This Computer Must Be Burned

In all honesty, I do not want to write.

Not that I dislike writing. My head is so full of thoughts, memories, questions, ephemera that it feels as if I may implode internally should I not expunge them through some sort of medium.

Not being a visual artist, the pen or the keyboard beckons.

No, it’s not the writing.  It’s the method.

I despise this computer.

I despise this computer for myriad reasons closely related to a series of poor and unfortunate circumstances that befell or to to more accurate I was instrumental in orchestrating when I bought this computer.

I needed a computer that was not broken, because I had decided, two semesters after giving my first born up for adoption, four semesters after falling into a hideous, psychotic depression, and two months after breaking up with my former boyfriend and father of said adopted child – who was at the moment incarcerated for his fourth DUI and had taken to sending me near-daily rambling correspondence from jail marked with a red stamp “From an inmate at Chittenden Correctional Facility” that made my tenuous relationship with my new roommate even more rocky – and in the midst of a freezing, gray Northern Vermont winter, that I was going back to school. Not just going, mind you, but triumphantly finishing the neuroscience and pre-med coursework that I had involuntarily abandoned when I was forcibly hospitalized for the psychotic depression in the winter of 2009.

I was going to school, damn it. And I needed a computer.

I was having trouble getting up in the early January days before that semester had begun. Trouble getting up, ruminating thoughts, lack of interest in anything except hiding underneath the covers of my bed and staring at the ceiling in a sort of dazed, dissassociative funk. Tell-tale signs that my good friend, Bipolar Depression, was settling into my brain – taking up residence and on its way to voraciously consuming the entirety of the frontal lobes in the process.

But I couldn’t be depressed, I was going back to school, damn it. And I needed a computer.

I woke myself up one gray day, dragged myself out of bed at 1 pm, and went to Best Buy. I’m sure that I had failed to shower, that my glasses were a mess, that the clothes I had exhaustedly thrown onto my increasingly waifish body were wrinkled. But I was in a big box store, about to complete a purchase, that for sure, would guarantee that this attempt at college – my fourth – would be a success.

“I need a computer that can run Neuroscience simulations,” I eked out to the disinterested millenial young man, probably my age, who was vaguely sizing me up.

“You need a Mac.”

“I can’t afford a Mac.” And I couldn’t. I was working customer service at the airport for $11 an hour, and this was, fundamentally, an impulse purchase.

“Well, Asus is good. The battery life is bad, but the computer is sturdy. It’s powerful and then when you have more money, you can upgrade and buy a Mac.”

Turns out, I still have that fucking ASUS, and I still can’t afford a Mac. That was 8 years ago.

I, as you might imagine, lasted about 6 weeks at school studying neuroscience and pre-med before I started fantasizing about shooting myself in the head with my friend’s hunting rifle, and landed in Fletcher Allen Psychiatric Hospital for my 6th hospitalization.

This stupid computer lay in the corner of my bedroom when I returned. The neuroscience simulations all loaded in, papers half-written and now irrelevant, videos of physics demonstrations that I somewhat enjoyed and would stay on this computer until 2017, when I finally had the courage to let go of my past and promise, and delete them. The computer haunted me.

Jarett was released from jail in the spring, and I, awash in grief, and loneliness, and depression that was still not being properly treated, crawled in through the window of his tiny, neglected efficiency that reeked of cheap beer and cheaper cigarettes,  and on my hands and knees, slunk right back into his delighted arms.

“We’re meant to be together,” he whispered. “You’ll always come back to me.”

I took my computer to his terrible apartment one day, and left for work. When I had returned after working a double, I found that he had taken my computer and installed all of his software and gaming platforms on it. Apparently, his computer had died, and he needed to play World of Warcraft on something, and my computer was just sitting there.

“I hijacked your laptop. This is my computer now.” He chuckled to himself as he completed his WOW dailies and sucked down a Red Bull.

“But where am I going to check my email and finish convincing school that I am sane enough to complete my studies.”

“Use the computer at work, or the library. I’ll give it back to you when I can convince my brother to buy me a Dell Alienware computer.”

I really hate this computer. Sometimes now, I will open up some unknown folder, and Jarett’s name will still be there. I think he intentionally peppered this laptop with symbols of him, so that when I eventually left for good, which I finally did, one caustic and terrifying night in 2013, I would still always be reminded of him. As if the PTSD he left in my brain is not reminder enough.

I want to get rid of this computer. I want to chuck it into a pile of broken electronics at the dump, and watch the screen shatter. I want to burn and destroy every memory I have of that part of my life, and the young woman I was, who I can barely justify but who still lurks in the darker parts of my mind, who let herself be manipulated and abused and mistreated for five years, and fell into a chasm of static noise and blurry lines and nearly drowned there.

At the same time, a part of me exists that understands that she is me, that she is a part of my past, and that I need to forgive her. I have to forgive her. I need to understand her desperation and impulses and hopelessness. I can’t ignore her. I am afraid to become her again. She is a part of me. This computer is a part of me.

Maybe I just need to reconcile the past. To remember. To let her go. To let this go, not in rage or annihilation, but in a quiet sealing closure on a life that once was, but is not anymore.

Maybe then I can move on.

 

 

 

 

 

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Book adoration, writing, and the terrifying link.

I don’t want to talk about mental illness right now.

I want to talk about other parts of me, because maybe I am a little recovered, and that means that there are other parts of me than just the endlessly complicated swirl of incorrectly formulated cells in my brain.

Well, maybe there isn’t, but superficially, yes.  If I wish to compartmentalize and categorize, and I almost always do, then I can section off the emotional intensity, the vivid reimaginings, the distorted, insistent, thinking.  I can put warning tape around it, and label it “my mental illness.” I can tiptoe around it, like Cerberus, lightly slumbering, and with desperate hope, present it with a  variety of tasty, soporific treats – Medications, enough sleep, consistency, exercise, socialization – in the hopes that it will not awaken and rage, rage, rage.

Even if sometimes it doesn’t rage, but dance.  Maybe a bit too fast, and too greedily, but still it dances.   Those rides I have, precariously perched on its back, as it twirls through meadows, and rainbows, taking me through evanescence, and glistening waterfalls of verdant sexuality, piquant loquaciousness, and forests of shooting, impossible ideas.  Those rides are some of the most incredible experiences of my life.

And well, maybe the beast has bits of powder, and, with it, has irrevocably influenced other parts of my brain.

Namely, to circle back, writing.

Books have always held me in their thrall.  My dad suffers from and delights in tsundoku.  I found this word in one of those “10 most fascinating words” lists, and it perfectly describes his affliction.  Collecting books by the thousands, no real intention of reading them, with the sole purpose of being surrounded by the “great” works.   Growing up, I idolized my eccentric father, and his incomparable, seemingly endless, library.  There Dickens, up there Tolstoy, Socrates, Proust, Wilde.  If ever I needed a book, I could call on my father, and he would scurry to some corner of his library – our whole house – and retrieve the precious tome.  The books were, almost exclusively, acquired second hand, and they smelled deliciously musty, with bindings that were breaking, and my dad’s meticulous, tiny script on the title page indicating date of acquisition, where, and for how much.  Usually, less than a dollar.

To me, his library was perfect.

Inspired by this, my favorite character in my youth was Belle from Disney’s Beauty and the Beast.  I related to her on a number of levels – though I could never claim her beauty or soprano voice – : she was bookish, misunderstood by her community, randomly broke into song, had a peculiar father whom she loved dearly, and, when the Beast wished to impress her, he gave her an astounding, multi-story library.  I worshiped her.

Though to be perfectly frank, her Stockholm Syndrome, and the ability to turn a misanthropic, abusive beast into a prince through the pure power of love dangerously misinformed my ideas of romantic relationships.  Likely, this set me on the course to become a damsel in distress, waiting for the abusive man who had captured me to become the prince I knew he could.

But that’s a story for another time.

Books also became for me a sort of escape, as they often are, being entertainment, after all.  When I was friendless and very lonely in my pre-teen years, I turned to The Baby-Sitter’s Club, much to my father’s chagrin. But there I could imagine myself in Stonybrook CT, perhaps not too far away from dull Bethlehem CT, and be Mary Ann Spier.  Quiet, measured, with a gaggle of friends who understood and appreciated her for exactly who she was.  I dreamt of Claudia, and Dawn, and Stacey.  I wished hard for them to come into my life, and for my confusing, isolated existence to be transformed into a universe of predictability, with a multiplicity of money, and iron-clad friendships that never deteriorate.

Books could be the friends I never had.   They didn’t judge, or at least not the ones I read, but just sat there, patiently, waiting for me to open their pages and hallucinate their words into being.  Me and them, them and me.  Inseparable.

In school, my favorite teachers were always my English teachers.  Funny, that I ultimately turned to science when picking a major, but that’s probably because somewhere in early high school, the creative writing that defined English class that I so loved turned into three part five paragraph literature analysis.  I detested this, and though was ultimately good at it, the process to produce one of these essays was torturous, time-consuming, and fraught with crippling anxiety.

And because of the analysis, books became not sources of joy and escapism, but filled with judgment, critique, and terrible, deeper themes I had to painfully search for and expose.

Also, the books were almost exclusively depressing.

I once asked my junior year English teacher why this was so, why Hemingway, Faulkner, Fitzgerald, Shakespeare’s most lauded works, always had such unhappy endings.   He said something about the human condition that did nothing to inure me to the “greats” of literature.

I had fucking enough of the human condition by that point, having already been diagnosed with bipolar disorder – with two suicide attempts, and a restraining order under my belt.  I did not need to be reminded that life was messy, and cruel, and unfair.  I already knew that well enough. I needed hope.  And there was no hope in Hemingway, as far as I could see.  The man ended up shooting himself in the mouth with a double barreled shot gun.  What could I learn from him that would help me stay in this life?  I avoided him, and the litany of writers who had committed suicide: Wolfe, Foster Wallace, Plath – the Wikipedia entry listing JUST novel writers who have committed suicide is two pages long – like the plague.

Maybe that’s why I didn’t pursue writing as a career, even though every time I submit something that I have written, or read it aloud, I get nothing but ardent praise.  “You’re so talented.”  “Don’t waste it.” “Write every day.”  Or even, “you’re a genius.”  I was and still am scared of the link between mental illness, suicide, and creativity.  I want to stay.

And also, maybe I think it’s audacious of me to want to write.  Writers are deities to me. I stare at my bookshelves, mostly lined with comedic science fiction, fantasy, psychology, Buddhism, and memoir, with a dash of the “great” novelists and poets, in reverence.  Running my hands over the spines, opening a book at random, say Crime and Punishment, and being instantly transported from the cape in CT to the French Bastille.  Just through the power of the wordsmith.

Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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I had a difficult time this past week.

I went to a book-signing by an author whose blog helped me out during the recovery from my last hospitalization.  It was a book about her own struggles with depression, anxiety, and various forms of the latter: dermatillomania, trichotillomania, phobias.  I read most of it, and I applaud her for her candor and for her ability to find light in the darkness.

However, it was a challenge for me to relate to it in the way that I thought I would.

Perhaps, because the premise of the book is to take the depths of emotional experience that we plunge into and take advantage of the depth of the highs to make them truly high.  “Furiously happy” rather than just content.  And I appreciate that sentiment.  When I recover from a particularly crushing depression, which can take months, the ability to enjoy life’s simple pleasures once again is astonishing. To have the energy to swim, to hike, to feel joy for other people, to not feel as if one is trudging through physical muck with every step.  To jump out of bed with vigor, instead of cowering under the covers dreading the day as if it were filled with excruciating, high-stakes exams – which, really if you have anxiety is nearly every day.   Like every interaction, thought, movement is really a test of profound meaning and value and you are failing miserably at every turn.  Or if you are not currently failing, then you are just about to.  And if anyone thinks otherwise – that you are a beautiful, capable, intelligent, competent, worthwhile person – then you are either putting on a remarkably good charade, or they are markedly bad at perception, and lack the insight to see through the facade.   I actually believe this, and it has been a core belief of mine for at least the last 11 years.  I know, rationally, this does not make much sense, but somewhere along the way, likely when I was being bullied at school, faltering at sports, friendless, with little support from a dysfunctional family , I began to believe that there was something deeply, deeply, wrong with me.  And that is the rancid soil out of which a garden of psychiatric disorders has sprung.

Maybe I haven’t really recovered.

I asked Eric if he could change anything about me, what he would change.  This was at the end of a day in which the suicidal ideation and psychotic thoughts had briefly returned, and I had to take a tranquilizer to prevent myself from doing anything.  Instead of dreaming up ways of ending my life, and convincing myself that Eric found me hateful and was about to throw me out of the house, I lay on the couch in a medicated, but benign stupor.  When I had gotten enough rest, and the sleep had somehow corrected the flood of neurotransmitters and glial cells in my mind, I asked him that question, in case he wanted to talk about what happened.

And he rapidly said: “self-mutilation. You’re so beautiful, it pains me to see you destroy yourself.”

Which felt, at first, like the very least of my problems.

So, I randomly pick at myself, bite my nails, chew my lips, scratch any mark on myself until it bleeds.  So, I have to wear band-aids on my fingers to prevent myself from tearing off my fingernails.  That seems so minor compared to the rest of the psychic distress he witnesses.

But maybe, it isn’t.   Maybe the self-mutilation isn’t just about my nervous hands.  Maybe he sees a beautiful, full, balanced women who is so capable of love and being loved, and who prevents herself from seeing that.  Like a rose that refuses to grow, but hides under the ground.  And in hiding, down safe in the dank depths, she cuts off her own petals with her thorns, and never sees the beauty that was within her.  In doing so, she prevents herself from being seen.   From ever being a token of love or ephemeral wonder.

I stand in my own way – I cut off my petals.

Because I hate myself.

And when I rand0mly adore myself, when I can see what he sees, my ego is so tattered and shaken, that it cannot do a thing but want to be fed.

When the feeding stops, my fragile self-concept turns on itself.  It doesn’t have the strength necessary to withstand failure, rejection, stress.  It just crumples.

This feels so hard. My mind has just come to some sort of conclusion that “It’s almost time.  For real this time. You disgust me, and I will end you.”

“It’s almost time.”

FUUUUUUCK!!!!!!!!

What can I do… I can’t do this.  I can’t just leave.  I have to keep fucking trying.  Just. Keep. Fucking. Trying.

Even if all you come up with is failure after failure. Just keep on keeping on.

Suicide is not an option. Not. An. Option. Not. An. Option.  Not. An. Option.

Jesus Christ, if your therapist was reading this she’d send you to the fucking psych ward.  11th hospitalization.

We have to do something, we have to do something.

The only thing getting in the way of you is you.  Do something.

Please.

 

 

 

 

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I am other.

My sister became Mrs. Bishop this Saturday.

It was the event of my summer, the lingering thought behind every waking moment, the deadline around which other goals stopped and started.

And, now it’s over.

And, to be honest, I feel sort of let down.

I had a difficult time with it on Monday.   I switched around my schedule to accommodate the time I would need to take off for the wedding weekend.  I worked doubles, early mornings, shifts with difficult co-workers I normally avoid.  I did not attend the Intensive Out Patient program, accidentally missed my psychiatrist appointment, was 15 minutes late for weekly counseling, and missed a planned hypnosis session as I was frantically finding shoes in the godforsaken, unyielding mall.

I was playing with fire.

And was burned on Monday.

It was partly due to hanging out with my sister, and her new sister-in-law to be on Sunday.  Her sister-in-law is a medical student, about to marry an engineer, with two dogs, and is about five years younger than me.   They spent much of the time talking about their mutual wedding planning, about social SNAFUs that the guests had committed, about ways of disciplining their dogs, and about financial planning apps they use to plan their vacations, honeymoons, car repairs, eating out funds.

And I felt alienated as fuck.

I felt a sense of tremendous inadequacy: too poor to have a dog, living paycheck to meager paycheck, the mood and anxiety disorder robbing me of the dream of being a doctor years ago.  I also felt, very strongly, that though I was standing right next to my sister, that I was miles and miles away from her.  Separated by very different lives, values, pasts, personalities. A chasm of unbridgeable distance growing ever wider, rubble of the jagged edges falling into the abyss with each choice, each step we took.

And though I could still see the face of the girl who was once my best friend, the girl I taught to bike, to swim, who played endless games of beanie babies, “dysfunctional” house, rich girl, poor girl, the girl who baked endless batches of cookies with me, who served as my de facto therapist, who introduced me to my first boyfriend, her spirit was gone.

In its place was a young woman about to get married.  A young woman who wished to have, and had, more in common with her future sister-in-law, than with the awkward older sister of her youth.  It felt like a rejection.  I was being replaced by a better, more functional, more mainstream model.

And with this, came a gigantic sense of unfairness.  I do not wish harm upon my sister, but watching her become the bride she always wanted to be, in the wedding she always wanted, living a comfortable middle class life, living out her dreams, made me very angry.

I guess it’s because I have had to give up on so many of my dreams.  Because there have been so many overwhelmingly bad memories, and, you know what, I am pissed that I ended up with the three diagnosable mental illnesses, the introverted,  demeanor, the years of bullying, the highly sensitive nature, the low self-esteem, and all the bullshit that came as a result of that.

And she never has had to experience ANY of that.

She once said to me, “I don’t think we would have been friends if we weren’t sisters.”

I know it’s not all Bipolar’s fault. I know there are conscious choices I have made that separate us, and that I am not less than her.  It just feels that way because society’s predominant ideology places her on a higher rung than me, and it’s hard not to sense that.

Oh well, all I can do is accept the person I am, the diagnoses I have, take what self-determination I have, and go from there.

I can’t be jealous of her forever.

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A tale of Vermont

I went to Vermont for a good friend’s wedding this weekend.

I met her while working for jetBlue in Burlington, and she is, without a doubt, the most unerringly optimistic, enthusiastic, energetic person I have ever met.  She is never haughty, always accepting, and I literally have only seen her have a bad day once, and even then, through her tears, she remained vivacious and thoughtful.  I think it is this quality of hers that enures her to me.  I could resent her natural sunshine.  I could find her peppiness grating.  But I do not, because she is so very kind. And she sees the world as full of possibility just waiting to be explored.  Maps, painting, flowers, complicated math analysis, she delights in it all.  And she drives an hour to work every day.  And she could hate that, but she does not.  She uses it as an opportunity to listen to audiobooks.

I had another co-worker there who thought this was a facade.  That she does her best to ignore the negativity in the world, and is much like a ostrich in the sand.

But I do not think that this is true.  For she understands the pain that exists.  She acknowledges it, deals with it, but, importantly, does not dwell.   She takes action.

I saw another, friend – it took me a minute to write that, it seems like the wrong word – who I met when I was so sick with depression in the spring of 2013.  She was a peer support counselor, and I turned to her, and she offered me a place to stay when I couldn’t conceive of interviewing for rooms or roommates.

It lasted two weeks.

I was brittle with sensitivity from the depression and the concurrent implosion of my relationship.  I had left him, while attending a Partial Hospitalization Program, when he came back to his apartment, drunk, and cornered me against a wall, screaming that I was the “worst fucking thing that ever happened to him” and that “I had given up.”  I escaped, but just barely.

I crawled to “Jane” and she gave me respite.  But a week later, she got a distressing call from the state, and started howling and screaming, grabbed her therapy dog, and I became terrified and fled.  It was too much for me to handle.

So, she said she her house had to be a place where she could freely express her emotions, as a trauma survivor, and what happened barely scratched the surface of the depth of pain she needed to let out, and I knew that I had to leave.

I saw her for the first time since I left with my parents to return to CT.

And we talked as peers, and caught up on the gory details of the psychiatric system, and our respective experiences in it, and that, as always, was cathartic and relieving.  To talk about the stigmatized, not so palatable details of life, freely.

But she said something that stuck with me.  She said, as a trauma survivor, she simply “cannot trust anyone.”

And that is, crucially, the difference between her and Linda.

Because I gave birth to Finn, and was lying in the hospital bed after handing him to his adoptive parents, and Linda came in and french braided my hair with flowers and did my nails.

Because when a family friend committed suicide, Linda called me up to get an understanding, and had me talk to her much younger brother, and then moved on.

But Jane does not move on.  She stays.  She is stuck in her assault.  And the people that have wronged her have come to define humanity for her, to define her life.  How can she trust anyone, when her trust has been violated?

And to that Linda, my shoulder bird of pragmatic cheer, would say.  Not everyone will.  You can’t give up on the whole world because some people are sociopaths.

Except Linda likely would not say that word sociopath.

But you can’t.  You can’t stop trying because you were rejected or had a bad experience.  I have Eric, I took a chance because I believed that not all men were Jarett, and it has brought me so much happiness.

“I am not what happened to me, but what I choose to become.”

I choose to survive, to thrive, to not be trapped in the past.  It is a choice I have to remind myself to make almost every day.

But it’s worth it.

Linda says so.

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I restart.

I went back to work this week.

Granted, it was only for three days and it was still at the, mostly, mind-numbingly boring job that I have held for the past year and a half.   But still, it’s a start.

I handled it.  It even quickly became rote and underwhelming.  I reminded myself over and over again that here is where I am, that this is okay, that I am a week and a half out of the hospital and it is progress to put myself out there, leave the confines of the house, and rejoin the working forces.

Even if the working forces I presently belong to are underpaid, poorly run, and filled with people whose dreams have stultified.

There are a few: the managers who balance going to school full time with running the store; the young woman who worked and went to school, on off semesters, and finally graduated this past December and is now employed by Yale’s cell biology department; the bakers who followed there dreams to pastry school and landed in the small store on Whalley Avenue in Westville.

I suppose I feel that way because my dreams have been deferred.  And, I frankly, do not know what to do about that.  The therapist, and doctor, and other attendees of the Intensive Out Patient Program, all recommend measured restraint in this.  To go back to work part time, to not rush back into a life that could have a modicum of stress.  Even Susan, said school was far off in the distance.

But, I want it now.  I want to have forward momentum again.  I want to feel as if I have a direction.   It has felt for too long as if I am a rootless seedling, being thrust about in the wind, reactive to the world about me, a victim to its impulses and vicissitudes, but mostly hanging there, in the doldrums of suspended animation, waiting for the next whisper to thrust me along.  Never going far, just spinning and spinning, directionless.

It has felt that way since the first medical leave from college, which was forced on me, and when I must have began to feel, again as I felt when they dismissed me from private school, when home was uncontrolled chaos, and at the height of the ostracization of the bullying, as if my power was being drained from the pores of my body.

There have been interruptions to that: when I began college again at UVM, when I was accepted into the neurobiology lab, when I finally left the toxic relationship, when I met Eric.

But still, the specter of relapse hangs over me.  What can I handle?  What will break me?  If I do this will I end up in the locked ward again?  How do I find my power again when so much has left me to feel disempowered?  When I have, in truth, allowed circumstances: my biology, my partner, poverty to rob me of self-determination. No one, or no thing, can make you feel inferior without your consent.

I suppose it will be slow ride back to that.  A force of will to regain my power.  To advocate for myself.   Maybe I will just have to fake it for a while.  Feel powerful and self-sufficient and capable, even when I do not, when I do not trust my own brain. When my job consists of submissiveness and pandering.

Maybe I can own the submission, BDSM style.  Maybe I can set reasonable goals and actually follow through on them.

Reasonable, what is reasonable anyway?

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It’s aliiiiive

I feel alive.

I feel empowered.

I feel like things are possible.

I feel like the life I lead is not easily captured in a five second introduction.

I went out today.

I listened to music, and poetry, and rapping, and, people being vulnerable, above all, a supportive community and I was swept up in the love, freedom, joy of it.

I danced.  DANCED.  For the first time in months.

I sang in my car on the way home.  For the first time in months.

I mingled, and the first words out of my mouth were not my diagnosis.

I felt, really felt, like there could be more to life than dullness and recovery and me sitting on a couch watching Netflix.

I needed this, as much as I need lamictal and sleep and oxygen.

Not to diminish Eric, but there has developed a sort of patient-caregiver dynamic between the two of us.  And, I know he means well, but I need to break free of that patient role.  To be, for a few hours, not remotely my illness, but a person, adrift in a sea of other people, anonymous and spontaneous.

To be a human with possibility and the ability to achieve her goals, and to have no one, not least herself, tell her no.

FINALLY.

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Here we go to the hospital. The thoughts did chase the brain.

It is challenging for me to write, because I am embarrassed.   I was in the hospital again.  I started having obsessive, intrusive thoughts that Eric was going to throw me out of the house, didn’t care, that the people in the world I inhabited were sick of me, that I was sick of me and the endless torment of these recurrences and it would be a blessing to everybody involved if I were to remove myself from this earth.  So, I started not sleeping and having dark fantasies about saws and ragged cuts to my aorta, and they wouldn’t leave my brain.  They swirled and swirled, and I became anxious and small, cowering in a small corner while the monster of obsessive suicidal ideation towered over me, ravaging my brain, turning everyday objects into weapons, robbing me of coherent thought.

I formulated the plan.

Then, I went to my therapy appointment, because it was scheduled, and I was nervous if I cancelled it they would throw me out of the clinic – and I and others fought so hard to get me back there – and maybe a small part of my brain wanted help.

So, I went to the clinic, becoming terribly lost on my way there due to the closing of the road, and my distracted mind, but I made it. And she could tell something was up.

Granted, it’s not difficult to tell that something is wrong with me.  When I do not sleep and become tormented by suicidal thoughts, it shows.  Ragged outward appearance, swollen face, eyes crazed from the battle surging within, withdrawn affect.  I divulged what was happening, maybe because I was too exhausted to lie, and, well, we all knows what happens from there.

She tried to draw up a safety contract with me, something that would ensure my safety – a baby-sitter who would make sure that I would not go anywhere near the implements of death, but I would not pin that on anyone.  Not fair to Eric, my parents, my friends, to have to sacrifice their lives to watch me.

And, anyway, that did not go so well the last time I tried that, with my dad.  I escaped and desperately tried to stab myself through the heart with a knife before the police found me.

So, I was given a decision to go to the hospital, involuntarily or voluntarily – my choice, but not really a choice – and I relented.  Involuntary hospitalizations take away your autonomy, and I was exhausted.  I was, in some way, angry at myself.  I should have lied, I told myself.  I shouldn’t have come.  I always end up in the hospital when I go to these damn therapists.  Why won’t they just leave me alone?  Let me fight, and if I fail, so be it?  I fucked up enough as it is – what difference does it make if one more impoverished, mentally ill, traumatized woman dies?

But Eric would care, a small voice said, and your family, and your friends.

They strapped me to a gurney, and took me away.  Ninth hospitalization.

I did a lot of cognitive behavioral therapy while I was there.  Journaling every negative thought I had, and then writing its counter down.  Filling pages of the requisite notepad with affirmations and helpful, truthful thoughts.

The second day I was there, I was totally besieged by obsessive thoughts and consequent physical anxious restlessness.  I was terrified of my mind, of the images that were being crafted by an insidious artist in my amygdala, of the dark, unresolved memories of abuse, bullying, dissociation, iatrogenic hallucinations.  So, they gave me benadryl and increased my anti-depressant, and sent me to my room with a stress ball and word puzzles.  I destroyed the stress ball with the force of my squeezing it, but the puzzles seemed to help distract my brain, even if I was shaking so bad that the lines of the word searches were more like squiggles.

Eric came nearly every day.  I made him promise not to tell my family, but they called him frantically when I did not pick up my phone, and finally figured it out.  I feel bad for that.  I put him in a difficult place, but I genuinely felt that I was protecting my family by not telling them about the hospitalization.  I wanted them to think I was doing okay, thriving even.  My ego comes again.

I was there about a week, three days less than the previous hospitalization, so progress (?)  When I was leaving, one of the nurses admonished me to “stay out of the hospital, and stay alive!”  For some reason, that has stuck with me. Even this night nurse, who barely knows me from Job, cared if I was still walking the earth, interacting with the community, living my life.

And so I’m on the outside.  Free to drive, to work, to hang out with friends, to cuddle with Eric, to celebrate mother’s day, to write this, to plan my sister’s bridal shower, to garden, to try to meditate, to go outside when I wish, to not have to deal with a severely borderline patient screaming and swearing at the nurses outside my door.  Small victories.

Now, if I could only forgive myself for this.  That would be a blessing beyond description.

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I had forgotten about this

Wow.  18 months later and I was about to log onto WordPress to create a new blog, when lo and behold, this one appeared.  I had forgotten I had written it.  I guess it was tossed to the refuse of all the shrapnel papers, half completed journals, and now perfunctory blogs that I have kept in an, often futile, way of making sense of my life.

I ended up in the hospital again.

A year and change at work, and winter was rearing its melancholic inducing force.  I had met up with a new medication prescriber, and described to her the increasing dysthmia I was experiencing.  How it was getting harder to motivate; how I felt slow, sluggish, and torpid;  how it seemed that I was teetering on the edge of a very dark and dangerous precipice.

She responded by changing the medication that had kept me stable.

A reasonable effort, I suppose, but one that my overly sensitive body could not take. I will share the story at another time, when it seems appropriate and I am not exhausted by it’s familiarity and pungency.  All of which to say, I landed in the hospital, twice.  Once for a frightening and rare medical side effect of a new medication dosage.  Once for the bipolar depression.  She took me off several of the medications, and, as night follows day,  a few weeks later I became symptomatic again.  So besieged by suicidal thoughts that I was tearing at the bed, scared to drive, useless at work, the screen blurring as tears broke through the facade and rolled down my cheeks.

So, I landed in a psychiatric hospital.  Eighth time?  But who’s counting?

That was mid March.  This is the end of April.  And after 10 days in lock down, one truly awful stint in Yale’s Intensive Outpatient Program, a bucketful of guilt and anxiety over finances, relationships, my sister’s wedding, and the constant worry: what in god’s name does one DO when one is recovering from depression, and the trauma of an involuntary hospitalization, restraints, and all the other indignities that increase in frequency once one is mentally ill – sleep, mainly – I seem to be recovering.

Today was a good day.

Small victories: driving without nausea and demonic thoughts of hurling myself over the Q Bridge.  Actually making it to an appointment = no cavities!  Walking and even basking a bit in the sunlight. This is a triumph, as a good portion of the last month or so has consisted of me staring at the sun’s rays – flickering, taunting, distorted through the window – as I sat paralyzed on the couch.  Going to the gym, actually completing 35 minutes of cardio.  Truth be told, I was watching Ellen as I rode the elliptical, and felt equal parts detached from the world, and disgusted by my place in it.  Poor, not famous, not even a college graduate, no discernible skill set that would land me on a show such as Ellen.  Repugnant thought stream, I know.  Filled with comparisonitis and “black and white thinking”, but hey at least I’m recognizing it as such.

Also, trying to be kind to myself as way of motivating action, instead of my default – which is to insult and berate myself into action, which kind of works, but has the marked disadvantage of leaving me falling down a self-loathing shame spiral.  Self-compassion. Self-compassion.

(Hold god I am glad for auto-save!!! My computer just restarted itself and I thought that I had LOST this!!  Crimity.)

Back to today’s small victories.  I made myself dinner, it was nothing lavish, and really just required a single pot, but is an improvement over the popcorn, microwaved sweet potatoes, and nothing that I have been eating.  Or the reliance on Eric to cook.  I am guiltily glad that he has been working/sleeping much of the day.  It has given me time to actually accomplish things for myself, which is doing wonders for my self-image.  Even washing the dishes, and journaling, which Eric, and Susan, my therapist, have been hectoring me to do, but I have not out of a combination of obstinance, apathy, and a vague distrust of any method I may have used in the past to slay the dragons of my mind.  But, it’s not JOURNALING’s fault that I slid into depression again; truth be told I stopped keeping a journal/blog/other form of self-referential writing. So, why blame it.

So, today was good.  It’s not over yet.  I may still peruse the Yale job site, and undoubtedly will surf the internet for a time.

Tomorrow begins another day.  New and more dreams to be had.  More tasks to be completed.  A life to keep fighting for.

And so I end, on a preposition.  Of.

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we

 

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and

 

your

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