Monthly Archives: December 2011

What are we left with?

We work so hard, we fight to understand, we strive so hard to know. I wonder where it all gets us. Where it really gets us in the long run. Because what truly do we know to be true. Even when we think we know something, it sifts through our hands like sand, only to leave our hands empty once more. My hands are empty. I am so tired. I am so tired of trying so hard, and pushing myself to understand, and coming up with nothing in the end. Whatever knowledge I may have gained over my life has been blown away like leaves in the wind. I am left with nothing. No physical manifestations of what I’ve worked for, and no clearer an understanding. If anything my understanding is more cloudy now than it ever has been.

My chest, it hurts. There’s this pressure there. This ache. This pain. I don’t know what it is, but I need it to go away, once and for all. I don’t understand it. I’m tired of trying to understand it. I’m tired of trying to understand what goes on in my head. There is no clear explanation for anything. It’s all just speculation. Fabrication. Lies. Falsehoods. Layer after layer of suppression, repression, judgment, condemnation, yet at what point do I just give up and say, I will never know. What is the point to even trying? Truth and knowledge and understand eludes me. It is beyond my reach. Even when I think I have it, it just slips away. Silently. Painfully. And what am I left with? Nothing. Just more confusion than before. Understanding is elusive. It never stays forever. It tricks you into thinking it is here to stay, but it leaves when you least expect it. My head hurts. I am so tired of trying. I am so tired of trying to understand. If someone could take a microscope and bore their way into my head and have a look, I think they would be just as confused as I am. It just doesn’t make any SENSE. I want to understand. But I’m starting to think that life is pulling one over on me. That I’m not meant to understand. I’m not meant to make sense of it. Any of it. And yet I cannot go on not knowing. It will drive me crazy.

I wish I could take a vacation from my mind. That would be nice. When I go on vacation I almost do get a vacation from my mind. In a way. And then when I come back, my vacation from my mind is over as well. I get inundated by craziness. Thoughts. Feelings. Body sensations. Overwhelming. Not making any sense. None. Just when I thought I had it figured out I realize I had nothing figured out.

The question is, if this knowledge, if this understanding will ever elude me, will ever lie just beyond my grasp, what then? What is the point in even trying to understand if you never actually will?

Is this burning sensation in my chest – is it physical? Heartburn? Is it emotional? Hurting? Is this pressure in my head- is it because I am tired? Too little sleep? Or is it a result of the turmoil that is inside my mind? Why can’t all these pains just go away? Why can’t I be left to peace for just one minute. One hour. One day.

Is life meant to torment? Because if I didn’t know better, I would sure say that’s what life’s intention is. Maybe I’ll grow to feel differently. And yet how long will those feelings last. They are just feelings after all, aren’t they. And feelings aren’t reality. If feelings aren’t reality, and thoughts aren’t reality, then what is reality? Can anything be thought of as real?

I, for one, do not feel real at the moment. Maybe it’s the pain and pressure in my head. Maybe it’s the burning and aching in my chest. Maybe it’s the hard day I’ve had. Maybe it’s the coming back from vacation and wishing I didn’t have to. I don’t feel real and yet this torment feels quite real. This physical pain I’m experiencing feels quite real. Is it imaginary? What is more real – the torment or the pain? One is psychological the other is physical. Are they interrelated? Is one more real than the other? Sadly, I don’t think there is an answer to any of my questions. Only hypotheses. Only speculation. Only guesses and good guesses but not assurances. What if I want assurances. What if I want definitives.

What truly can you count on in this world? Friends? Lovers? All are human and therefore are unpredictable. What then? Even our own earth is on the brink of manmade obliteration. If we can’t trust that our planet will continue on without us, what then can we trust? Ourselves? Can we trust ourselves? Some might say yes, some might say no. I would say – of all things in this world, I trust myself least of all. What am I left with then? I suppose nothing.

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Before It Breaks

Around here it’s the hardest time of year
Waking up the days are even gone
Will the collar of my coat
Lord help me killing off the cold
Will the raindrops sting my eyes or keep them closed
But I’m feeling no pain
Only the lonely my quietest friend
Have I the moonlight
Have I let you in?
Say it ain’t so, say I’m happy again

Say it’s over, say I’m dreaming
Say I’m better than you left me
Say you’re sorry I can take it
Say you’ll wait, say you won’t
Say you love me, say you don’t
I can make my own mistakes
Let it bend before it breaks

I’m all right, don’t I always seem to be?
Aren’t I swinging on the stars
Don’t I wear ’em on my sleeves
But when you’re looking for a crossroads
It happens everyday
And whichever way you turn
I‘m gonna turn the other way

Say it’s over, say I’m dreaming
Say I’m better than you left me
Say you’re sorry I can take it
Say you’ll wait, say you won’t
Say you love me, say you don’t
I can make my own mistakes
Let it bend before it breaks

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The Cycle of Denial – Part II

In order to adequately address the issue of denial, one must address the issue of the family. I believe this is where we are taught to be expert deniers.

For most of my life, I have thought that my family was perfect. Okay, maybe not my brother – he could be an arrogant prick! – but my parents. They could do no wrong. I spent as much time with them as I could. When I went off to college in a nearby city, I would return nearly every weekend.

My mom was active at church growing up, and I dutifully went to church and became active there myself. In high school and even college, when I would return home, I volunteered many hours at the church – in the kitchen, helping to clean the grounds, teaching Sunday school… I was mom’s little clone, and I was worshiped by my mother and my father. I was their perfect child. I was kind, I was funny, I was outgoing, I got good grades, I brought home good-looking boyfriends who my mom nearly fainted over…

Yet…

There was always this feeling, more of an aching actually, that something was deeply not right. I would get taken over by waves of depression that would last days, sometimes weeks or even months. I began experiencing social anxiety in college, and developed a deep and neurotic fear that someone was out there trying to kill me. I began having health problems, and in my freshman year of college alone had to be rushed to the late-night emergency room seven or eight times. I began having panic attacks. I started thinking that I was “possessed,” since I began hearing these angry voices in my head telling me to do things that, had I listened to, would’ve ended me up in a casket far below ground. I started binge eating to numb it. I started speeding every time I got in the car with the music blasting as loud as I could. I began punching myself in the head to release some of the pressure. It was always just temporary.

I hid all of these things from my parents. They thought I was doing great. I didn’t tell them when I dropped all of my classes because I couldn’t leave my apartment for a month for fear of being murdered.

Fast forward several years. When I ended up in a psych ward, I had been living on my own, had a “great” boyfriend (by my parents standards), had a good job, and to the casual observer, I was the happiest I had ever been. No one knew the demons that haunted me, so when I ended up having to get driven down to the psych hospital by my father, the fact that everything was not okay in my world came to my parents as a complete and utter shock.

During this time in the hospital, I grew to learn that parents were not perfect. In fact, they were far from it. I realized that I was terrified of my father’s rage. I started remembering that my mother had been emotionally neglectful toward me as a young  child.

However, we are taught to shield our own parents from any sort of blame or criticism. If we talk about our parents openly and honestly and talk about the abuses or neglectfulness we endured at the hands of these two individuals, how is it received by the world? People don’t want to hear it. Talking negatively about ones parents is seen as complaining, disrespectful, and overall just distasteful. These are the sorts of things expected to be discussed behind closed doors with a therapist. Don’t let that unnecessary negativity taint everyone else. It doesn’t matter the level of injury. Small, medium, or large, it is expected to be packed away and hidden deep in the closet of denial.

I stopped making my parents perfect. I went through a period of trying to talk with them openly about problems and unhealthy family dynamics. I tried sharing with them the hurt they caused, and the wounds that had yet to heal. And what did they do? How was this information received? Well, you probably guessed it: they got defensive, and they denied everything. They didn’t want to hear.

Suddenly, since I wasn’t playing the perfect daughter anymore, nor was I any longer placing my parents on a pedestal, I began to change in my parents eyes. They didn’t ever have to say anything, but I could tell. Their eyes used to sparkle with pride when I walked into the room. Now, they look at me with muted eyes filled with sadness. I wish I knew the thoughts that went on behind those eyes.

Does perception in fact equal reality? I do wonder sometimes if maybe I’m just making all this up. A fabrication of my overactive imagination. Maybe there is nothing wrong with my parents, nor is there anything wrong with my family. Maybe my family is just a typical, normal family, and it’s my brain that is faulty. I think that’s what my parents believe, after all, when I attempt to bring up any of the pains or hurts that were inflicted on me growing up. I know these inflictions were unintentional, yet they were inflicted nontheless.

Now I’m starting to second guess myself. Maybe I really am just complaining. Maybe my childhood wasn’t that bad at all. Maybe my parents did a pretty damn good job, and I am just being ungrateful. Maybe all my symptoms of dissociation and all my anxiety and all my depression and all my mood swings are happenstance. A faulty neuron firing. A biological glitch. A gene malfunction.

The cycle of denial. Well… there you have it.

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The Cycle of Denial – Part I

I will do whatever it takes to convince myself, and others, that I am normal. I will deny, ignore, suppress, and hold it all under water til my arms get sore. It’s not coming up. Not here, not today, no how, no way. And for the most part, this strategy works. For the most part, I can pull off passing as a fairly normal person with fairly normal experiences, moods, feelings, and reactions. Albeit, a bit kooky, but still within the realm of “reasonably normal.” However, there are times where the evidence overwhelmingly supports the idea that the way I experience things is not the norm. It is during times like these that I begin to question anything and everything, and I feel like just one tiny little tug and I might come apart at the seams. As you might have guessed, this is one of those times.

My mind seems more compartmentalized than most people. I was discussing the notion of memories with a friend today. During the conversation I realized that I don’t have any feelings connected to any of my memories. He conveyed to me that in his opinion, this isn’t the norm. I don’t know what’s normal, because I only know how I interpret the world. I always figured that everyone else experienced things the same way that I do. I am starting to realize that this might not be accurate.

When I think about past events, I may be able to give you details of what happened (if you’re lucky), but I am completely disconnected from any feeling associated with those memories. What I mean is, the event may have been extremely sad, or painful, or difficult, or traumatic, or even happy. I can think about the event, and I may remember how I was feeling at the time of the event. But it is nearly impossible for me to have access to any sort of feeling in the present pertaining to that past event. What usually happens is, typically I know that I still have feelings attached to a past situation or event because I feel a pressure rise up in my chest when I think about it. I have a sense that the amount of pressure in my chest correlates to the amount of feeling that is related to the memory. And yet the feelings are not accessible to me.

Let me see if I can give you some examples. I think about my beloved dog getting hit by a car when I was little. No feeling. I think about my grandma dying when I was younger, someone who I was very close to. No feeling. I think of losing the first cat I ever owned living on my own. I wandered the streets of the city, into the wee hours of the morning, calling out for him, feeling tortured and devastated, like my heart had been ripped out of my chest. I never saw him again. When I think about that incident? Nothing. No feeling. When I think about any of the romantic relationships that I’ve been in in my life, some good, others not-so-good. Nothing. When I think of losing the therapist (T2) who I grew extremely close and attached to. Well… no feelings come up, however that pressure sensation in my chest grows very strong when I think about her. I think there is still a lot of pain and a lot of hurt there. I just don’t have access to those feelings.

That’s all I’ve got in me for now. I apologize. Stay tuned for Part II.

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People Help The People

Birdy is my new favorite musical artist. Her voice is so beautiful, and her sound so soulful. It reaches down into my heart and touches it. And she is only fifteen years old!

This video is so moving. It really shows the loneliness and despair that ordinary people – like you and me – experience that often goes unnoticed. And that we can be there to take the hand of others when they need it.

Tonight I had the honor of having a friend reach out to me for support. The amount of pain that she has had to endure, no one should have to endure alone. I think she’s one of the bravest people I’ve ever met, and we’re just getting to know each other. I know she doesn’t think of herself as brave, but I do. This is for her.

 

“And if you’re homesick, give me your hand and I’ll hold it…”

 

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World, Meet Dr. Abby

But first, a preamble…

This year has been a tough one. Last Thanksgiving I made the decision to go off my anti depressant / anti anxiety medication. It had been about a year since I had needed to be in therapy. I was just finishing up my degree. I was moved in my partner of four years, and we had a happy little family of furry creatures. Things felt good, and things felt stable. However, I felt a bit devoid of the passion that I knew I was capable of. The ability to get teary-eyed in sad scenes of a movie. The ability to feel uplifted when I see a hawk flying in the sky, or a beautiful flower while on a hike. Despite feeling like things were calm in my life, I also felt dead inside. I attributed this to the medication, and decided it was time to wean myself off of it.

Within several weeks of being off the medication, I felt as though I were thrown into the emotional haunted mansion of hell. Things couldn’t have felt worse, or crazier. Rather than going back on the medication (I can be very stubborn if you don’t already know this about me), I decided to seek out the help of a therapist.

My initial therapist was someone I had met and connected with at my university. She seemed like a good therapist, however we both soon realized that I needed to be seeing someone who specializes in treating trauma. She referred me to S. S was someone who I connected with almost immediately. She was kind, she was intuitive, she was nurturing. About a month into therapy she begins telling me that she is fairly certain I have DID – dissociative identity disorder. I was already quite familiar with DID, since I have a close friend with DID, and I had also gone through a period years ago when I was convinced that I had it as well. That conviction didn’t hold, since the symptoms didn’t seem to quite fit. So here is S telling me she was certain I had DID. A part of me felt relief, thinking that I finally had an explanation for every crazy symptom I was and ever had experienced. I was also feeling quite conflicted about it, however, and wasn’t convinced. I joined a DID support group. I began reading books on DID. Some of it resonated, but not everything. But S would not consider any other alternative. Thus we embarked down a journey much like Alice’s trip down the rabbit hole. I began to feel crazier and crazier. I began to cling more desperately to S for stability. The more I did this, the less stable I became. I tried ending therapy several times, desperately trying to figure out what had gone wrong, all the while being deathly terrified of losing this one person who had become the center of my world. And then, just when I thought things couldn’t get worse, they did. She terminated our therapeutic relationship. She said she couldn’t help me, and therefore she felt it would be morally unethical to continue working together. In a goodbye email, she went back on the DID diagnosis, claiming after much thought and research she had determined I was not DID after all, and stated that her belief was that I had borderline personality disorder instead. She then attached three referrals for therapists who specialized in treating borderline clients.  Thanks S. How mind-fucking of you. How ever could I thank you – for diagnosing me DID in the first place, for being quite stubborn about it, for encouraging me to attach to you and for reassuring me that you were in it for the long haul, for all the times you assured me that it needs to get worse before it gets better, and then completely severing our connection permanently and abruptly. Let’s just say it took me a little while to recover from that one.

A brief stroll through the lands of a third and then a fourth therapist (the details of which are not worth recounting) led me to the conclusion that a) I needed someone who specializes in dissociative disorders, not just trauma and b) I needed to be willing to be picky, and to trust my gut. I had to let go of the notion that most therapists are good therapists and can probably help me. Many therapists are good therapists, I believe, but I really need someone who is good, and who really knows their way around dissociative disorders.

And now we get to the introduction. World, meet Dr. Abby.

My first appointment with her was this past Friday. I had horrible flip flops and butterflies in my stomach and heart palpitations the whole way there, but I managed to arrive in one piece. She told me where to sit, which I was a bit taken aback by, but sat in the appointed chair and our session began.

I won’t give you a blow by blow account of the session, because this is long enough as it is. But I will give you my general assessment of her. She exudes a calm confidence without being arrogant or self-righteous, as has been the case with a couple previous therapists. She listens without judgment. She is more quiet and curious than chatty or opinionated. She can tolerate uncomfortable silences – which I cannot say for myself! She is very grounding for me, and all my anxiety subsided during our time together. She doesn’t smile just for smiling sake but only when she genuinely means it, which I really like. Overall, I am cautiously optimistic.

Maybe five times a charm? Only time can tell.

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Vulnerability = Death

For most of my life, I’ve arranged things (and when I say things, I’m referring to friendships) in such a way where I don’t have to be the slightest bit vulnerable. In most of my relationships, I’m fun, outgoing, friendly, cheerful, and positive. This has served one purpose and one purpose only: to minimize vulnerability. Because to me, vulnerability equates to death. If I don’t let others see my hurting side, they won’t be able to hurt me. If they don’t see me vulnerable, they won’t want to push me away. Because that’s when people push away you know, when you are at your most vulnerable. At least, this is what I was taught at a very early age by my mother. My mother was wonderfully sweet, loving, fun, and goofy. As long as I was happy and cheerful. The second I would begin to get upset, whether it was because I broke a toy, or because I couldn’t find my favorite pair of sneakers (I’m totally making these situations up – I can’t actually remember any specifics), she would shut me out and pretend like I wasn’t there. I would cry and scream til I was blue in the face. I would pull on her pant leg. I would throw myself on the ground in sobs. My efforts for connection were futile. As long as I was upset and vulnerable, she was not available to me.

I vaguely remember, probably at about the age of three or four, realizing that since no one would ever comfort me when I cried, it was pointless crying. I therefore didn’t cry from about the age of four to the age of twenty-two. I’ll save the story of my first cry at the age of twenty-two for another day. But the point is, I learned how to be and how not to be in relationships. To this day, it’s nearly impossible to allow myself to cry in front of another person, or even to allow myself to cry at all.

However, I don’t want to live my life in loneliness and isolation. Therefore, I must be willing to face my biggest fears, and let myself trust that the people in my life will not leave me at the first sign of vulnerability. My logical mind tells me that the people who I’ve chosen to allow within my inner circle are trustworthy and consistent enough that they wouldn’t leave if I open up to them and allow myself to be vulnerable. I have the privilege and honor of having several people in my life who I consider my closest friends, and who I trust will not walk out and leave at the drop of a hat. My emotional mind however is a different story. Sometimes it needs a little extra reassurance that I haven’t been abandoned just because I opened up to them. I am lucky that my friends are kind enough to understand this.

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