This week has been a struggle.
In brief: I have a chronic mental health condition, and have struggled for years to find mental and emotional stability. I’m also a woman, and am impacted heavily by hormonal fluctuations that occur on a monthly basis.
Anyone who feels that I am just whining can do me a favour and stop reading right now.
Through medication treatment and self-discipline, I have found a level of stability that has been unparalleled in recent years of my existence. All this good goes out the window, however, for a period of a few agonizing days on a monthly basis.
Is it predictable? Yes.
Does that make it any easier? No.
Recently, I’ve been told that I am not a good “fit” for certain mental health services that I feel should apply to me. First example: I finally had an appointment with the Women’s Health Concerns Clinic outpatient services this past Thursday. I spent months looking forward to this appointment, hoping it would provide some relief.
Here’s what I learned:
Don’t put all of your eggs into one basket.
That’s a worn out old adage, but there is much truth behind it. The psychiatrist on staff at the Women’s Health Concerns Clinic felt that, due to the fact that I have depression occurring presently as part and parcel of my chronic mental health woes, I am not a good fit for the clinic’s services.
I do not have “textbook” pre-menstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) symptoms. Also, in terms of medications that are usually helpful for PMDD, I am already taking a good selection of those recommended for front-line intervention, including vitamins and minerals such as B6, Calcium, and magnesium. There is potentially some room for dosage adjustment, but in terms of there being a supplementary medication trifecta for PMDD, that is it, and I’m already taking all of them.
I am not currently taking the “recommended” antidepressant of choice for PMDD, but the one I’m on now has done so much good for every other aspect of my life that I am extremely hesitant to swap it out for another medicine that might not work so well. Trintellix has helped me immensely. I don’t cry on a daily basis anymore. I’m more open with everybody: strangers, friends, my husband, you name it. I can actually get to work most days. I feel stable, I feel good… most days. Most days, I am an absolute delight – and I love it!
Obviously, I am hesitant to swap out this medication for one that is more “tried and true” for symptoms of pre-menstrual dysphoric disorder. There is absolutely no guarantee that the antidepressants that have been clinically studied for PMDD effectiveness would work as well. In fact, I’ve tried most of them, with little success. So why swap out something that works well, for 20-ish days out of the month, for something that has been scientifically proven to be more effective for PMDD symptoms, but does not work well with my unique chemical composition? It makes no sense.
I’ve talked a lot about medication and I want to address something that I learned the hard way, ages ago:
In mental health, medication isn’t everything, Especially when it comes to more complex conditions. But my efforts to connect with a therapist or mental health counsellor at present have left me feeling even more lost and alone in my journey.
The Women’s Health Concerns Clinic heard my request to connect with a 1:1 therapist or counsellor in the Hamilton community, but did not offer to connect me with any such services. I was offered a referral to a mindfulness group, something I am not sure I will pursue due to the fact that most publicly operated mental health groups take place during the daytime hours, and I need to go to work during the day so I can support myself financially.
Sure, I could take time off work for the group, but doing so may jeopardize my employment and would be difficult to finance at this point, since any hours of work missed for the mindfulness group would constitute unpaid time off.
Desperate, I decided to look into private therapy options, and sourced out a psychotherapist’s website via the Psychology Today web page. This therapist sounds like a great fit, based on her specialties listed on her online profile page. I contacted this psychotherapist and asked about accessing her services. Obviously, private therapists cost money, something of which I am well aware; however, this therapist recommended that I seek to gain a referral to her through my employer’s Employee Assistance Program, which could, potentially, fund up to four sessions with this therapist to see if that would be beneficial for me, and also so I could establish if I enjoy working with her on a 1:1 basis and wish to pursue services further.
I called up the EAP and explained the situation. The response I received was absolutely gut-wrenching: Because I have a chronic mental health condition, they are “unable” (or, unwilling) to provide me with a referral due to the fact that my therapy goals may not align with their mandate of connecting individuals in need with short-term counselling services.
It would be amusing, if it wasn’t so sad, to learn that even designated mental health support services stigmatize against people presenting with more severe mental health conditions.
What an eye-opener that was
In light of the recent high-profile suicides of wildly successful fashion designer Kate Spade and world-renowned celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain, I must point out that turning away a person who struggles with mental illness from suitable services because they don’t fit the proclaimed mandate or envisioned purpose of the service is a very, very dangerous practice.
Anyone reaching out for mental health support should at least be connected with suitable services once they make the effort to reach out, even if the initial service with which they’ve made contact might not be the best fit.
It is highly unwise to tell a person struggling with a chronic mental health disorder that they can’t access services because they have the wrong kind of mental illness.
I admit it.
I am a white a guy.
Alternately, I am half-Hispanic if I need to be, but really I am white – I have been all my life.
In high school, I refused a scholarship to a certain college because it was given to Hispanic (or half-Hispanic like me) students. I refused it because I am light-skinned and have always “passed” for Caucasian. I didn’t feel I was ever discriminated against due to my race, so on principle I declined the scholarship, deferring it as I felt it should go to to someone “more deserving.”
This one only one of many mistakes I made when I was younger. You might think this has nothing to do with depression, but you would be wrong. I declined the scholarship on “principle,” but it really was my best chance to go to a “real” college. I spent the next few years in a job that, although I was great at it, I hate. I got married and had kids way too young (not a coincidence) all while battling a depression that started when I was very young.
I made race (white) an issue in the title because white men are generally very privileged and should have no reason to be depressed. I won’t get into the specifics of my childhood here, but suffice to say that race played no part, but things that happened to and around me would cause anyone to develop depression. I singled out white guys because I knew a lot of white guys growing up and not one of them had depression, at least as far as anyone knew. Which Is really why I am writing this. That and the fact that I can make a kick ass margarita and don’t have to get up in the morning..
Men in general, and especially white men, are trained from birth to keep their shit inside. If you are happy you can smile, but not too much. Never dance with joy, never get giddy and above all, never fucking cry. If you HAVE to cry it better be because of some major happy shit, not you are sad or any weak shit like that. This is what you are taught form grade school on up. When I say taught I don’t mean in school – it’s that every male influence in your life imparts this to you overt and in subtle ways throughout your whole life. You are not allowed to not be strong. For your siblings, for your girl, for your parents and grandparents, for your classmates, etc…you are the rock. You have to be the strong one. Period.
Fuck your own personal shit; if you feel sad, cry in a pillow when no one is around ,and then buck up and be a man, for Chrissakes!
All of this only matters because if you are a man (or boy, ergo, man-in-training) you are not allowed to be anything but strong.
Depression is not on the table. Only. It is. It is a real thing. Without going into my personal shit, I had stuff happen when I was young that didn’t necessarily cause my depression, but it sure fed it. It fed it really well, until that beast grew bigger and stronger than I could handle but oh, I did handle it. I was a man, after all.
I doubt anyone who knew me as a very young man would ever think I was depressed. But I was. Some days it took more strength to get out of bed than I thought I had. This on top of being married, a new father, and just barely out of my teens (I’d just turned 20), oh, and I was a MAN so I couldn’t show any sign of weakness.
So when the darkness came, and the darkness always comes, I just had to “suck it up buttercup…” and not show it.
Eventually I grew up. I wised up and divorced the woman (girl) I never really loved, battled with depression, the pain of not living with my kids anymore (that hurts me to the bone), and I got over stigmas of gender roles and all that stupidity.
When I got remarried years later, I even cried at my wedding!
I have lived most of my life with depression and dealt with it many ways, not all of which were healthy. I am just writing this to let any one else out there know It’s Okay. Whatever you are feeling, no matter how down, how black things are, you are not alone.
Reach out and vent to someone.
Me, Aunt Becky, anyone you know. Just let some of your shit go. Medicate, self-medicate (responsibly, of course!), do what you need to do to get by. You are not alone, not by a long shot. Things DO get better. I know some days you can’t see it, but it always does. nothing is ever too much. You are stronger than you know and worth more than you could ever imagine. Sometimes life, the world, everything is too much. Nothing I can do can change that.
Just ride it out. It’s a few hours, then you can let shit go, and deal with whatever you need to. Those that love you (and me and lots of other people in your boat) will understand and accommodate however we can.
Shit gets bad, but shit gets better.
There is a picture of me, somewhere out there, probably still on my dad’s phone unless they’ve turned into Christmas Card people, in which case, the picture is most definitely out there in the world for all to see.
I hope it is not.
I didn’t see the picture until I was 5 months sober, staying in the unfinished basement at my parents house, grateful that I was no longer homeless, while I hunted for a job. Before this, I’d been staying there after a stint at a ramshackle, rundown motel, the kind of place you probably could dismantle a dead body, leave the head on the pillow, and no one would think anything of it. But it was my room, and despite the lice they gifted me, I loved it. Until money dried up and suddenly I was, once again, homeless. I’d moved in there after I was discharged from the inpatient psych ward, in which I was able to successfully detox after a suicide attempt. Got some free ECT to boot.
Despite what you see on the After School Special’s of our childhood, I didn’t take a single Vicodin, fall into a stupor, and become insta-addict – just add narcotics! No, my entry into addiction was a slow and steady downward spiral of which I am deeply ashamed. It’s left my brain full of wreckage and ruin, fragmented bits of my life that don’t follow a single pattern. Between the opiates, the Ketamine, and the ECT, I cannot even be certain that what I am telling you is the truth; what I’ve gathered are bits and pieces of the addict I so desperately hate from other people who are around, fuzzy recollections, and my own social media posts.
About a year and a half before I moved from my yellow house to the apartments by the river, Dave and I had separated; he’d told me that while he cared for me, he no longer loved me. While we lived in the same house, we’d had completely separate lives for years, so he moved to the basement while I stayed upstairs. I’d been miserable before his confession and after? I was nearly broken. Using the Vicodin, then Norco, I was able to numb my pain and get out of my head, which, while remarkably stupid, was effective. For awhile.
Let me stop you, Dear Reader, and ask you to keep what I am about to say in mind as you read through this massive tome. I’m simply trying to make certain that you understand several key things about my addiction and subsequent recovery. I alone was the one who chose to take the drugs. No one forced me to abuse opiates, and even later, (SPOILER ALERT) Ketamine. This isn’t a post about blaming others for my misdoings, rejecting any accountability, nor making any excuses for the stupid, awful things I’ve done. I alone fucked up. My addiction was my own fault. However, in the same vein, no one “saved” me but myself. There was no cheeky interventionist. No room full of people who loved me weeping stoically, telling me how my addiction hurt them. No letters. Nothing. It was just me. I was alone, and I chose to get – and remain – sober.
The delusions started when I moved out, sitting in my empty apartment alone, paralyzed by the thought of getting off the couch to go to the bathroom. Always a night-owl, I’d wake at some ungodly hour of the morning, shaking. It wasn’t withdrawal, no, it was pure unfettered anxiety.
It was the aftermath of using so many pills, all the fun you think you’re having comes back to bite you with crippling anxiety and depression.
Which is why I’d do more.
Yes, opiates are powerful, and yes, I abused them, but things really didn’t become dire until I added Ketamine to my life.
Ketamine, if you’re unaware, is a club drug, a horse tranquilizer, and a date rape drug. You use too much? You may wake up at some hipster coffee bar, trying to sing “You’re Having My Baby” to the dude in the front row who may or may not actually exist. In other words, it’s the best way to forget how fucked you are.
The delusions worsen as time passed. I could see into the future. I could read your mind. I was going to be famous. I was super fucking rich. In this fucked-up world, I could even forget about me, and the life that I’d so carelessly shattered. I remember sitting in Divorce Class at the courthouse, something required of all divorces in Kane County, weeping at all that I’d thrown away – using a total of three boxes of the low-quality, government tissues. I left with a shiny pink face and completely chapped nose and eyes that appeared to be making a break from their sockets. I went home, took some pills, took some Ketamine, and passed out.
I retreated ever-inward. I didn’t talk to many people. I didn’t share my struggles. I was alone, and it was my fault.
The hallucinations started soon after Divorce Class ended and my ex and I split up. He’d left my house in a rage after a fight and went to live with his sister. I got scared. His temper, magnified by the drugs, the hallucinations, and the delusions, grew increasingly frightening. Once he’d moved out, the attacks began. I’d wake up naked in my bedroom, my body sore and bruised, and my brain put the two unrelated events together as one – he was attacking me. It happened every few days, these “attacks,” until I found myself at the police station, reporting them. I was dangerously sick and I had no idea.
My friends on the Internet (those whom I had left), sent me money for surveillance cameras. I bought them, installed them – trying to capture the culprit – and when I saw what I saw, I immediately called the police and told them the culprit.
The videos in my bedroom captured an incredibly stoned, dead-eyed, version of myself, violently attacking myself, brutally tearing at my flesh. In particular, THAT me liked to beat my face with one of my prized possessions – a candlestick set from our wedding, take another pill or hit up some Ketamine, then violating myself with the candlestick. It lasted hours. I’d wake up with no memory of events, sore and tired and unsure of how I’d gotten there.
I’d never engaged in self-injury before – not once – so the very idea that I’d hurt myself was unbelievable, but right there, on my grainy old laptop, was proof of how unhinged I’d become. Charged with filing a false report, I plead guilty.
In early September of 2015, I decided to get fixed, and made arrangements with work to take a few weeks off to do an inpatient detox, and, for the first time in a long time, I woke up happily, rather than cursing the gods that I was still alive.
It was to be short-lived.
Several days later, sober, I was idly chatting with my neighbor about her upcoming vacation (funny the things your brain remembers and what it does not), standing by my screen door, when karma came calling. It sounded like the shucking noise of an ear of corn, or maybe the sound that a huge thing of broccoli makes when you rip it apart – hard. It felt like a bullet to the femur. I crumpled on top of my neighbor and began screaming wildly about calling an ambulance, yelling over and over like some perverse, yet truthful, Chicken Little: “my leg is broken, my LEG is broken!”
I don’t remember much after that. I woke up in (physical rehab) and learned that my femur (hereafter to be called my “Blasfemur,”) had broken, fairly high up on the bone, where the biggest, strongest bone in your body is at its peak of strength. Whaaaa?
The doctors and nurses shrugged it off my questions, with a flippant “It just happens” and sent me home, armed with a Norco prescription, in November, to heal. I added the Ketamine, just to make sure.
A couple of weeks later at the end of November, I was putting up the Christmas tree with the kids and my mother. It was all merry and fucking bright until I sat down on the couch and felt that familiar crunch. Screams came out of me I didn’t know were possible, but I’d lost my actual words. My mother stood over me yelling “what’s wrong? what’s wrong?” and I couldn’t find the words. I overheard her telling my babies that I was “probably just faking it” as she walked out the door, my screams fading into an ice cold silence. They left me alone in that apartment where I screamed and cried and screamed. Finally, I managed to call 911 and when they asked me questions, all I could scream was my address.
I woke up in January in a nursing home. When I woke up, I found myself sitting at a table in a vast dining room, full of old people. For weeks to come, I thought that I’d died and gone…wherever it is that you go.
This time, I learned, my (blas)femur and it’s associated hardware had become infected after the first surgery, which weakened the bone, causing it to snap like a tree. They put me all back together like the bionic woman, but the surgery had introduced the wee colony of Strep D in the bone into my bloodstream, creating an infection on meth. I’d been in a coma for weeks. Once again, I learned to walk, and once again, I was sent home in late January with another Norco prescription. The nursing home really wanted me to have someone stay with me to help out, but I insisted that I was fine alone. In truth, I had nobody to help me out, but was far too ashamed to tell them.
The picture I referenced above was taken some time in May, as far as my fuzzy memory allows me to remember, after my third femur fracture in March. This time, I’d been so high that I fell asleep on the toilet and rolled off. Glamorous, no? Just like Fat Elvis. Luckily, my eldest son was there and he called 911 and my parents to whisk him away. I remember my father on the phone, telling Ben that I was a liar and I was faking it. I was swept away in the ambulance for even more hardware, and finally? A diagnosis:
It’s an autoimmune disease that leaches calcium from the bones, resulting in brittle bones. It is managed, not treated. There is no cure.
But, I had the answer. Finally.
After my third fracture, I once again was sent to the nursing home, and quickly discharged with even higher doses of Norco, when my insurance balked, I’d used up all my rehab days for the year. By this time, I’d lost my apartment, my stuff was in storage (except the things that we’re thrown away, which my father gloated about while I was flat on my back) and my parents let me stay with them, which was about the only option I had. They couldn’t really kick me out if my leg was only freshly attached. I feel deeper into a depression, self-loathing, and drug abuse as I realized what a mess I’d made with my life. How many bad choices I’d made. How many people I’d hurt. How much I’d hurt myself. How much I loathed myself. How I once had a life that in no way resembled sleeping in my parents dining room. How I’d been a home owner. How I’d been married. How lucky I’d been. How I threw it all away. My life turned into a series of “once did” and “used to.”
The only one who hated me more was my father.
While we were once close confidants, in the years after my marriage to Dave, his disdain had become palpable. My uncle had to intervene one Christmas, after my father mocked me incessantly for taking a temp job filling out gift cards while I was pregnant with Alex. It may seem normal to some of you, this behavior, but in THEIR house, NO ONE was EVER SAD and NOTHING was EVER WRONG. WASPs to the core, my family is.
When I moved back in, broken, dejected, and high, our fights became epic. For the first time in my life, I stood UP to one of my parents. Then, I was promptly kicked out.
Guess I’m not so WASPy after all.
I want to say that the picture was taken around May of 2016, but my estimate may be thoroughly skewed, so if you’re counting on dates being correct and cohesive, you’ve got the wrong girl.
This is a picture of me, though you probably wouldn’t recognize me. I am wearing the blue scrubs that you associate with a hospital: not exactly sky blue, not teal, not navy, just generic blue hospital scrubs. These are, I remember, the only clothes I have to my name. I was given them in both the hospital and the nursing home, a gift, I suppose, of being a frequent flier, tinged with a bit of pity – this girl has no clothes, we can help. Whomever gave them to me, know that you gave me a bit of dignity, which I will never forget. Thank you.
I am wearing scrubs, the light of the refrigerator is slowly bleaching out half of my now-enormous body, as opposed to the darkness outside. There is a tube of fat around my neck, nearly destroying any evidence of my face, but if you look closely, you can make out my glasses, my nostrils, my hair cascading down. My neck is stretched back at nearly a 90 degree angle from my body, my head listlessly resting on the back of my wheelchair. My mouth gaped wide, which, should I been engaging in fly catching, would have netted far more than the average Venus flytrap. I am clearly, unmistakably, and without a single shred of doubt, passed the fuck out.
It is both me and not me.
High as i was, I don’t remember a thing about the photo being taken. But there I was, in all my pixelated glory.
By the time I saw the photo, I was once again in my “will do” and “can do” space. I’d kicked drugs in September 2016 and had found a job that I enjoyed. I stayed with my parents while I began to sort out my medical debt and save toward a new car and an apartment of my own. My spirits were high, my depression finally abated to the background, and I was tentatively happy. I’d apologized until my throat was sore, but my fragmented memory saved me from the worst of it, but I was not forgiven. I don’t think I ever expected to be. And now, I never will.
It’s okay. I can’t expect this. I know I fucked up.
My father, who’d actually grown increasingly disdainful of me, the more sober and well I became, confronted me when I came home one day after work, preparing to do my AFTER work, work.
My mother shuffled along behind him, Ben, the caboose. All three of them were in hysterics, tears rolling down their cheeks as I sat down in my normal spot on the couch. After showing them a video of two turtles humping a couple of days before, I eagerly waited to see what they were showing me.
What it was was that picture. Of the not me, me.
They could hardly contain their laughter, my father happier than ever, braying, “Isn’t this the best picture of you?” and “You PASSED OUT, (heave, heave) IN FRONT OF THE FRIDGE!” punctuated, with “I’m going to frame this picture!” The tears welled in my eyes while my teeth clenched, they laughed even harder at my reaction.
Like I said, if they’ve become Christmas Card sending people, this will be the picture of me they show, expecting others to laugh uproariously. Before I moved out, in fact, my father made certain to show the picture to anyone who came over. “Wanna see something hilarious?” he’d ask. Expecting memes or a funny cat playing the piano, they’d agree. I could see it when they saw it, my dad chortling with laughter, nearly choking on his giggles, the looks on their faces: a mixture of confusion and pity. Even in my drug-hazed “glory,” I’d never felt so low.
Maybe that picture is splashed all over the internet, in the dark recesses I don’t explore, and maybe it’s not. Maybe it’s hung on their wall, replacing all of the other pictures. Maybe it’s not.
Maybe we’ll meet again.
We’ve all seen the commercials:
“Do you have trouble concentrating or making decisions? ___ [drug] can help.”
“Depression can make you feel like you have to wind yourself up to get through the day.”
“Depression can take so much out of you.”
I have to say that all of that is true. I hate to use the word depression (I think most people do), but things have been rough since my daughter died. I’ve scraped for words to express the isolation, pain, persistent sadness, discouragement, lethargy, roller coaster days, rage, sullenness, futility… but every time those words fall short.
Over the last few years, I’ve learned a lot of things not to do, and a few things to try.
Most important is that a quick fix is a myth. So often I’ve woken up feeling OK, moved through the day’s activities relatively well, actually enjoyed some of the day’s moments, and thought to myself, “Hurray! I’m better!” Only I woke up the next day back in the swamp, feeling worse than before because I was wrong. I hadn’t actually left it behind.
Here are a few ways that have helped me, along with a few things I recommend avoiding.
If you are struggling with depression:
1. If you are a spiritual person, pray and tell God about how you feel and ask for help. Don’t shut God off just because you don’t feel God’s presence anymore. Feelings are fickle things, affected by lack of sleep, poor eating habits, hormones, illness, grief, and more.
I found that praying in the shower was a good place because
1) I could usually count on not being interrupted by my children, and
2) if I cried my heart out, the water washed my tears and snot away (I’m not a pretty cryer.)
2. Talk yourself through the day. I don’t mean talk out loud to yourself – that’s the fast-lane to crazytown. What I mean is this: if you catch yourself possibly over-reacting or taking the actions or words of another person personally, try to stop long enough to remind yourself that you are predisposed to assume the worst right now. Tell yourself, “I need to take my own emotional/mental/physical state into account when I’m reading other people and cut everyone, including this jerkwad, some slack.”
When I remind myself of this, I’m more likely to step back and wait to see if what I am jumping to conclusions and being paranoid (and usually I am). This helps preserve those relationships, and heaven knows we need as many healthy relationships as we can get.
3. Talk to someone about your struggle. Be selective. Keep your circle small, at least at first. Look for someone who is strong because they have struggled through some hard things themselves (not because he or she is a know-it-all). Find someone you can trust. Don’t talk to that girl who starts every story with, “Don’t tell anyone else, but so-and-so told me …” If they tell stories about other people, don’t give them any dirt on you. The right person will listen well, try to understand you, and give realistic counsel. They will be flexible but also persistent, drawing you out even when you withdraw or hide what’s inside.
4. Remain engaged with your family and friends. Make yourself go to birthday parties, cook-outs, ball games… whatever it is that you and your friends and family do together. Go even when every cell in your body wants to hole up in bed. We need people, and you have never experienced encouragement quite like spending time with people who care about you and who love to have fun.
I am so thankful for my husband and friends who have dragged me out of the house. No matter how many times it happens, I’m always surprised at how much better I feel when I go, even when it’s The Last Thing I want to do that day.
5. Give yourself time. This one has been hard for me. I want to be done with this depression. I want to move on, move forward, leave it behind, get better. I’m tired of dragging it around every day. But my counsellor keeps reminding me that there is no timetable on grieving. And if I try to stuff it all away and hide it, that actually makes the whole process longer. I need to feel those feelings and work through my grief, not run away from it.
6. Go see your doctor. Ask him or her to check for any physical problems and talk about how you are doing. It is very common for an illness or untreated condition to affect every part of you, including your energy level and outlook on life in general. They will collect some labs to look for things like low iron, an out-of-whack thyroid, or abnormally high white cell count (indicates that your body is fighting an infection somewhere). The doctor should be able to work with you to identify ways for you to improve your physical health, and present some options for improving your emotional and mental health.
7. Do your homework before trying supplements and/or prescription medications. Talk with your doctor about this. They will help you select the best things to try and often have non-prescription options as well. Taking a pill, whether it is an antidepressant or an herbal remedy, is not going to make you happy. These treatments are designed to give enough of a boost to do the hard work of recovery.
Be sure to ask your doctor and pharmacy about how various things interact. Tell them everything you are taking, including herbals and home remedies, because some things are very dangerous when combined. And if you think you need to change something because it isn’t working, don’t just stop cold-turkey! Call your doctor or pharmacist to see if you need to wean yourself off or if it is safe to just stop.
The best advice I was given about trying meds? Try one thing at a time, and give it at least a month before changing anything. Otherwise you won’t know what helped and what didn’t.
8. Build in some cushion. During the worst of my depression, I realized that my weeks were so tightly-scheduled that I had no slack at all for bad days. You know the kind: it’s all you can do to get the kids fed, dressed, and to school, and when you finish that, you collapse. Forget work, laundry, paying bills, washing dishes, cleaning house, grocery shopping. I got radical, backing out of commitments, canceling activities, and taking a leave of absence from work to build in some slack. It gave me the time I needed to rest and recover.
I hope these tips are helpful. I offer them up as ideas picked up along my own struggle in hopes that they encourage you to keep going, keep trying, and most importantly, get help.
What is an addictive/dependent personality?
I don’t mean someone who really grows on you, I’m talking about someone who is easily influenced and can become readily addicted to or dependent on mind-altering substances. It can be drugs like cocaine, meth, and heroin. It can be prescription drugs like Oxycontin, Xanax, or a plethora of pain killers and muscle relaxers. Maybe it’s alcohol that interferes with or has to be part of everyday life. Now take that person and throw in the occasional, and now more frequent, anxiety and panic attack. What do you get?
You get the hell scared out of you!
Let me tell you first hand because dependency has been in my family for as far back as most of us can trace, and we are now finding out that the anxiety and panic issues have been in the family for quite awhile as well.
Have you ever been there?
I have and it scares me.
Have you ever felt your temperature begin to slowly rise for no apparent reason?
I have and it freaks me out.
Have you felt your breathing begin to get a bit shallower, each breath becoming more of a gasp than a serious breath?
I have and I just want it to go away.
Have you felt your throat dry and then begin to close, slowly sending you into panic mode?
I have and will hate it when it happens again.
Have you had to wonder what the hell this was all about when life really is not to bad?
I always wonder. And really, what the hell is this all about?
The medication prescribed to combat such issues to me are often very addictive.
Now you have me.
I freak out for no apparent reason, then think about the little pill I am about to take. If I continue to have to take them, it’s very likely I will be dependent on them. Not taking them wreaks havoc.
I don’t mind the occasional sleepless night. But when it happens, I pace around the house, then into the yard and then in the car with no where to go because it is 2 in the morning. Then I go back in the house. I don’t want to wake others up because I feel it’s wrong. I don’t want the medication, but without it sleep, and a productive day, will be out of the question.
Shouldn’t I feel positive about the fact that there is a medication to help me through such time? I don’t want to become dependent on the medication, but I really do want to sleep and enjoy my sanity.
One is just feeding off the other and it is just wrong.
Have you ever been there?
Are you there now?
Where do we go from here?
I am not a “blogger,” even though I have a blog. I am not good at writing.
I have tried. I have written as catharsis. Anything I write eventually ends up used against me. I even used to write poems long ago, but what I got in return for pouring out my heart effectively put a stop to that.
I don’t know where to begin or how to form a coherent compilation of a jumbled life. There is much I will leave unsaid.
I didn’t know where I began and my mother stopped.
I am a child of a mentally ill parent. The woman who gave birth to me, whom I am supposed to call Mother, has schizophrenia. I am sure there are many other diagnosis that could be added to that, but we will keep it simple. As if there is such a thing as simple with schizophrenia.
I could write endlessly about the trauma, dysfunction, neglect, and abuse of my childhood.
The shame. The guilt. The fear. The secrecy. Being judged from HER illness.” Crazy by association.” As a result, I think I have been depressed and angry my entire life. I never was able to have a “childhood”. The early years are a blurry nightmare. Memories that are locked away by choice and repression. Sometimes I feel like I am made up of nothing but scar tissue. Who am I? Will I be judged based on her illness forever? How long will I carry her baggage as well as my own?
By some miracle I was given a reprieve. When I was 5 I went to live with an Aunt and Uncle and their two sons. God only knows what they thought of the feral child they received. Merging into a “normal” household was difficult. For all of us, I’m sure. I was a child who fended for herself and had to adjust to a new way of life. At some point I started to call my Aunt & Uncle, Mom & Dad. My cousins were like brothers. Although I was still reserved and doubtful about the security of love, I loved them.
But then like a piece of property, like a borrowed casserole dish, my “owner” demanded around the time I was 10, that I be returned. Returned to hell. I remember having an early birthday party with my friends before I left. I didn’t understand. Why would they send me back? What did I do wrong? Why was I being punished? Part of me still doesn’t understand. Even as an adult who has actually been given some of the information that as a child I was not privy to. Only those that were adults at the time will ever truly know the whys of it all.
I became the caretaker. I felt thrown away. Invisible. Damaged. Unwanted. Unlovable. Once again fending for myself in every way. Any time I made my NEEDS known, I was told I was selfish. Like dinner. How dare I expect dinner. Or school clothes, or to have my laundry done. Or or or… infinity. Any time I tried to speak up to ask questions of my family or tell someone that something wasn’t right or even to break free of the twilight zone I lived in, I was brushed aside and told “we’ll speak with your mother”. Yeah great idea. I was screaming. No one heard me. No one saw me. Or they chose not to. Selective blindness. She was the adult. I was just the child who acted out.
Unheard. Screaming inside. Unheard. Seriously!?!? How could family simply go on living their lives like mine was disposable?
Not ONE person in my family could admit to the secret that was my mother. So I became the problem child. It wasn’t her it was me. It wasn’t HER sick twisted warped behavior, it was somehow MINE. It wasn’t because I didn’t have a functioning parent or that I was subjected to abuse and exposed to things no child should be exposed to. It wasn’t because I was expected to be her caretaker, therapist, mental and physical punching bag and be sucked into her warped reality. No couldn’t possibly be that! According to them, I was a “bad” kid. I was wrong. It was ME. I had problems. I was the cause of the problems. All of the dysfunction was MY fault.
I grew up thinking there was something wrong with me. It has affected every aspect of my life. When I was a teenager, I finally found out what was wrong with her. Not because I was told, but because I wrote down the names and doses of all her medications and a person in my life was able to tell me what they were for. Needless to say confrontations were served all around. I stopped staying at “home” when I was 16, spending as little time there as possible. Still being labeled the problem child, I moved out completely at 17.
I have gotten therapy ad nauseam. I asked that I be given every psychological test known to man to see was I anything like her. Would I turn out like her? Was there something wrong with me? Despite my many flaws and admitted quirks and dysfunctions, I AM SANE.
So I still may not always know who I am, but I AM NOT HER. Nor will I ever be. I am bitter. And yes I am damaged. But I am ME. Whoever that is.
And for all the people telling me I have to forgive. For the so called family who abandoned me and still to this day judge me, shun me, and blame me, instead of facing the reality of HER illness, I give you a ginormous mushroom print. FUCK YOU.
I am me. Someone you do not know.