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Don’t Ask Anymore

We are enjoying a day off. It’s Easter weekend. Reflecting Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. He is cutting up vegetables. He cuts himself and is bleeding everywhere.

He can’t even let Jesus Christ take center stage.

He needs all the damn attention!

Why does he think his needs are more important than mine?

Now, I need to help him feel more comfortable.

Constantly complying. I am not a part of the equation. I have been SPEAKING for years, repeating myself constantly. I don’t ask anymore. I don’t ask for things. I don’t ask for affection. I am living in limbo. Boundless. Floating.

I am invisible.

don't ask abuse marriage

I need to be released from this responsibility that I’ve been carrying for too long.

For the last eight years we’ve drifted apart, each of our roles were extremely different from the others.

I was primary care taker of the baby, he just worked to not be in pain. He was in and out of doctor’s offices, and in bed most of the time he was home.

He was cold to me. He couldn’t help it. I know.

To me, he had it easy: just relax, lay in bed, watch TV, take medicine, have another useless steroid injection.

Umm… when do I get the debilitating disease so I can sit on my ass all fucking day?  I feel trapped, imprisoned.

I had grand expectations that he would complete me, complete my life and it would be this grand ball with dances and tea parties. Our roles are still tragically different, neither supporting one another, neither of us need each other. We are in different places, both have different goals.

We are in the same room, breathe the same air but we’re worlds apart.

The lack of trust and respect – it’s killing us. I cannot trust that he’ll be there. That he’s ALL IN. We’ve been having some good months lately… but soon, that chronic pain will take him and paralyze him again.

That anxiety keeps me in the crazy.

And… so here’s the state of our union. I’ve become accustomed to not including him in my day. He’s had so many limitations, so many special needs. He’s never been able to engage, so I forget that he’s there sometimes.

Somewhere between the chronic pain, taking days off for doctor appointments, disappointments, missed opportunities, we disappeared. I stopped trying to make the structure we live in a home. He was too busy or too sick to care. He didn’t want me. I got used to that.

I became hard, and cold. I worked so hard to leave my father’s house only to end up exactly where I started. I try. He tries. We both feel the unbecoming of us though. It was a slow fade to black.

I’ve veered on a divergent path and, if I’m being honest, I don’t care if he follows or goes in the opposite direction.

How the fuck did I get here?!

I didn’t say no when I was victimized as a child. It happened on more than one occasion. He made me feel special and important.

Years later, I realized I was just his prey among many.

My brain started to split. There was the good me and the bad me.

Then I started cutting to feel something. ANYTHING. Then I would only feel anger, resentment, bitterness, shame.

Then I would drink myself to oblivion to be numb again.

And round and round we go….

I watched my father beat up my mother countless times. I was powerless. The only thing I could do was disconnect. Detach from the situation, go off in my imaginary world.

These days, the only real way I can relate to men is if they are anonymous, objectified, and made common.

Maybe if (they or) I become more anonymous, objectified, common, I don’t have to engage. I can pay to play. I can pay to heal in a way. I can acquit myself of the emotional debt.

I would have room for… selfishness.

I Am Complicated

I am neglected.

I’m the product of parents who didn’t know how to fulfill my emotional needs. I have an eating disorder,

I alternate between believing both that “my parents gave me everything; I had a happy childhood; I don’t have any reason to be this messed up,” and “my parents emotionally neglected me; I had an awful childhood; no wonder I am this messed up.“

I fantasize about being in the hospital because that seems like the ultimate (and only) way that people might finally see me and care about me. Logically, I know that it’s not true, but my emotional brain is convinced that being sick or hurt is the way to get the love, attention, and care that is not present in my daily life.

I am ashamed.

I’m a 22-year old who is still desperately attached to my mangled childhood stuffed animal, Lambie.

I surreptitiously, but uncontrollably, pull out my own hair. I know have trichotillomania (and dermotillomania while we’re at it), but it’s one of my most shameful “secrets.”

I eat spoonful of Nutella straight from the jar, and sometimes that will be the only thing I eat for the majority of the day.

I am depressed.

I am pained getting out of bed in the morning. It’s hard to relate to people who casually say, “Yeah, I didn’t want to get up this morning,” but may not understand the gravity of depression. It hurts to the bone.

I have trouble taking my daily antidepressants because a hidden part of me doesn’t believe I’m worthy of feeling better.

I am obsessed with filling my brain with as much information about mental illness as possible.

And yet, no matter how much I read books, articles, and studies about eating disorders, depression, eating disorders, anxiety, or impulse-control disorders, I struggle to control my own mental health.

I have a hard time with “I’m depressed.” Maybe because I don’t believe that the real me is just buried under mental illness. It’s more like “I’m a person living with depression.” It has taken so much of my personality and soul out of me, but without depression, I am a lively, joyful girl.

I am taking care of myself (or I’m learning to).

I practically begged my parents to see a therapist, nutritionist, and psychiatrist, when I was only 15 years old. It certainly wasn’t easy, especially because we didn’t talk about anything “emotionally charged,” but I knew that it was a step I had to take in order to alleviate my pain.

I reach out to others when I need it most. Even though I isolate, too, I also know that in moments of desperation, I do instinctively ask for help and support from those I trust.

I treat myself to occasional manicures, special purchases (a dress, a pillow, some art supplies), and a lazy Sunday.

As much as my brain tries to trick me into thinking that I am worthless and unlovable, I try to actively do things for myself that remind myself that I deserve care.

I am brave.

I share my story with very few people, but when I do, it is the most rewarding experience. Sharing real experiences and thoughts is how I create deep connections with people.

little ballet dancer

I moved to Denmark for my first job out of college. I don’t speak the language, I’ve never been away from home for more than four months, and I left my entire support network at home.

I am working full-force in therapy at facing the demons and insecurities I have hidden for years. I am taking charge of my life by learning to be vulnerable, accept my flaws, and love myself in spite of them, and find happiness for the first time in my life.

 

Ask The Band: Depression and Writing

Dear The Band,

ask band depression writing

I’m a writer.

Or, at least, I think I am. I’d like to think I am. I think about writing all the time – and then I feel ashamed of myself because I’m not writing. I think about all of the stories I could be writing – I think about the text file of ideas for stories on my desktop – and then I get even more depressed because I’m not writing.

The great thing is that I’m not writing because I’m depressed, because I have no job, no friends, am 1300 miles away from all support systems, except for my wonderful soon-to-be husband, and I spend most of my time in an insecure, anxious ball feeling sorry for myself.

Self-loathing much?

I keep seeing over and over again, on Twitter and Facebook and in my MFA program’s forum this statement: “if you don’t write, you aren’t a writer, and you probably shouldn’t be. To be a writer, you must need to write like it’s the way you breathe.” So I second-guess myself; I don’t need that. But I need to need that, if that makes sense.

I miss the feeling of excitement when I pull off a great scene. I miss feeling proud of myself. I miss the sense of self-esteem writing gives me. But right now, depression is taking it away.

I just don’t know how to push through the overwhelming apathy and shame to start writing again. And everyone who tells me to shit or get off the pot – to just start writing regardless – really isn’t helping.

How do I get through this loneliness, depression, anxiety and shame to find myself again?

I’m not sure where I went, but it’d be damn good to see myself again.

The Quiet Shame of Self-Injury

Self-Injury is a shameful secret many of us hold and we can often see no real way out. If you self-injure, please know that there is hope for you. Click here for more information about coping with self-harm.

This is her story:

i haven’t engaged in self-injury since april 8, 2004.

six months before my wedding years after i started dating my husband. just over three months after my stepfather died.

my soon-to-be husband and i were about to move in with my mom and younger brother to help fix up the house and pay the bills. it was a good arrangement – i was living with my dad for the first time since my parent’s divorce, and it was not an ideal situation.

he didn’t know how to deal with my craziness. he didn’t know what to do with a grown daughter who had trouble holding a job, was a recovering addict, was clinically depressed.

he didn’t know what to do when i would bang my head into the wall, lock myself into a closet, have to walk out of a room in the middle of a sentence. just because i haven’t cut, i don’t think that means i haven’t been involved in self injury, or si, self-harm, self-injurious behavior, as it is also referred to.

self-injury includes many types of injury or mutilation – cutting, burning, picking, biting. some people consider trichotillomania (self-pulling of hair) in the scope of si, even though it has it’s own diagnosis.

self injury

there is no fancy word for cutters. we cut. we burn. we bite. we scratch. we self injure. that’s it. i first identified myself as a cutter when i was 12.

TRIGGER

i realized that physical pain of the cut almost released the emotional pain i felt. as i got older, i could look back and see even more instances of it. i remembered biting my fingers and hands until they bled when i was only 5. i can’t remember what made me want to do that, but i remember feelings of emptiness, even then. i remember pulling out my hair around the age of 7 or 8. i remember digging my fingernails into my palm hard enough to break skin. at those ages,

i do not consciously remember why i did what i was doing.

i only remember doing it, and that some how it made me feel better.

i don’t know where i got the idea. i hadn’t seen a television special, i didn’t have any friends cutting. many people think it’s a goth or emo thing, that girls do it to seem cool or special or mysterious. that they do it because their friends do, because it makes them hard or whatever the
fuck stupid people think. i didn’t know anyone who cut or self-harmed in any way.

TRIGGER

i do remember taking a pen cap and scraping it back and forth across my arm hard enough and long enough that i drew scraggly lines of blood.

TRIGGER

there was this initial release, like the darkness escaping, and then this delicious numbness spread through my body.

TRIGGER

before the blood had even dried, i methodically started to clean up with tissues. this would become a ritualistic experience for me.

i stole a paring knife from the kitchen, hid it in a drawer, and knew i had an option at all times. i can’t explain why, but the ritual became almost as important as the cutting.

TRIGGER

i would get my secret stash of hydrogen peroxide and gauze. i’d cut, i’d bleed, i’d revel in the numbness. then i’d clean up the blood, clean out the cut, wrap up in bandages. by the time i was around 15, it got worse.

TRIGGER

i would enter almost a trancelike state, methodically cutting and bloodletting for hours at a time. i’d make small cuts, long cuts, perpendicular cuts.

TRIGGER

instead of using the paper towels to clean up, i’d press them to my cuts so the blood would seep into it, then save them in my notebook. i know, it sounds horrifying. then i decided it would make more sense to do that on the actual paper – i would be able to keep them forever.

i still have them. i cannot get rid of them.

i was always afraid of being discovered.

my scars and cuts were not a badge to show my friends, they did not make me cool. i cut almost everywhere, and had ways to hide everything. i did not want to have to explain how it made me feel.

TRIGGER

i cut my forearms rarely, although that is the only place i now have scars. i cut my thighs, my calves, my shoulders, my hips, my stomach, my breasts. i would cut, bleed, mark, clean, wrap. constantly.

i finally got caught out at 16. i had a fight with my boyfriend, went home, got high, and put on hole’s ‘live through this’. i don’t even remember getting my paring knife or other tools.

TRIGGER

i do know that i spent almost five hours smoking pot and carving the lyrics from two songs into my legs. i didn’t do my own laundry at the time, and ended up throwing out the sheet i had on my bed at the time because of the blood. i didn’t want anyone to know. i was ashamed and afraid and addicted.

my boyfriend found out.

we were talking about our fight, sitting on his couch. i pulled my leg up under me, and my jeans leg rode up. he saw my calf and made me take off my pants. he then told me he wouldn’t see me anymore unless i told my mother.

i did.

i told my mother, she got me counseling. he did stay with me for a few more months. he tried. i continued cutting on a near-daily basis for years, until i was 20. i moved in with my dad after his second divorce. i still had my knife; i needed to have it. i went almost four years without cutting. i was helping my soon-to-be husband move into my mother’s house. i don’t know what set me off, but i needed my knife and couldn’t find it. this made it worse.

TRIGGER

i took out my keychain-sized swiss army knife and dug into my upper arm until i bled.

i haven’t cut since then. but i haven’t stopped self injuring.

i cannot.

i have scratched my face until it bled. i have banged my head on a tile floor hard enough to concuss myself. i have pulled hunks of hair out in frustration. i bite my tongue until it is raw and bleeding at times. i pick and pinch at myself more than i care to admit. i have gone to get a tattoo in desperation to feel something (incidentally, not the right reason for ink).

the worst part is, and i think any cutter will agree with this. the worst part is that we do what we do TO FEEL SOMETHING. but the problem is we already feel too much. we have so much (fill in the emotion) inside us, that we need to feel something else.

is it that we need to feel something we can control?

like eating disorders, is it about having control over something in our lives when it feels like everything else is out of control?

do i cut or self harm so that I AM IN CHARGE OF MY PAIN… at least for a few minutes?

My First Motherhood

By the time my first baby was born, I had been in therapy for about a year and a half. When I started therapy, I had reached a point where I knew I needed help, and the risk of reaching out for help was outweighed by the burden of sitting alone with the darkness I felt any longer. Therapy helped me a ton and I was in a much better spot when I became pregnant. My husband and I had been married for two years, and though the pregnancy was unplanned, I desperately wanted a baby.

Pregnancy was a roller coaster of emotions, with lots of vomiting. The last couple of months were good, and I felt strong and ready for childbirth, but still unsure of motherhood. My labor was not typical and there were a stressful three days and 20ish hours of active labor that led up to the birth of my daughter. By the time she was born, I was exhausted. The first thought I remember having when my husband placed my baby on my chest was “I don’t know how to do this,” followed by apologizing that she was crying and that I had been too loud during labor. I felt ashamed, like I somehow didn’t do it right. Then I felt doubly ashamed for commenting about the baby crying, because obviously babies are supposed to cry.  And what kind of mother would think there is something wrong with her baby crying right after she’s born? No one was putting this on me or making me feel this way. There was also joy and a deep cozy feeling when cuddling my new babe but, mostly, I was scared, tired, and feeling completely unqualified.

The nurse let me “rest” for a few hours after the birth, during which my husband and baby took a nap, and I ate and took a shower. Then the nurse came back in to give me a bunch of instructions on baby care before sending me home with an hours-old extremely delicate creature who completely depended on me for survival. I told the nurse that I was too tired to remember anything and I wasn’t sure I was qualified to care for a newborn. She told me that newborns were made for new parents (which was oddly reassuring) and to set an alarm to go off every two hours all night long, so that I could wake up to feed the baby. She emphasized how important it was that I feed the baby every two hours and wake her up to feed if she was sleeping.

The first night was hard. I remember my husband waking me up because I didn’t hear the alarm going off under my pillow. I don’t remember if the baby was awake, too, in the cosleeper beside our bed, but I do remember that every time I tried to nurse her, she would fall right back to sleep. The next day, I called the nursing support line and they told me she was a “sleepy nurser,” and gave me some tips on how to wake her up to nurse. My mom stayed with us for about three days to help out and my grandparents came to meet the new baby. After about five days, my husband went back to work and I was very much alone at home.

I remember worrying about a lot of things and wanting to do everything right. I remember her gazing into my face as I rocked and nursed her, looking into her big dark eyes and feeling like I was falling down a very deep tunnel. Then weird thoughts would flash through my mind:  “What if she can’t breathe while she is nursing, what if she knows I have no idea what I am doing, what if she is a demon? I am not emotionally stable enough to be a mother; what if someone finds out and takes her away from me?” This scared me to the point that I avoided looking into her eyes.  I never wanted to hurt my child, but I was afraid of the things going through my mind.

I was especially scared of trimming her fingernails. They were so tiny and her fingers were so precious. I worried that I would snip them with the trimmers by accident. Several people suggested that it was easier to chew baby nails than to trim them, but every time I thought of this, a picture would flash into my mind of my sweet baby’s finger chewed to a bloody nub.  Sometimes those flashes would come when I was trimming her nails and I started trimming them only when I was feeling well rested, for fear of having one of those thoughts and freaking out.

There were other things that I knew I weren’t right too. Anytime I saw one of those child safety tags they put on every piece of baby gear, I would visualize whatever horror they warned about happening to my baby. I would lay her in the Pack-n-Play, catch a glimpse of the warning label and have a flash of finding her suffocated. Same with the baby carrier, the stroller, and the baby bathtub.  She would cry when my husband tried to put her to sleep at night and I remember worrying that my husband was sexually abusing her, and wrestling with that being a totally crazy thought, but still feeling that I needed to protect her from him. (Please note my husband has never and would never do this. I think this just came up in my mind because my mother had been sexually abused by her father when she was a kid and I was just having really bizarre thoughts). Instead of resting, I would stay awake listening to them on the baby monitor, crying and worrying until she went to sleep. Once she was asleep, I would lay awake in bed thinking about all the horrible crap that could happen, plus my to-do list, and what a fucked-up person I was.

These thoughts were scary to me, but they weren’t entirely new. During the deepest part of my depression a few years earlier, I had similar gruesome flashes any time I saw my husband’s X-Acto knife. That gruesome image was always of the knife slicing my wrists, which is why I finally went into therapy, though I never told my therapist of my concerns about the knife. I was afraid that if I told her, she would have me committed or the have the baby taken away. I was not suicidal, did not use self harm, and absolutely did not want to kill myself.

When my maternity leave ended, I went back to work. I was incredibly sleep deprived because my baby would not take a bottle while I was gone and would nurse every two hours all night long. Her weight percentage had gone down and the doctor was concerned about her getting enough milk and gaining weight.  I kept up the night feedings, tried different things to get her weight up and worried about everything. The gruesome images and thoughts kept up for a while, too.  I can’t remember exactly when I stopped having them, but I remember having them when some friends came to visit when my baby was about six months old.

Around that time I attempted to handle my anxiety by smoking pot or drinking after I put the baby to bed at night. This helped me numb out a little but, ultimately, it added to my anxiety. Before becoming pregnant, I drank and smoked a lot, and it was too easy to fall back on those unhealthy coping mechanisms. I stayed in therapy for another year and a half for post-partum depression, and my therapist helped me “fact check” some of my irrational fears, like that my baby was going to starve to death or that my husband couldn’t adequately care for her while I was at work. She also helped me figure out what self care was, and generally made me feel loved and supported. Even though I never disclosed everything that I was experiencing, having her support was extremely helpful. I will forever be grateful for how kind she was to me and how much she helped me during this time.

Eventually, my husband and I decided that we were both worn too thin with our work schedules, and figured out how I could leave my job and stay home. When I left my job, I also lost the mental health care coverage I had through my insurance. My therapist and I made a self care and emergency plan in case the depression came back. When I ended therapy, I decided to stop smoking pot entirely. Facing shit without an easy numb-out was harder than I thought it would, and the first three days, everything felt very intense. Even though I didn’t smoke “that much,”  I knew it was important for me to quit and develop some healthier ways of being in the world.  I also joined a support group, took an online self care class for moms, started exercising, and found a really cool mental health video game that taught me about different aspects of self care.

When my second baby was born two years ago, I asked for more support from my family after the birth and I had a community of moms to talk with. I kept track of my two week timeline for depression and was more aware of how that looks in my own mind. Although there were things that I worried about and struggled with, I did not have any of the scary thoughts or gruesome flashes as the first time around. I did feel overwhelmingly joyful about gazing into his newborn eyes. It was a totally different and less scary experience. Having a completely different post-partum experience the second time has shown me how much of my experience was PPD and not just typical new motherhood.

I hope that my story will encourage other moms to get the support they need if they are experiencing PPD after the birth of a baby or depression years later. It can be hard to see the symptoms when you are in the fog of it, and it is worth seeking help if you aren’t sure about what you’re experiencing. Healing is worth it. You are worth it.

Ask The Band: Starving For Attention

I apologize in advance for my terrible writing, but I’m like 14, y’all, and I don’t even know how to say this….

I have weight issues. Serious weight issues. “So?” you ask (or I assume you do). “So do most women.”

Well shut up and listen (I say lovingly). I’ve dabbled in quite a few self-destructive behaviors in my lifetime, but I’ve always been obsessed with my weight. I’ve starved myself for days, chewed-and-spit, and tried countless times to make myself throw up unsuccessfully (my hidden talent? I can touch my uvula without throwing up!).

I know I have no justification for this. I am not fat, or even a little overweight. But being skinny, really, truly skinny… it’s like a shining beacon of light in the distance. In all the things I deal with, this is by far the least serious (…isn’t it?), but I’ve never told anyone and I feel like I have to.

 

And isn’t that what The Band is for?

Quite honestly … I’m scared. I’m scared it will never go away. That I’ll forever spend my nights in front of a freaking distorted full length mirror, analyzing every single thing about my body. That I will always compare myself to every single pair of thighs I walk by, wondering if mine are fatter or skinnier, because I can’t tell anymore. That I’ll never stop taking videos of myself walking around, and watching them over and over trying to see if my butt is too big.

I’m asking for your help here, Band. What should I do? Is this normal?

I know it’s not that bad, I just can’t live with it as a secret anymore. Thanks for reading this, The Band!

You’re so amazing.