my experience with mental illness “from the outside” in this post, and my next post will be about my experience “from the inside”.

I didn’t have a lot of exposure to mental health issues when I was younger (at least not that I can remember). Looking back on it, I think there were a some people in my life that suffered, but not in a way that affected me. As is the case with many children, I didn’t understand it at the time.

In addition to that, my father had severe anger problems while I was growing up. I don’t think that anyone could dispute that. As far as an actual diagnosis goes, however, I’m not sure what it would be. There are definitely some narcissistic traits there, but I’m no doctor. Living with a parent who has problems that are even remotely close to a mental illness is a tremendous struggle. Emotions in my house were discouraged or looked at as weak. Fights were a huge part of my life, and rejection was even more frequent. Nothing I ever did was good enough despite my elaborate efforts to get my dad’s attention. No matter how happy an occasion was or how great a success was, he would find something to get pissed off over. The feeling of constant failure nearly killed me even as a child. 

For a long time, that was my only real experience with someone else having mental health issues. I have an aunt who spent time in a psychiatric hospital and was diagnosed with various things that nowadays would probably add up to Borderline Personality Disorder. She passed away when she was 28. I was 8 years old at the time of her death, so I was unaffected by and unaware of her struggles until many years later.

When I was 13, I was put in a psychiatric hospital, where I had my first exposure to very real, very intense mental illness. I remember thinking that everyone there was nuts. I didn’t understand them. I didn’t want to. I stayed distant from everyone because I wanted nothing to do with crazy people. The idea of being surrounded by people “like them” was terrifying. Just a few months prior to this, Isaiah had told me that he wanted to die for the first time. I didn’t know how to react or how to help. I felt useless. I knew what it was like to want to die, but I didn’t know how to express that to Isaiah. Somehow, in my mind, I separated Isaiah from the kids in the hospital. I knew Isaiah. He was “normal”, he was on The Outside. It was different.

A few months after my discharge, I found myself in that hospital again. I honestly don’t remember much of that hospitalization. I think I’m trying to repress it (or I just have a really shitty memory). Regardless, I do remember the outpatient program that I went to after my hospitalization. That’s when I met a couple people that remain very important parts of my past and present. That’s when I realized that people in hospitals weren’t just random crazies that I would never be able to identify with. They were kids like me. The primary catalyst in this epiphany was a boy from my school named Dakota. I had only talked to him once or twice before the day he walked into the day hospital waiting room. He was the first person from The Outside that I had ever seen in one of the therapeutic settings, and that’s all it really took for me to realize that even “normal” people needed help sometimes. 

Side note: One time, the leader of our group brought in eggs and other things so that we could bake cookies. Stupidly, he placed the eggs near Dakota and me. We started discussing egging the leader’s house or car. In one of my few strokes of genius, I suggested that Dakota should smash one of the eggs on the leader’s head. And he actually did it. Needless to say, we are still best friends to this day. Here’s a picture of us before homecoming of my (first) sophomore year:Image

 

As Isaiah fell deeper into the throngs of what was most likely Reactive Attachment Disorder and I got closer to Dakota, who is diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder, I became more and more used to the idea of mental illness. I began to understand and empathize with other people’s struggles more easily. I started to reach out to people who seemed like they were having a rough time. Quickly, I was surrounded by people who were in pain.

Since then, I’ve met and befriended tons of people who have had significant problems. There is something uniquely challenging about trying to help people with mental health issues. You can do the same thing over and over again and get nowhere. It’s tough because unlike other situations in which you could help people, you can’t just do it for them. The key is not trying to fix anyone. You have to help them help themselves. That’s probably the most frustrating part. You can’t make someone want help, you can’t make someone recover.

My romantic history is a bit of a hot mess. I’ve dated guys and girls, but I have never dated someone that hasn’t struggled with self-harm. It’s just one of those weird facts. Everyone I’ve been in a relationship with has had some form of emotional difficulties. Dating someone with a mental illness is an insane roller coaster ride. Loving a person who has trouble loving themselves is draining and rewarding at the same time. It hurts. Fights are frequent and breakups are sloppy. When thing are bad, they’re horrendous, but when things are good, they’re fantastic. Up and down, up and down. 

Being on someone else’s Outside is something I never expected to be so hard. Watching someone fight for their life and battle cognitive distortions, being that person that just doesn’t understand, feeling so helpless and weak; it’s all a part of the struggle. The Outside is never somewhere I thought I would be, but in reality we’re all on someone’s Outside looking in at their inner war. Maybe I don’t get it, but I will always be here to cry for those that are giving up, to celebrate those who have reached their own peace, and to hold the hand of those in between. 

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Barely A Person

I don’t know why I’m upset like this. I have no reason to be. It’s a “should” statement, but I really shouldn’t be this anxious and irritable. I shouldn’t feel so alone. I shouldn’t feel like no one gives a fuck about me. I shouldn’t be suicidally depressed. How did I even get here?

Everything and everyone is a trigger.

I don’t blame people for not being around. No one wants to watch someone self-destruct. 

I just want to sleep and sleep and sleep. It’s the only thing I’m relatively good at nowadays. I’ve been dreaming about hospitals and cutting and suicide a lot recently. As horrific as that is, I still just want to sleep. Sometimes I wake up not knowing if I’ve actually hurt myself or not. It’s the closest I can get to that old release anymore. I know how many people I’d be disappointing if I actually did it though. I don’t know if I’d be upset for myself or not at this point. It would probably just add to the huge list of bad decisions and reasons to hate myself (as if I needed more reasons to feel like a failure). 

My thoughts are so terribly conflicting right now. I’m trying desperately to validate myself and accept my feelings, but it’s just not working. I want to give up. It all feels so hopeless. I know I probably need outside help, but realistically, this is probably the closest I’ll get to reaching out all day.

Pathetic.

I just can’t function today. I don’t feel like anything is real. I don’t feel like I’m real. I’m barely a person, I’m less than human. I feel cold. I feel alone.

Maybe you’re in the same boat as me. If so, I hope things start to look up for you. Don’t be like me.

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Dissociation

Blank stares

No blinking

Anything it takes

to stop thinking

Utter terror courses through veins

The weight of the world slowly gains and gains

I’m a ghost of a person that no one understands

Everything around me turns to millions of hands

Prying, molesting, clawing at my soul

Opening me up into a wide gaping hole

A void unresponsive to any attempt to stitch

A vacancy held out by this

masochistic bitch

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Poem by Jocelyn Ressler
Photo by Joey Ressler

 

 

Dark and Alone in a Matter of Seconds

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I’m having a very rough Isaiah day. It feels like he’s been gone forever and that’s such a profound pain. I can’t remember the sound of his voice or what his hugs felt like, and I want to kill myself for it. I just want to go away and never come back. I feel so alone here crying in the darkness of my room. It’s been a rough week. That’s all I can really say. It’s insane how quickly things can fall apart again. And here I thought I was actually doing well. What a joke.

Part of Me

I try to avoid this topic in serious contexts because it’s relatively touchy for both me and those around me, but I can’t avoid it forever even though I sometimes really wish I could. Most people already know this about me, but there are still some people in my life that I’ve been trying to keep this from. Whether I’m succeeding or not, I have no idea. But that ends now.

I’m a lesbian.

I came out for the first time in eighth grade. I told two of my close friends and then my mom. After that it was the rest of my friends. None of them received the news particularly well. I guess my one friend did say that they didn’t really care, but that was the closest to acceptance I got initially. My friend group at the time consisted primarily of people with the belief that homosexuality is a sin. Everything changed. My female friends stopped hugging me, some of my friends’ parents wouldn’t let their younger daughters be around me or questioned if I liked their daughters, things were very tense in the locker room before and after gym, some of my “friends” abandoned me completely, my mom thought it was inconvenient timing. I tried to argue with some people. I tried to plead my case, but everything fell apart. Even though some of my friends and I stopped speaking for unknown reasons a little after that, there’s always been this part of me that’s wondered if that played a role.

Now, I don’t think that anyone in my life wants me to be gay. Some people don’t mind it, but no one’s like “Yipee! Congratulations on being a second-class citizen!” Hell, I don’t want to be gay. Why would anyone want to be in the LGBT community? I’m not saying that in any sort of derogatory way of course. I’m the president of my school’s Gay-Straight Alliance after all. It’s a minority that is constantly judged, berated, and stripped of rights. I don’t understand how that could possibly be appealing. That’s why the argument that being homosexual or bi or pan or transgender or whatever is a choice makes no sense at all to me.

Being a lesbian is extremely painful. It’s an experience that is filled with endless rejection and shame. I once cut the word “DYKE” into my leg out of pure hatred for the gay part of me. I used to cry when I would see weddings or brides because I knew that there were people, even loved ones of mine, that don’t want me to have that. I hate when people say that it’s not personal. It completely is. “Oh, it’s not about you. It’s about homosexuality.” or “It’s about the family.” Bullfuckingshit. Families are being crushed every time someone votes against gay marriage. Lifelong couples are being denied over a thousand rights. Unless you can look me in the eyes and tell me that my family is less legitimate than yours and tell me that you do not want me to be able to visit my dying wife in the hospital, I don’t think you have a right to argue against same-sex marriage.

Phew. Got a little heated there. Sorry, kids. I’m not sure where I’m going with this entry. I just had to put all that out there. I’m not that down on being the way I am anymore. I’ve come to really accept it for the most part and I have an almost completely new set of friends that are very supportive. However, I do still have some very rough patches (like tonight). I’m sorry if I offended you or altered your opinion of me or this blog, but at the same time, I’m not really all that sorry. I refuse to apologize for who I am. That’s exactly what this issue is. It’s a part of me.

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