The Ubiquitous 2016 Wrap-Up / Navel-Gazing New Year’s Post

The ‘net runs rampant with posts about how 2016 is the most terrible year ever to be had. No, not the years of the Bubonic Plague outbreaks. Not the years of the Holocaust. Not the years of Genghis Khan’s hordes. It was 2016: the year we lost certain celebrities, the year of yet more unfortunate film adaptations and remakes, and then the year Trump became President Elect of the United States. Tragic? The latter, for sure. The former happens all the time. It’s called life. Sucks, yeah. Any loss of life is tragic for the individual and his families. But come on. The loss of my dear Leonard Cohen and isn’t enough for me to call 2016 the worst year on record.

Fine, I glossed over the Trump bit. That was intentional. I don’t wanna talk politics, but if you wanna know how I feel about him, specifically – I’ll just say – fuck that guy. And not in a fun – I wanna do you all night long kinda way. But with like a mile long, herpes-infested cucumber-up-the-ass kinda way. That opinion has nothing to do with politics, by the way. (Okay, that’s not 100% true.) But it tends to spring forth from a woman when a man tries to grab her by the pussy because he’s a slimy-ass rich celebrity who thinks he can get away with it, because he can. And is my little STD-ridden cucumber fantasy hypocritical? Yes, I’m aware. That is all.

~

So. That’s the Internet’s 2016. My 2016 was far less focused on celebrities, and actually far less focused on Trump that my little rantlet makes it sound. A couple of Very Important People encouraged me about how well I’d done this past year, not to mention all the encouragement I received here from the WordPress fam. But the thing is, the saying, “I’m my own worst critic” is an adage for a reason. Upon reflection, I’m thinking they were right. It was messy (isn’t life supposed to be?), but I did make progress. Sure I want it to happen faster, cleaner…Right. Fucking. Now. But that’s not how shit goes down. In my typical random fashion, here’s some shit that did go down in my 2016.

Divorce – Yep. Let’s get that one out of the way. Surprised? “Regulars” probably are. Thing is, I was separated for somewhere between 4 and 5 years. But he refused divorce, and I didn’t pursue legal channels to enforce it. So I was stuck. In so many ways, I was stuck. 2016 was the year I finally asserted myself, broke the toxic patterns that had ended our marriage and stood up for myself. It took roughly five years, but it’s now official. Now…one never marries intending for things to go down that way. We’d been a couple since I was fifteen. But if things do go sour (and they did), it’s fucking toxic to be held in limbo for so long. With the support and urging of a couple of very strong and important friends, oh and some strong doses of anxiety meds, I finally asserted myself and ended that limbo.

Therapy – I finally caved and tried therapy, after at least twenty years of decrying it as a scam. I’ve tried talk therapy as well as meds, but with all that I had going on concurrently – in addition to limited financial means – I haven’t found the right combination yet. But. I do intend to try this out again. I’m still taking Lexapro, at least until my refills from Louisiana run out (soon), and I have a handful of Xanax left. But I haven’t been able to afford new doctors yet. Hopefully, I’ll be able to get that sorted soon. So 2016 was the year I finally really began addressing my mental health.

Masturdating and Social Interaction – Along with my therapy, I also pushed myself to move beyond my boundaries. At least a bit. I took myself out to a couple of movies (Deadpool, yeah! And something with Bill Murray, because Bill Murray!). I took myself to a concert. I took myself to a poetry slam (which I haven’t told y’all about!). I took myself to Happy Hour (more than once). And I even took coworkers up on invitations a few times. I mean, this chick drank IN PUBLIC. She did not dance. She did not karaoke. (How many times does she have to say HARD LIMIT for people to get it?) But how she laughed. Oh how she laughed. 2016 was the year Stephanie hid a little less.

Quitting a Toxic – But Solid – Job & Moving Across Country – For the town I lived in, I had it made at my job. Aside from Queen Bitch, that is. But the direction things were moving in the last month or so would have had me in a new department under a brand new director with a brand new title and brand new salary. Yeah. There was no pressure at all at work. They didn’t beg me to stay or make my decision increasingly harder and more panicky each and every day. No. Not a chance. (I hope your sarcasm detectors are on and working.) Point is: Stephanie took shittons of Xanax in the last month and especially in the last two weeks in Louisiana. I met with a brand new therapist on the proverbial eve of my departure, and after an extended session, he agreed with all of my decisions. Except: he disapproved of the job I intended to accept in Oregon. It would have sapped me of my all and left me wrung out and an even greater emotional danger to myself than I already was. In the end, I agreed with him (though I had a tough time with the decision), but that has me still unemployed at the moment. I have made the move, though, and I’ve been in the Greater Portland Area since September. Newsflash: I Fucking Love Oregon. And, as yet, I have no regrets. 2016 was the year I gambled everything, turned my back on “everything I’ve ever known,” and risked staid stability to chase a dream in spite of everyone breathing down my neck what a fool I was. And I’m damn fucking proud I did.

Dispensary – Fucking right. I visited a dispensary for the first time. I’m in Oregon, dudes. What did you expect? So yeah, I got a J and a lollipot. I still have half the j left. (I may have a piss test in my near future. Yeah. Even in Oregon.) And I’m totally having the lolli if I land the job. Or at least part of the lolli, in celebration. Hm. Or maybe the other half of the j. Oh yeah! Pretty sure I’m gonna smoke it up with someone over Skype. I’ll toke over here. He’ll toke over there. It’ll be neato. Except I’ll have to find somewhere to do it, because of my “roommates.” Yeah. Remind me to tell you about them. I’m in a…weird situation. But one I’m grateful for. It’s just…fucking weird and uncomfortable sometimes. A lot of times. Anyway. Yeah. Old Stephanie never would have been brave enough to just stroll into one of those places, even though I’d have smoked whatever my friends brought out of there. I don’t see why people still think it’s such a big fucking deal. I’ve been smoking pot since…11 or so and I turned out. I still wouldn’t have gone in there. 2016 Stephanie? Dispensary-bound!

~

There’s probably more shit. I mean, it was a whole fucking year. But I need to get my shit ready for tomorrow. I don’t have a real job yet, but I do have a little side gig in the afternoons. Tutoring some kids on algebra and science. It’s not much, but at least it’s something for now.

I don’t do resolutions, so I ain’t making promises about writing. But when I come back, I’ll maybe tell ya about Oregon stuff. Oh! Oh! And I’ll leave you with a lovely piccy taken right here in Oregon, this very day.

img_1361
Accidental Penis: A Counter Stain

A Glimmer of Hope

That’s all you need. Just a glimmer. A hint of a glimmer, even. That’s all. It doesn’t take much. All you’re looking for is one tiny hint of a glimmer…

To survive.

Life isn’t easy. Heh. What a fucking understatement. Life is a pain in the ass, that’s what. Especially when you’re an emotional brooder. I am one seriously angsty, existentially pained person. And I’m not the only one. You ponder the same things, don’t you?

Why am I here?
What’s the fucking point?
What is my purpose?
Why fucking bother?
Who am I?
What does it all mean?
What is my place?
Do I have one?
Am I even real?
What does it even mean to be real?

I don’t have answers to any of those questions. Sometimes I wish I could stop seeking them. But I also don’t wish to cease the quest. Because questing is part of the answer of “Who am I?” I’m a woman on a quest. A tiny speck in the Cosmos on my own personal quest for meaning and purpose. And when it isn’t breaking me down and crushing my lungs, it’s thrilling, exciting. The search, the quest…when I stop asking questions; when I stop searching for meaning and purpose and truth and beauty; then I cease to exist.

I just wish…that I could stop turning suicidal when I cannot find satisfactory answers to the questions that haunt me. Drive me. Push me. Tear at me. Claw at me.

I feel incomplete. And since I know not how to become complete, I devolve into a mass of emotional futility. I begin feeling that I wish I could simply cease to exist. For if there is no purpose for me, for my existence, then it should be extinguished.

But I know. I know that is the depression talking. The downswing of bipolar. What-the-fuck-ever it is. I know that’s what’s doing the talking in those dark hours of my soul.

And that’s what’s talking to you. When you feel like you can’t go another step. Take another breath. Eke out another heartbeat. That’s what’s talking: your depression.

Maybe the people in your life who were supposed to build you up and love you failed in their responsibilities to you. Maybe they taught you that you’re worthless. Useless. A no-account failure.

Maybe you made mistakes in your past, and you’ve never forgiven yourself for them. Even as everyone else around you has forgotten or moved on. Or perhaps their punishments far outweigh your crimes.

Maybe you’re all alone. Or you think you are. But guess what? If you’re here, reading this right now, you aren’t alone. Not entirely.

Listen, I’m no therapist. I certainly don’t have the answers. I’m a mess my damn self. Anyone who’s been around here a while knows that to be true. I’m a work in progress, and I always will be.

But there’s something I do know for sure: if you don’t grasp those tiny glimmers of hope, then you’re in big trouble. No one can grasp them for you. You have to reach out and grasp them on your own.

But we can show you. We can show each other. We can point each other toward the glimmers. Toward the “light.” Toward survival. Toward life.

I don’t have much. Disregarding all the first-world bullshit, I don’t have much in the way of what I think makes a complete life. But you know what? I have to recognize that part of that is my misconception of what makes a complete life. There is no one right way to live your life.

I feel alone. Completely and utterly alone. And you know what? That’s fucked up. Because I have you awesome people here. All I have to do is show the fuck up, and people come and say hi and talk to me and to each other. That’s it. No one can force me to be here. I have to do that part myself. But people point me toward this glimmer. One amazing friend in particular hassles me to show up and write. Hassle hassle hassle. And you know something? When I do, I feel better. Every. Fucking. Time. And I feel less alone.

I still go to bed alone. I still don’t get hugs and affection. I still don’t have someone to sit beside me and play video games with, or read and dissect the same literature with, or tickle each other until we nearly piss our pants.

But I’m not completely alone. And to say so would be a slap in the face to you wonderful people here. This is something I have to remind myself of daily.

I feel worthless. Pointless. Useless. I really do. It hurts, and I’m crying even typing this all out. But then I get reminded sometimes that I do have worth, even if I don’t think I do or I don’t think it’s enough. Because sometimes someone shows up here and says my words touched them. Or they understand how I feel and are glad to know they aren’t alone. And I know that feeling well. I’ve visited some of you and read your words, and I think to myself…I wish this person wasn’t going through that but fucking hell it makes me feel such a sense of relief to know I’m not alone in this. It’s not just me. I’m not some fucked up anomaly.

Maybe you feel trapped and hopeless, like you’re stuck in your current situation with no way out. Or you don’t even know what you want or how to get there. I’ve been there. I know that feeling, too.

I feel like this is all very rambly, but I’m pretty much freewriting right now. Because I had a conversation today, with one of the most important people in the world to me. And he said he was tired. Tired of life. Tired of it all. Just. Fucking. Tired. And didn’t feel there was any reason to go on anymore. And I said, you have to dig deep and discover what those things are that make you want to keep trudging forward. He said he doesn’t want to trudge. I wish I could do it for him. I wish I could do it for all of you. But all I can do is share my experiences and try to give you a glimmer of hope. And I hope with all my soul that you reach for it.

Each and every day, I tell myself: find one thing. Just one thing. And let that one thing be your one reason to get out of bed today. To keep on keeping on. Everyone can find one thing. Just. One. Thing. I got that from this beautiful post that I used to read every single day. Now I read it once or twice a month or as needed to remind myself. Please. Please read it. It’s important for those of you who struggle with me. Or if you know someone who does, maybe this will help them as it helped me. Hell it saved me. I found it because I was googling suicide. I think I googled something like, “give me one good fucking reason I shouldn’t kill myself right now.” And that showed up. And I’m still here.

Let me tell you the sorts of things I cling to, some “big” and some “small.” I put those in quotes, because anything that keeps you going is a Big Fucking Deal.

The things I “trudge on” for:

  • You. Yes, you. The one reading this right now. The community here on WordPress.
  • My friends. I actually have friends now, thanks to this space. And you mean the world to me.
  • The smell of freshly cut grass. Oh I love that smell.
  • All sorts of smells: rain, ocean, sweat, flowers, pot, clean skin, mountain air, pine…
  • The feel of rain on my face.
  • Mountain breezes and cold glacial air.
  • The crunch of autumn leaves underfoot.
  • Thick, dank forest air and the clean sweat from humidity.
  • Laughter, pure and uninhibited.
  • A purring feline nestled against me.
  • Books and words and thoughts and challenged perspectives.
  • Popsicles on 105 degree August days.
  • The new Deftones album I’ve yet to listen to.
  • I want to thru-hike the PCT.
  • I want to jump out of an airplane.
  • I want to sit on the steps of Montmatre.
  • I want to walk the cobblestone streets of Prague.
  • I want to kayak Class IV and V rapids.
  • I want to fix up an old sailboat myself, learn to sail and take that bitch for an epic excursion.

There are so many reasons, y’all. And all you need is one. One reason. One little reason for each day. Maybe it’s the same reason over and over. Maybe it’s something small. Maybe it’s something grand. But all you need is one. And I know good and damn well everyone has at least one.

Find it. Ask yourself what you live for. What your simple and grand joys and visions are. Find them. And then reach out. Reach out for those glimmers of hope. And once you’ve found them and reached for them, pursue them. I will never kayak Class V rapids, until I learn how to control my kayak in Class II and III rapids and overcome my fear of great depths in water. I will never accomplish that sitting on my ass or crying in bed all weekend.

Life is a bitch sometimes. It’s just a point of fact. It would be so easy to pull a trigger and end it all. So. Fucking. Easy. But you’re still here reading, because you’re looking for a reason not to.

Know this: the only thing that 100 percent CANNOT be changed or undone is death. Everything is in your power to change or improve upon. Except your death. You cannot change that. You cannot undo it. You cannot try again. You cannot start over. And you will never get that first kiss. You will never climb that mountain. You will never see that open air opera in Rome. You will never land your dream job. You will never learn how to bake that cake. You will never have that cottage near the forest. If you pull the trigger.

Depression is strong and deceptive. You have to fight it. Fight for your life. The glimmers of hope aren’t going to track you down and save you. You have to extend your hand. Reach for them. Then tomorrow, you can get up and take one step forward. And another step the day after.

And before you know it, you’re no longer surviving.

You’re living.

The One Where I Feel Like Crap on a Cracker and Don’t Know What to Write so I Ramble about Sad-Sack Shit

I wanna write something here. I really do. I have a real craving to sit down and blog. But nothing is coming to me. Nothing. I’m also having trouble reading, focusing on words and keeping them in memory long enough to properly process what I’ve read. And that’s upsetting, because I deeply value what I’ve found here: the solace and camaraderie of this community are pretty fucking epic. I can only hope that this shithouse feeling will pass.

sad sack
Look at the little sack. Just fucking sitting there. Being sad. What a sad sack.

In the meantime, I’m gonna update you on mental health mumbo jumbo. (Dudes, I’m totally gonna belittle it and use words like “crazy.” Trust me when I say I know how deeply important it is to monitor and treat mental health issues. But I tend toward self-deprecation. Hell everything-deprecation. So yeah.) (I’m also in a kind of grrrr mood. Should I have led with that? I should have led with that.) (Wait, I kinda did with the title, huh?) (I mean, that whole “sad-sack” thing was kind of a dead giveaway.) (Please disregard these parentheticals.) (Someone come here and make me stop it.)

I grow weary of talking about depressing shit (I mean, depression is pretty fucking depressing, don’t ya think?) (And who wants to talk about that shit all the time? I sure as fuck don’t.). But right now, it’s what I’ve got: a big fat steaming pile of depressing shit. So I’m gonna update you and maybe (hopefully) get some of this worked outta my system. Where to begin, though? I guess there’s only one place to begin.

She’s the One They Call Dr. Feelgood

I followed through on the psychiatry appointment on December 21. And then she made me see her again on December 28. And now I have to see her again this Saturday, January 9.

The first appointment went a little something like this:

I show up fifteen minutes early, because that’s how I do.

Dr. Feelgood shows up forty-five minutes later (a half hour late to her own fucking practice hours).

Meanwhile, I suffer and ponder murder and pyromania, my rage significantly exacerbated by the concert-volume country music pumping through the speakers. “It has to be that loud sugar. How else’s people gon’ not hear each other’s sessions? This here’s a small office,” explained Rodeo Rhonda, chain-smoking, Wrangler-clad secretary extraordinaire. (It was clear whose turn it was to select the radio station that afternoon.)

I shared the waiting room with a fellow crazy person, who made me wonder what the fuck I was doing there. That crazy motherfucker changed seats at least once every five minutes, all the while yammering on ninety to nothin’ about how this bitch better not dare take him off his drugs. “I will turn that bitch’s desk over! I will throw a fit until she agrees that I know more about panic disorder than she does! She won’t take away my disability!” (This was his first session (with Dr. Feelgood), too, by the way. I don’t know much about panic disorder, but I’m pretty sure the dude was at least verging on panic – except he was super smiley and laughy. He was also pretty fucking nosy – he kept sticking his head to the wall and shushing me while he eavesdropped on Rodeo Rhonda and her conversations with the other patients trickling in. Also. He diagnosed me as Bipolar 1, since I was nervous and couldn’t stop bouncing my leg and fidgeting. He declared me manic and told me what drugs to ask for. (Don’t worry. I didn’t lend that any credence.))

After two other patients had been called into see Dr. Feelgood before either of us, Panicky Pete had a moment of clarity. “Hey! What time was your appointment for?!” “Mine was supposed to be 4:00,” I returned. He started laughing and (literally) smacked himself in the forehead. “Lemme guess, yours was for 4:00 as well?” Yep. Turns out, not only were both of us scheduled for 4:00, but so were the two people who ended up being seen ahead of us. They were established patients – and they get seen first, no matter who shows up first or what your appointment time was. Nice, right?

She was pretty quick with them, and then spent a good half hour with a drug rep. I was pretty fucking wound up by this point. And none too keen on the woman in whose hands I was about to place my mental health. (I will add here, about Panicky Pete, that I’m thankful for him. I would not have waited an hour and a half had he not kept me occupied and chatted-up. My anxiety was fierce enough to propel me right out the front door, that is until he started talking to me.)

After a solid hour and a half wait, it was my turn.

I didn’t get to say a lot – well, that’s not exactly true. Uhm. I didn’t get to do much free-talking. She had her forms and checklists, and she asked lots of questions. In my replies to her, I was essentially able to share everything I’d hoped to be able to share with a counselor (except the self-harm – I just reread that post, and that’s the one thing I see that didn’t get mention).

I had to fight her a lot harder than the counselor, to keep from being hospitalized. But I prevailed. And she finished a forty-five minute session with diagnoses. And drugs. I’m not sure how I feel about any of it.

The Diagnoses: Bipolar II, Major Depressive Disorder, Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and Generalized Anxiety Disorder.

The Drugs: Lamictal, Lexapro, Lithium, Vistaril and Clonidine. Oh and over-the-counter Vitamin D3 5000 IU.

Yeah. That’s a fuckton of drugs, yo. A fuckton. And, as I said, I’m not sure how I feel about any of it. But to keep my ass from being admitted to a psych ward, I had to agree to take the drugs.

I took the drugs.

anxiety

The second appointment went a little something like this:

Dr. Feelgood asked whether I was feeling better. I informed her that I was not. And that I was actually even more tired than before, and still depressed and crying and magnetized to my bed.

Dr. Feelgood says, “hmmmm.”

I informed her as well that I was having major sleep disturbances, same as I had when I was on Cymbalta. I wake up all throughout the night, sometimes hourly, sometimes with difficulty falling back asleep.

Dr. Feelgood says, “hmmmm” and ups the Clonidine and writes new prescriptions for two more weeks of the drugs.

No mentions are made of hospitalization this time, and she says she can wait two weeks to see me this time, instead of one. But y’all, I can’t fucking afford to keep this up. Not only the cost of Dr. Feelgood’s appointments, but also the fucking lab work that she says I’ll have to regularly submit to for monitoring Lithium levels.

The third appointment is this Saturday. In the meantime, I still feel like shit. In some ways, I feel a lot fucking worse.

Drugged-Up Stephanie Feels Drugged-Up (Surprise Surfuckingprise.)

drugged up pikachu

Bitchplaint #1 (I couldn’t decide between bitching and complaining. Hence bitchplaint.) Anyway, Bitchplaint #1: Lithium. I didn’t wanna take Lithium. I still don’t wanna take Lithium. I don’t think I need Lithium. I’ve never. EVER. Had full-blown mania. Seriously. NEVER. And I told her that. Now I realize that Lithium can be used to treat more than Bipolar I, but I still don’t think I need it.

Bitchplaint #2: My hand is shaking. A lot. Like, I dropped a glass of water in the kitchenette at work yesterday, because my hand jerked.

Bitchplaint #3: I haven’t had a full night of sleep since December 21. And I’m sick to death of waking up multiple times a night.

Bitchplaint #4: I’m fucking tired. And not just tired from lack of sleep, but lethargic. I could pass out at my desk. Right. Now. And in the rare moments when I feel well-rested (snort…that’s funny), I just feel this general lethargy and malaise. Kinda goes hand in hand with giving even less of a fuck about anything now than before I was drugged.

Bitchplaint #5: I’m dazed and confused (sing it!), and sometimes dizzy. Y’all would not believe how long this is taking me to write.

Bitchplaint #6: I finafuckingly got the edema from arthritis under control. And guess the fuck what – I’m swelling like a motherfucker from something I’m taking. And who knows what, since she threw five drugs at me at once!

Bitchplaint #7: I know you’re supposed to give these things time. But fucking fuck fuck! It’s been like three weeks now. And I still feel like hot buttered shit. Worse, in a lot of ways. When do I get to start feeling better? Or, hell, at least back where I was!

Bitchplaint #8: This probably goes back in with #4. But fuck it, we’re here now. I’m committed to #8. Hi #8. This one is that I’ve cracked maybe half a dozen real smiles or laughter since December 21. Some things have amused me, intellectually. Like, “Hey, this is hilarious. I love this kinda shit.” “P.S. Why the fuck aren’t you laughing? Laugh! LAUGH!” Nope. Not happening. And that is perhaps the most unbearable one of all.

Between now and Saturday morning, I’ll come up with some eloquent way of expressing my concerns to Dr. Feelgood. Crossing my fingers she listens.

~

To top it all off, last Thursday (as in: seven days ago, AKA NYE) I was hit with one of the more severe migraines I’ve had in a while. I’ve had daily (not kidding) headaches since I was little. Sometimes they turn into migraines. My father said, “a head like that’s supposed to hurt.” My mother filled me with Tylenol and, when that stopped working, Excedrin Extra-Strength. Daily. Multiple times a day. Fast-forward to now, and I still live like that. Managing headaches. Trying my best not to take BC powders (which I graduated to a few years ago), because I know they’re bad for me. Then ending up in tears at work, so I buckle and take one.

Well, last Thursday I was waylaid with the migraine from hell. And I spent the next four days in bed. The rest of Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday. I took nothing for my head in all that time. I just lay in the dark, crying and thinking decapitation would be an improvement. I had to call in to work on Monday, which I simply do not do. Since it hadn’t abated at all, I went to my doctor. He had his nurse administer two shots (one of which nearly made me faint, for realsies), then prescribed some pills. I don’t even really know what they are, just that they don’t work. Which, I suppose, is all that matters.

So, here I am seven days later, with a headache from hell. It still hasn’t gone away, though it has (somewhat) lessened in severity.

This shit is not improving my mood.

~

So Dr. Feelgood better not give me any lip on Saturday! Because I’ll! I’ll! Crumble.

Maybe tomorrow I’ll tell y’all about the MRI. But only if you behave. Which remains to be seen.

~

This post brought to you by:

Lithium. Say it with me, boys and girls. Lithium! Hooray!

And thecheekyhousewife, who prompted me to dig into my draft and get this bitch done. Because it’s been like a week since I posted! Y’all go check her out. Anyone with a tagline that reads, “Bend Over And Grab Your Ankles, 2016. You’re About To Get Spanked.” is a worthy read indeed!

The Shrinkening Commences

I did it. I went through with the therapy session on Thursday. Reckon it’s past time to update you. But you should know, going in, this is going to be a bitch of a post. Avoid it if you need to.

Have some Portishead for your listening pleasure. This is what I’m listening to while I force myself to get this out.

~

Pre-Game Panic Attack

The appointment was for 1:00 PM on Thursday, so I was at work all morning leading up to it. You’d think that would be a nice distraction, but it wasn’t. Queen Bitch has impeccable timing and went on her worst rampage yet this past week. (I’ll save work for a separate post to try to keep this semi-coherent.) So I don’t know how much of my pre-appointment nausea and vomiting was from therapy anticipation and fear and how much of it was the extreme stress Queen Bitch had me under.

By the time I got myself to the counseling center, I was a bundle of nerves. I smiled at the receptionist and filled out my paperwork. Thankfully, I was alone in the waiting room. I had so much pent up anxiety, I felt I could literally bounce off of the walls…and not in a fun way. Imagine severe chest pain, heart racing, rapid breathing, roiling stomach, my leg bouncing up and down ninety to nothin’, mouth chewing on a hoodie cord, eyes scanning the room for every minute detail, hands twisting and squeezing each other. That was me, pre-therapy Thursday. It took everything I had to stop myself from bolting.

Off to an Anticlimactic Start

The counselor finally fetched me from the waiting room at around 1:05. (Yeah. That pissed me off.) Let’s call her Diane. Tall, blonde, forty-something Diane. At least she’s older than me, I thought. They nearly placed me with someone who graduated this past May. I cringed. Maybe it seems superficial, but it’s far less about age and more about experience.

Anyway. Friendly enough, on the surface. She smiled and shook my hand, led me to her office. While the waiting room makes the building look new(ish), Diane’s office was poorly appointed. Seriously, her chairs and couch had tears in the upholstery. I kind of approved, because I don’t want to be therapized by someone with a mahogany desk and all leather furniture. She said I could sit anywhere – I just took the chair facing her desk. I asked permission to place my wallet and keys on her desk, then shoved my fists in my hoodie pockets and willed myself to not bounce my leg and look around the room like a crazy person.

I began relaxing a bit at this point, because Diane spent the first few minutes filling out paperwork. A differently formatted document with the exact same information I’d already filled out at reception. Full name? Address? Social Security Number? Bust size? (Kidding, she didn’t ask for my social.) (Got you again. Look, it’s a good sign that I’m at least trying to joke, right?) Then she went over their policies and her personal qualifications. Twenty years as a counselor with this same group. Good sign, right?

I’ve been doing this for a long time, okay? And I’ve worked with every age group, but I no longer work with children. I did for many years, but I had to give that up. I work with people like you now. And don’t worry. You’re perfectly normal. You’re definitely not crazy, right? You’re not crazy. You’re just sad. You’re here because you’re sad.

I hope it doesn’t offend you when I use words like “normal” and “crazy”…

And just like fucking that, she’d formed her opinion and diagnosis of me. I walk through the motherfucking door, am able to show up and shake her hand and be calm and civil. And I’m just sad. Nothing more, nothing less. So glad this process was so fucking easy.

Then she grabs her little legal pad and starts in with her own standard list of questions, the answers to which she notes on her pad:

Have you received counseling or psychiatric treatment before? No.

Do you work? Yes, full-time.
What do you do? I sit at a computer all day.
Oh, do you like it? Yes, it’s so much fun.

*chuckles* Relationship status?
Well, it’s like this…
Children? No.

Parents? Married/divorced? Living? Location?
Uhm. Uh. Well. Uhm. See. Well. *breathes* They divorced when I was little. They’re both still alive, last I heard. Uhm. Uhm. I think. Maybe. I think. Maybe. My mom is maybe in town again. My father lives in _____.
I see. And what sort of relationship do you have with them? I don’t. *fidgets*

Siblings? One brother and one sister.


Do you want me to give you more details? I’m not sure how detailed you want my responses.

She then went into this long spiel explaining the two different ways of approaching counseling: starting from the past and working forward or starting in the present and working backward. She said that people usually had a preference, but she doesn’t. She just looked at me, and I just looked back.

All this time, Diane has been looking down at her phone. Look at me, ask a question, look at phone, note my response on the pad, look at phone, look at me, ask a question, look at phone, note my response….forget what she asked me and ask me again. Yeah.

I finally broke the awkward pause with something like:

Well, I’m not in any danger. I mean, if you want me to start by talking about my childhood, I’ll do that. If you’d rather hear about what’s going on right now, I can do that, too. I don’t know what I need or what’s best, really.

On Unprofessionalism and Suicidal Ideation

It was at this point, this crossroads of sorts, where she finally asked me what had led me to be there that day. She had her checklist and wanted to go by rote, and I wanted to know what we were doing and why. So she asked me. What led you here?

I’ve been depressed for years. And while I managed it best I could for a long time, it’s spiraled out of control over the last couple of years. And now…and now…my thoughts have gotten so dark that they scare me.

depressed-person

“Tell me what you mean by ‘dark thoughts.'”

Suicide. I think about suicide every day. And. But. Well. You see, it’s not so much that I want to kill myself. It’s that I don’t wish to be alive anymore. I don’t want to feel this way, but I can’t seem to make it stop.

“I’d call that danger.”

I’m sorry?

“You just told me that you aren’t in any danger. And now you’re telling me you think about suicide every day. Ongoing suicidal ideation is serious danger. Do you really think about it every day? Do you have a plan?

Well, I mean I think stuff. Bad stuff. You know. But I don’t have a plan. Like a specific plan. You know, written down. I don’t have a plan. No. And I would never do it. I would never act on it.

“Then tell me what you think about. Specifically. Tell me exactly what goes through your mind in your so-called dark thoughts. What do your suicidal thoughts look like?”

Well. I mean. Okay. Okay. There’s a gun. In the closet. And. Well. I think about the gun. And I think about…you know… (I’m crying now, talking softly. twisting my hands so much they’re throbbing in pain.)…I think about how it would affect other people. And I don’t want to make it hard on someone who finds me and has to clean up after me. So….so I wouldn’t do it in the house. I’d go outside. To the backyard. And…and I’d do it there. So I wouldn’t make a mess of the house or damage it or make it hard to sell after I’m dead. You know? That’s not really a plan is it? I guess that’s a plan.

But I wouldn’t do it. I’d miss or something and end up disfigured and living in a convalescent home.

She wrote “gun” and “plan” and something else on her pad. “You have a gun in the house?”

Yes.

“What else do you think? Are there other ideas?”

Well. This one. This one’s really bad, and I don’t…I don’t think I should tell you. It’s horrible. (tears are streaming down my face) But. Well. I imagine. You know. I imagine getting in my car. Getting onto the interstate late at night. Driving dangerously fast. Turning my headlights off. Closing my eyes.

But I would never do it. I swear I would never do that, because it would hurt someone else. It just pops into my mind completely unbidden.

“What else? Is there more?”

My arthritis medicine. I get it in three-month quantities. I’ve thought about taking them. All of them. At once. But I know that’s useless. I would just end up with my stomach pumped.

“Stephanie, your name is Stephanie right? Those are plans. Specific plans. And you are in serious danger.”

Somewhere in the middle of all of that, she interrupted me. She had been looking at her cell phone off and on the whole time, and at some point – while having me detail my thoughts on suicide – she interrupted me. Told me to hang on, and then texted her son.

I told her again that these are things I think about, but I’m not choosing to think about it. And I fight so hard not to entertain those thoughts or allow them to linger. But they rise up, unbidden, and I can’t always will them into silence.

On Reasons to Live and Hospitalization

“Everyone has to have a reason to live,” Diane pronounces. “You’ve demonstrated you’re strong and have a will to live. You made the appointment. You drove yourself here today. You kept the appointment. All of this was done of your own free will. Tell me what you live for. Tell me the positive things that you cling to in order to keep going and keep those thoughts at bay.”

I looked at her, my cheeks tear-stained and my eyes clouded, and I said…

I got nothin’

I don’t have family. I don’t have friends. I hate my job. I don’t want to get out of bed in the mornings. I feel sad when I wake that I made it through another night. I got nothin, Diane.

Well. I recently started blogging. And the people I’ve met there, online, are amazing and have offered so much support.

And. And. (crying and practically whispering) I have this…this vague hope that just won’t die. This vague hope that maybe, just maybe there’s a brighter future for me. A happy ending.

She scribbles “internet” on her little Stephanie page and says, “I’m talking about real life here.”

Church? No.
Social club? Like a book club? No.
Bars? No.
Professional memberships? No.
Work friends? No.
Family contact or support? No.
Really? Nothing? Nothing.

She spent the rest of the time between trying to convince me to be hospitalized (she lacks the authority to have me admitted without my consent) and defining “thoughts,” “feelings” and “behaviors” to me. Like I’m a fucking child and don’t know the fucking difference.

Again she told me I’m only sad, and there’s nothing deeply wrong with me. “You’re not crazy; don’t worry.” I tried to tell her there’s a lot more to it. I told her that sometimes I have wild mood swings and get very hyperactive, sometimes happy hyperactive and sometimes angry hyperactive. She said, “Oh, everyone does that. You’re not one of the crazies or you wouldn’t be here today.”

She really wanted me to consent to hospitalization. She said she’d take me in her car, right then and there. She said that no matter how hard people fight their thoughts, that if they’re persistent and ongoing for as long as mine have been, eventually everyone follows through.

Thoughts. Feelings. Behavior. “It is unavoidable. Eventually those thoughts and feelings result in acting out in a behavior. You can’t escape it. It’s ingrained. It is inevitable.”

But I stood my ground. In order to keep her from calling a psychiatrist and having them admit me against my will, I had to agree to some things:

  1. Get rid of the gun. Or lock it up and give someone else the key.
  2. Email her Thursday night telling her I had done so.
  3. Show up for an appointment next Wednesday at noon.
  4. Get a notebook and log my feelings. Like a motherfucking four year old. I can tell her my feelings. I know my feelings. I know my thoughts. And I know my behaviors. Stupid fucking shit.

As yet, I haven’t done any of those things. Though I have made a note in my phone, which I open occasionally and add a time and feeling to.

On Medication

She also told me that medication is unnecessary. That too many people are medicated, and it usually gives you brain damage. “You don’t need medication, because you aren’t crazy. Crazy people have brain damage. That’s what it is! It’s brain damage! But you don’t need it, because you’re normal.”

But. “Seeing as you’re suicidal, medication may not be a bad idea to get your moods regulated. Then during talk therapy, I’ll teach you TFB through CBT and you’ll get right off that crazy person medicine.”

I told her I have an appointment with a psychiatrist on December 21. She was shocked, saying it takes months to get in with one. But my insurance company found one for me. Apparently she’s only going to diagnose and medicate, though. So I don’t know how I feel about it. I’ll at least keep the appointment, though.

Final Thoughts

Diane is crap. She laser focused on one thing and refused to hear anything else about me. And her plan is bullshit and so was her motherfucking brain diagram she scribbled to show me that I’m behaving like an animal on instinct rather than a rational human being. But I know I need help, and if being accountable to that nonsense-spewing unprofessional moron helps me even a small  amount? Then it’s worth it. For now.

I just rambled a buncha shit, y’all, and probably forgot most of it. But I just couldn’t muster up the strength to write sooner. To those of you whom I’ve worried, please accept my sincerest apologies. I’ve had an absolute week from hell, and I’ve pretty much been in bed since I got off of work yesterday. I’ll do my best to catch up on emails and things soon. I miss reading y’all, too!

I’ll be back on the upswing soon, you’ll see. (I believe that. I have to.) Maybe a music party tomorrow or somethin’, hey?

Thank you all so much for your thoughtful messages and support. As always, you’re the bestest.

 

 

Prelude to a Shrunken Head, AKA Stephanie Prepares to be Therapized

P.S. I’m pissed that “therapized” is actually a word. Seriously, I googled “therapize,” and that fucker exists! I was so proud of making it up! Google defines it as “subject to psychological therapy” which is exactly what I meant by it!

Hmph. That’s a buncha bullshit right there. Anyway, yes I totally started this post with a postscript. Deal with it.

So, as you’ve probably guessed by now, this post is about the time I made a class of third graders write haiku about pickles. Except it’s totally not about that. Didn’t you even read the fucking postscript?

I’ve been considering therapy for a long time. I’m talkin’ years. But over the last year or so, my mind has gotten so dark that it frightens me. It’s time. It’s past time that I seek help.

The phone calls were hard to make. But I got help and was also told where to go if I need urgent care. I have an appointment for next Thursday, a week from today. And…and I’m proud of myself and also freaking right the fuck out. I need to get some things off of my chest, because I still can’t think straight. I can’t think of any funny anecdotes to share or anyone to slam in a humorous way. So I need to purge some darkness. Here goes.

~

MEMO

To:          Therapist
From:    Basketcasephanie
Date:     I don’t think that’s allowed between us, but thanks.
RE:         Things I wish you knew but will never be able to tell you in forty-five minutes.

MESSAGE

Trust – I don’t trust you. I’ve never met you, and I don’t trust you. You’re a woman, first off. And I’ve never not had my trust betrayed by a woman. I know you’re a therapist, and you have rules and blah blah blah. But you’re also human. And I don’t trust humans. Especially female ones. I know there are some great ones out there. I know. But I’m scared to open up to you, and I wish you knew that. I don’t want to spill my guts to you, only to find you either can’t help me or are dismissive of me. And I will live with the fear that you’ll tell all of my secrets. I don’t think you can help me. I think you’re a waste of my time and money. But as a dear soul recently said to me, I know what I’ve got right now. And it’s not working. So why not give something else a shot? So I’m giving you a shot. Please don’t break my trust and abandon me like everyone else has.

Please prove me wrong about you.

Lost and Afraid – I don’t know how to do this. I don’t know how to do therapy, and I don’t know how to do life anymore. I’m afraid if you can’t help me, no one can. I did go to therapy once. I was a child, and in some set of circumstances (the details of which I’m not privy to), my mother was required to take me to therapy. She took me and my sister to a counseling center for battered and abused women and children. I know we went several times. I remember the dark wood staircase and banister. The narrow foyer. The closed doors and hushed voices. I remember shaking and being afraid to speak.

I had to do Rorschach tests – I had to do a lot of those. They asked me a lot of strange questions. But the last thing I remember about that place is when they required us to draw pictures of our family life, specifically anything that upset or worried us. My sister drew this simple, common little family picture. A house in the background and a line of stick figures holding hands. I remember backing into a corner, going mute and refusing to move. I had this mixed feeling of fear that I would be punished for disobeying and fear of the consequences of drawing what was in my head. So I shook and stayed quiet and fought the urge to pee on myself. That’s the last time I remember going.

I’m scared you’re going to make me open up wounds for you to stare at and leave them to fester and rot. You’re going to ask me to draw mental pictures for you, then you’re going to send me on my way with a bandaid and an invoice. But I don’t know how to do life anymore, so here I am.

I’m still that scared little girl, cowering in the corner and trying not to piss her pants. I will have a panic attack in your office. I’m going to shake and sob and choke and dry heave.

Please help me.

Depression – You should know I’ve been depressed for so long that I don’t remember what it’s like to be free from it. You should know that I’m severely depressed. I have suicidal ideation, and the imaginings in my head are specific, planned and visual. You should know that I have no support system in my daily life, so I’ve reached out to people online. The loneliness I feel has seeped into the marrow of my bones, spread itself out and taken over my body and my mind. It’s rooted there, and I don’t think I’ll ever be free of it.

You should know that I hate myself, and I expect you to hate me, too. You should know that sometimes, when people talk to me, instead of listening, I’m smiling on the outside but screaming “FUCKYOU FUCKYOU FUCKYOU FUCKYOU SHUTTHEFUCKUP LEAVEMEALONE” over and over in my head. This will happen when you talk to me, too. Another reason that I don’t think this talk therapy bullshit is going to work.

I’m unhappy with myself. I’m unhappy with my job. I’m unhappy with my past. I’m unhappy with my present. I’m unhappy with my stagnation. I don’t want to get out of bed in the mornings. I sleep all weekend to escape the maddening loneliness and the dark thoughts. I don’t take care of myself. My house is a wreck, my clothes are wrinkled, my hair stays in a messy ponytail, and I don’t give a fuck. I don’t give a fuck about you or anyone else or what you think or whether I live, die or grow mushrooms out of my ass.

But I do care. I’m drowning, and you’re my last hope.

CPTSD – You should know I suspect I’m suffering from CPTSD as well. I’ve never recovered from childhood abuse. I’ve never recovered from being emotionally, physically and sexually abused. And I hate myself. I hate myself for being weak. I hate myself for not getting over it. I hate myself for not speaking up when things happened. I hate myself for not holding people accountable for their crimes. I hate myself for considering it crimes, when so many suffered so much worse. And I hate myself for diminishing it. I just hate myself.

Every time I’ve seen him, even as a woman in my thirties, I feel an urge to piss my pants. I shake. My voice shakes, my body shakes. I shake all over and I have a visceral reaction. I get nauseated, tense and void my bladder. I’m scared to death that you’re going to tell me to confront him and refuse to continue treatment with me when I refuse to do so. I will not confront him. I will not go to him, regardless of what he’s going through right now. Fuck him and fuck you for suggesting it.

Please help the terrified little girl inside of me. Please don’t make me talk to him.

Bipolar Disorder – My uncle is a severe Bipolar I. My mother is Bipolar II. I’m afraid and also hoping that you will tell me I’m bipolar as well. I suspect Bipolar II, like my mother. I’m afraid, because I swore I’d never be like her. But fuck me if I haven’t turned into that depressing, reclusive, manic crazy person who shuts out the whole world. Except she’s a selfish bitch. I at least missed the boat on that, mostly.

But I’m hopeful because it would make me feel relief to know that what I experience is happening for a reason. That my severe depressive episodes, intermingled with swings high up into the rafters, laughing, playful, energetic and making grandiose plans for my life, then back down to hyper anger, then back down to deep dark suicidal depression, that all of that is happening because of a real condition.

But I’m also hoping that’s not it, because I know I have real, valid reasons for being depressed. Loneliness does things to a sensitive, emotional person like me. It fucks me up. It really fucks me up. And yet it’s hard to let anyone in because of severe trust issues. But…but…does that explain the intermittent mania and mixed episodes? The incredible difficulties with sleep?

Whatever it is, please tell me it’s treatable. I can’t stand this suffering anymore.

Social Anxiety – I can’t stand to be in public. Just being in this room with you right here and right now is making my skin crawl. Are you looking at me askance? I saw the way you looked at my size. I saw the way you looked at my unkempt hair and wrinkled shirt. I know my hoodie isn’t professional like your pressed blazer. I’d live my life within the confines of my house if I could. But I can’t. So I exit the premises, each and every day, with great reluctance and lead in my stomach.

I hate grocery shopping and put it off until there’s nothing but tap water and moldy cheese left. Because of the people. They look at me. They think hateful thoughts about me. They whisper to each other about me. They accuse the contents of my cart. They snicker at the way I walk. This is how I feel, everywhere I go, in public. I don’t have friends; I don’t talk to my neighbors; I don’t socialize with my coworkers. I don’t leave the house unless it’s mandatory – work, grocery, fuel, etc.

As I entered the door here, to this counseling center, I wondered how many people I knew saw me. I wonder if the insurance company will report to my employer that I’m a headcase. I wonder if you’ll go home and tell your spouse about the neurotic woman who wasted your time today and dirtied up your couch with her presence. I fidget, I shake, my heart races. Can you help me coexist with other humans, without thinking everyone is out to get me? Can you help me not want to literally run and hide when some coworker asks me to lunch?

Can you help me be normal?

Self-Harm – I hurt myself. Not with knives or scissors. Not with booze or pills. I pick and rip and tear at my skin. Around my nails, on my chin, on my arms, on my thighs. It’s disgusting and shameful, and I can’t fucking stop. It hurts, and it scars. I don’t like it. I’ve tried hitting myself when I do it. It doesn’t work. I’ve tried coating sores in ointment, but I just wipe it off and do it again. The scars I have will always be there, but I’m tired of making new ones. I just don’t know how to stop.

I don’t want to hurt myself anymore.

Self-Worth – I don’t feel worthy of your time. I don’t feel like I deserve to be here, when there are people in greater need and more deserving than I am. I’m afraid you’ll find me insipid and petty. I don’t want you to tell me to fucking love myself, okay? If you tell me that, I may fucking walk out. Don’t do that. You’re a therapist; don’t fucking talk down to me with canned bullshit. You don’t tell someone who thinks she’s a piece of shit that everything will be right as rain if you just start loving yourself. Don’t you think I would if I could? I don’t feel like I deserve anything good or nice or lovely or pretty or sweet. But I’m here anyway.

I’m here anyway, because no matter how fucking hard I try to kill off my last piece of hope so I don’t get hurt. Again. For the zillionth time. I can’t stop hoping. Hoping for something better. Hoping someone will prove me wrong about myself. Hoping I’m worth it. Hoping there’s a reason to this charade called life. So I’m here. Talking with you.

Please give me reason to hope.

~

Forty-five minutes isn’t enough time. And I’m upset and anxiety-ridden that I have to return to work after this. You will rip things open and send me back out into the world. Please. I’m begging you. I’m begging the universe. Please make it worth it.

Please fix me.