On the first of this month, I was discharged from Lancaster General Hospital’s psychiatric unit. I was there for two weeks. It was my twelfth psychiatric hospital stay. Like many people who suffer from long-term mental illness, especially those with chronic suicidal ideation, I am tired. Tired of hospitals, tired of medications, tired of therapists, tired of groups, tired of relapses, and tired of hurting.
This hospitalization was prompted by a drastic increase in the frequency and volume of the voices that I hear in my head. I have had this blog since May of 2013, but despite the voices being a constant part of my life, I have often strayed away from talking about them here. I guess it’s about time.
I first heard them when I was 12 and in sixth grade. I don’t remember much from that time because of the frequent dissociation that clouds a lot of my childhood, but I remember thinking that I was possessed. Many of my friends were devout Christians and my mother worked at a church, so I had quite an extensive religious knowledge and very little education on mental illness. The combination of those two factors led me to immediately believe that the man’s voice I heard was the voice of the devil. I heard it as clearly as I hear the music playing from my computer right now. At first, it was a singular word in moments of stress: kill. Since I had developed self-destructive tendencies early in life, I usually interpreted the voice as instructing me to kill myself. However, for a brief period of time, my thoughts turned homicidal before a suicide attempt that I thought would protect my friends and family from my uncontrollable mind.
As a particularly stressful year passed, one voice chanting kill turned into four voices saying a wide variety of things, all negative. I identified one of the voices as being my father’s, who emotionally and sexually abused me for over ten years. His voice almost always said things that I had heard him say before, while the other voices, which were both male and female, littered my head with insults and instructions to hurt, starve, and kill myself. When my mom found out about my self-harm, she took me to a psychiatrist. After a few questions about my mood, he asked me if I heard or saw anything unusual. I told him that I heard voices telling me to do bad things, which was the first time that I had revealed the voices to anyone. He immediately diagnosed me with Major Depressive Disorder with psychotic features and prescribed me Prozac and the atypical anti-psychotic Seroquel. The appointment in total lasted less than 15 minutes.
Fast forward seven years. The voices have continued to multiply, to the point where each time I hear one, it sounds a little different from the last (with the exception of my father’s). They still tell me to hurt and kill myself, but have evolved to give step-by-step instructions on how to do so, formulating hundreds of self-harm and suicide plans. They get particularly loud at meal times, often urging me not to eat or to throw up what I do eat. They have also recently taken to commentating on what people are “thinking” about me during conversations (things like “They think you sound stupid” or “they’re looking at your stomach”). Psychiatrists have continuously prescribed me different combinations of antidepressants, anti-psychotics, and anti-anxiety medications in attempts to quell the mental health symptoms that I face daily, with the voices usually being at the top of the priority list. People often give me the same advice, the most common being something along the lines of “Tell them to fuck off.” I cannot tell you how many times I’ve gotten that from friends, staff members at hospitals, and even therapists. If only it were that easy.
During my most recent hospitalization, my psychiatrist took me off of any anti-psychotics, agreeing that the voices are unresponsive to medication and are most likely caused by Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder in the hopes that they will settle down with the right trauma therapy. For now, that means that I have to wait until I am stable enough to engage in trauma treatment, which proves as a hard task with the voices still at large. I am usually able to function despite the voices without engaging in self-damaging behaviors, although I do slip up from time to time.
From that first time I met with a psychiatrist until now, I have learned time and time again that the voices are extreme and often startle people when I talk about them. Despite my frequent hospitalizations and group therapy experiences, I have met only a handful of people that also admit to hearing voices, many of whom are shocked at my openness about them. It’s easy to feel isolated and judged with psychiatric symptoms that provoke words like “psychotic”, but I think that’s all the more reason to talk about it.
Sometimes when the numbers
get you down and you start to doubt you
just try to remember that 14 is farther
than he ever could’ve gone without you
And even though you didn’t save him
you’re still not an awful friend
You improved his life the best you could
No one could stop him in the end
And it’s scary to admit
that there’s no more you could’ve done
And as far as changing his action goes
he was the only one
to make that last decision
to live or just to die
And that now leaves you the choice
to fight the truth or just to cry
Because sometimes just crying
is all you can really do
when all the hope in the world
has really just fallen through
And when your best friend in the world
is turned into ash
you start to look back on
what you used to look past
And you question all of the things
that you did or didn’t do
and question if each moment
was one you should’ve seen through
And why weren’t you the one
to bring him a little light
and remind him of all the good things
and that it is still worth the fight
And then you remember
that that’s not the message you sent
And it doesn’t even matter
how many countless hours you’ve spent
trying to convince him
that he doesn’t need to cause harm
Because even as you said that
he watched the scars grow on your arms
And he watched the tears run down your face
as your pain overtook you
So how could he have felt hopeful
when you were there and drowning too?
Because you were the closest to him
and you were both lost at sea
so he was surrounded by the pain
and you both longed to be set free
But still it’s not even remotely your fault
that he didn’t see a point in trying to live
because you exhausted all of your options
You gave all you had to give
Because as awful as it sounds
and as much as the words sting with tears
the night after he ended it all
was the best rest you’d had in years
And while you can’t seem to decide
if it hurts more to focus on the good
than it does to think about the bad
and obsess over all the shoulds
there was more good in those five years
than there was in all eleven that came before
And nothing can ever take away that joy
of that you can be sure
Though he tried time and time again to leave you
he still promised he never would
And you have to admit you realize
that there’s no way he ever could.
The day was overwhelmingly blasé. Icy rain dribbled down from the fluffy grey tufts that lined the sky. It seemed fitting for the news we had all gotten that day. I watched the clouds get mutated by wind on the other side of the glass door. The more the clouds were distorted, the more greenish the sky became.
My brother stood up and left the room wordlessly. We were all wordless. I looked at two of my best friends. One sighed, and the other returned a sad gaze in my direction. Time seemed to stop then as we began to sink into reality.
She’s gone. There was an accident, and she didn’t survive.
We say for what felt like an eternity, only interrupted by the occasional “I can’t believe it” or “This can’t be happening”. We had just gone to her graduation party.
I heard a thud come from outside my house and suddenly realized that my brother had never returned to the room. Mildly concerned, I forced myself to move again and walked out onto the back porch. My friends followed.
“Joey?” I called out.
A voice came from above me, “Jocelyn?”
I turned my attention upwards and saw my gangly brother crouching on the roof of our house with a Minolta in his hands.
“What are you doing?” I yelled up at him, not in the mood for his antics.
He pointed to something behind me and started to line his camera up for a photo.
I spun around to see two bright, shimmering rainbows running across the sky parallel to each other. My friends and I exchanged glances.
“There she is, guys,” I whispered in awe, “That’s Meredith.”
Halloween has been a hard holiday for the past 3 years since my best friend passed away on October 23rd, 2012, but this year I decided to participate in celebrating Halloween as well as my life.
Friday night was trick-or-treat night. I know what you’re thinking; I am twenty years old. There’s probably a party I should go to dressed as a sleezy cat or something. right? Wrong. I got together with my girlfriend and a friend from high school and took my autistic step-brother trick-or-treating for the first time.
I talked about Cory a few entries ago, explaining that he has a disorder called tuberous sclerosis. His favorite holiday is Halloween, and we’ve been counting down the months, weeks, and days until Halloween since last year. He is 23 years old, so in my opinion, he was long past overdue for some trick-or-treating. He picked out his costume after deciding that he wanted to dress up as Sauron from Lord of the Rings, who Cory calls “Bigger Sauron The King”.
I expected to go to the next door neighbor’s house or a couple houses down and then need to head home because Cory would be done with the idea by then. However, he made it all the way up and down our street before we returned home. He said “trick or treat” at just about every household and he said thank you after taking each piece of candy (with some reminding of course).
I was amazed by both Cory’s stamina and the support of my friends, all of whom were excited to hear that I was taking my step-brother trick-or-treating. This was my first real outing with Cory without my mom or his dad also being there. It’s a boost of confidence to know how well the night went. I’m proud of Cory, my friends, and myself.
This Friday (October 23rd), will mark the three year anniversary of my best friend’s death. When I was 17 and he was 14, Isaiah ended his life.
Shortly after his suicide, I took all of the things I could find that had to do with Isaiah, and I put them in a box. For months, I have tried every night to go through the possessions in my “Isaiah box”, but I never get very far before I need to stop. Today, all I managed to look at in the box was a guitar pick. I felt sick as I reached down and held it in my hand.
Isaiah and I both owned guitars even though neither of us knew how to play. We decided that we would learn together and poured over dozens of YouTube videos to try to learn the basics. Neither of us got very far with it. As I held the pick, I realized that it represents all of the things that Isaiah and I wanted to do together and all of the things that he will never get to experience. The hopes, the dreams, the bucket list ideas, they all seem to fall apart without Isaiah.
Suddenly, the weight of the guitar pick was too great for me to handle, so I watched as it fell out of my hand and onto the floor.
My heart hurts now, so sharply that I can hardly breathe.
What you are reading is my 100th post on this blog. In honor of this occasion, I will explain the beginnings of ATB.
Accept the Bullshit began as a few hand-written pieces of paper that I passed around Brooke Glen Behavioral Hospital’s adolescent ward to keep my fellow patients laughing in May of 2013. My first entry was tastelessly named “My Life Is Like A Holocaust Joke – It’s terrible, but funny” and recalled the story of my escape from Brooke Glen which had taken place a couple weeks earlier. The link to that post can be found HERE.
On Friday, I got my fourth tattoo done at Golden Ages Tattoos in Lancaster city. The design is a heart of poppies with the initials MLD inside of it. The letters stand for Meredith Leigh Demko, the name of a friend of mine that was killed in a car accident in July of 2014. My tattoo for Mer is placed in between a tattoo that honors my best friend who committed suicide in 2012 and one that matches a larger hummingbird that my paternal grandmother has on her arm.
I am planning to get sleeves on both my arms, but my left arm has a theme: people that have impacted my life in a positive way. I may only have three tattoos there now, but I have plans for more and of course I need space for people that I have yet to meet. Some of the ideas I have already include my mom, brother and sister, people that I’ve met in treatment and another friend that took her own life.
I’m excited about the tattoos to come as well as the ones I already have, and I know I’ll need to move to other parts of my body for so much art. I want to be like a walking tribute to the people who made and continue to make me who I am. There’s something about broadcasting another person’s name or initials or aura with your body. It’s like sharing a part of your life. Their beliefs and energy are always with you, for you and others to see. It’s an honor as well as a source of anxiety. I don’t want to let any of the most important people to me down, and at the same time, they are always seeing over my hands to help me.