It’s been a full week since my last suicidal thought.

a cure for what ails you, major depression, rapid-cycle bipolar disorder, self-harm, stigma, suicidal ideation, three hopeful thoughts

I can’t say I’ve been happy, but I haven’t really been super-depressed, either. I feel content and more at peace; for now, things are pretty quiet inside my head. There have been a few instances of the “dark core” piping up, but I’ve been able to shut the nasty automatic thoughts down with an efficiency I’ve never experienced before.

Is this what recovery feels like?

I’ve been getting out and taking a walk every night, at least 30 minutes at a time. Sometimes, I go out multiple times, usually when I start feeling restless and trapped in the apartment. It’s such a relief and so freeing to know that I’m not helpless, I’m not trapped. There are places I can go, things to see. I am becoming more comfortable with being alone with myself and just sitting with my thoughts—and my diagnosis.

There’s this huge misconception that people with bipolar disorder are loose cannons, that we’re violent and unpredictable. Crazy. Out of control. I’m learning that while it may happen to the best of us from time to time, it’s certainly not the norm or the default state.

I met a lovely gentleman, also bipolar, on Monday night. We took a walk to Mendota Park at dusk and sat on the rocks by the water, discussing our respective attempts to eliminate our own maps. Just being in the company of someone who knows what it’s like and being able to speak frankly about the ins and outs of this illness was incredibly healing for me, and I found myself able to really relax for the first time since my diagnosis.

There’s not much else to report right now…I have therapy tonight, my first session in three weeks, and I have plenty of things to discuss. A dear friend of mine and D’s is coming into town on Saturday and accompanying me to my tattoo session on Sunday afternoon. I can’t wait to cover up these ugly scars, to remind myself that although it’s a part of my past, it’s just a story now—it’s not happening to me anymore. The worst, for now, seems to be over.

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Recovery is an ongoing process.

major depression, ptsd, rapid-cycle bipolar disorder, self-harm, stigma, suicidal ideation, three hopeful thoughts

It’s been a week since my last slip-up.

Last Wednesday, due to a combination of preexisting emotional rawness and the news that a relative had been saying some less-than-complimentary things about me, I had a breakdown and ended up self-injuring. D. caught me before I was able to do too much damage, but it was a reminder to both of us that no matter how “okay” I seem, this is going to be a tenuous, ongoing process. There will be setbacks. It is going to be a struggle for a very long time. Just as a recovering alcoholic fights cravings, I’m going to have to fight against the urge to harm myself. I refuse to beat myself up over setbacks, however, because it requires an immense amount of strength to get better and stay well, keep my thoughts bright and positive and healthy. Some days, I simply do not have the strength, and that’s okay. I’m human.

Please excuse the fact that I have my legs splayed like a hussy in the background. 😛

On Friday, one of my very best friends from college came into town to help us move. Before we all headed to bed, he presented me with a lovely gift: a rubber band he’d decorated with his signature art style. I honestly didn’t know what to say—I was deeply touched by the gesture and really appreciated it. It’s a bit large, but I can wear it up near my elbow. (Snapping there hurts less and causes smaller welts, anyway.)

A close-up of the design.

I’m seeing my new psychiatrist for my second evaluation this afternoon, so I’ll put up a longer post about that later. But I wanted to acknowledge the overwhelming kindness of my friends and family and say that I am incredibly grateful for the people in my life who influence me in positive, life-affirming ways.

Snap.

ptsd, self-harm, therapy

I hook my middle finger, the nail decorated with a colorful paisley design, beneath the thick rubber band on my left wrist and take a moment to relish the way the thin oval distorts. Then, I let go. Snap. It hurts like hell but it feels like penance and for a moment, my head is quiet again.

*

Tuesday night, I get  pretty low and confess to D. that I’m feeling like self-harming. He pats my knee comfortingly, then runs upstairs and returns a few minutes later with a thick rubber band in his hand.

“Use this,” he says. “I don’t want you hurting yourself.” At this point, I’ve made it two and a half weeks since my last cutting incident. I sit obediently beside him on the couch, fuzzy red blanket draped over my knees, and stare blankly out into space. This thousand-yard stare is one of the signs my husband has learned to watch for–an indication that the disconnect between my mind and my body has become so severe that my own physical well-being has not only taken a backseat to the noise in my head, it has actually fallen out of the hatchback and was abandoned on the dusty road several miles back.

Snap. Snap. Snap. I pull at the rubber band, my mouth set in a grim line, gaze fixed at an indeterminate point somewhere in front of me. D. sighs and returned to his video game, wisely deciding to give me some time to be alone with my thoughts.

*

For as long as I can remember, strong negative emotions such as shame, guilt, or fear have caused some indescribable darkness to rise up inside of me. I become fidgety, unable to concentrate because my mind is overwhelmed with the urge to punish myself for my perceived wrongdoing. The emotions can be prompted by anything–even something as innocuous as awkwardly phrasing a remark to a coworker that results in a millisecond of confusion is enough to make me long for the blade some days. The fact that I carry around a fair amount of emotional baggage and anxiety from the PTSD doesn’t help; in fact, it’s likely the cause. My therapist is aware of my self-punitive nature and plans to work with me to correct it. In the treatment plan we created together during our first meeting, we decided on self-love as one of my goals. I mentioned “self-forgiveness” as another.

“Forgive yourself for what?” she asked, incredulous. I shrugged.

Even when I consciously try to pin down where this self-loathing came from, I feel as though I’m only scratching the surface. However, my mother is the proverbial black sheep of the family, and I remember thinking from a very young age that I had to be excellent, make something of myself to atone for any damage she might have done. This attitude was not forced upon me by the rest of my family, though they were, naturally, pleased whenever I accomplished something. I’ve always been a very driven person, though that drive comes with a high price: a heavy heart and lots of anxiety. I don’t consider myself a perfectionist, but for every achievement there is a myriad of tiny sins–stupid, insignificant things that most people would feel foolish over for a moment and then promptly dismiss–that never seem to go away.

Instead of beating myself up for hours over an email that could have been worded better or a text that was sent to the wrong person (it shouldn’t come as any surprise that most of the shame-inducing thoughts that lead to the urge to punish myself involve communication with others), I snap myself once or twice with the rubber band and it’s done–I’ve atoned, in my own small way, for these shortcomings and can move on. And if the thoughts come back…well, you know. Snap.

I don’t see a problem with it as a short-term solution for grounding myself and derailing the endless barrage of negative thoughts. Being snapped with a rubber band hurts, and much like a spanking will shock an errant child into listening to his or her parents, the snap of the band against the tender skin of my wrist forces me to come to, to be in the moment and face actual reality instead of the nonstop shit-show my brain concocts for me. I’m on the lookout, of course, for signs that it could become a compulsive self-harming behavior, but in the meantime, I’m willing to just go with it. The song “Whatever Gets You Through the Night” comes to mind, though my end goal is achieving a default mental state where I can look at an embarrassing moment and pass it off as an innocuous gaffe–nothing more, nothing less.

Animals are such a comfort.

endometriosis, self-harm

Image

I’m having a rough day again and was pretty close to tears when this sassy ginger boy wandered into the room and bumped his head against my leg and howled.

Cats have the reputation of being aloof, but I’ve never had an Ugly Cry that wasn’t accompanied by at least one cat snuggling up next to me and purring, though it’s possible this is motivated by their enjoyment of my pain rather than a desire to comfort me.

Today is especially bad for the following reasons:

  1. An endo flare-up was triggered on Sunday afternoon when I dared to wear jeans for a few hours 
  2. Said flare-up meant I only got four hours of sleep last night and spent most of the early morning tossing and turning in an effort to find a sleeping position that didn’t hurt (hint: it doesn’t exist)
  3. My prescriptions cost us close to $50.00 (birth control was free, but liothyronine was $9.00 and Cymbalta was $40.00), which we can’t really afford right now;
  4. Thus, I’m feeling like a burden and generally more trouble than I’m worth and I’m concerned that the endo pain is never going to get better.

At the moment, I’m fighting off the urge to carve up my thighs like a goddamn Thanksgiving turkey again. At this point, I think some form of chemical relief is in order. This could take the form of a really stiff drink (even though it’s only 11 AM), though I’ll probably opt for an Ambien and a cat nap with cats instead. I dislike self-medicating, but there are times when it becomes a necessary evil because the alternative is even more hideous and harmful.

This most recent bout of misery is made worse by the fact that it’s a beautiful sunny day–this type of weather always seems to make the depression more severe. At least D. gets home at 3:30; it’s harder when he works the night shift because dusk has always been the most vulnerable time of day for me.

Motivators: Eggplant lasagna, the fuzzy cat sleeping on the bed, maybe taking a walk later on, the trippy coloring books I purchased on the way home (because what’s another $12 when my health issues just cost us $50?).