For once, I know exactly why I am crying.

a cure for what ails you, abuse, ptsd, rapid-cycle bipolar disorder, self-harm, suicidal ideation, three hopeful thoughts

A Sylvia Plath tattoo blog on Tumblr reblogged my thigh piece with the entire poem (“Elm”) attached…and reading it actually made me cry.

For the first time in my life, I am weeping for everything that’s happened to me over the last 24 years, all the pain and heaviness and self-doubt from the horrifying amount of unimaginably cruel things that have been done to me (and that I’ve done to myself as a result). I am finally allowing myself to feel everything that I’ve repressed over the years because I was scared to let it out, terrified to lose my tightly-wound control even for a second.

For once, the tears aren’t the product of a chemical fluctuation in my brain. They’re cathartic and even though I can’t seem to stop, I’m not all that freaked out. I know this crying jag is of the good, healing variety. Experience isn’t the source of this knowledge—it’s a sign that I am finally beginning to trust my therapist, my husband, my friends who have told me all along that it’s better to let it out than to hold it inside.

I’ve been turning that pain inward for over two decades and somehow have not destroyed myself yet.

I am crying for Sylvia Plath. I am crying for my mother. I am crying for myself. I am crying for every person who has ever been a victim. I am crying for every person who is trying not to be a victim.

I am trying not to die.

Its snaky acids kiss.
It petrifies the will. These are the isolate, slow faults 
That kill, that kill, that kill.”

I am completely baffled by the fact that I’m still alive, still breathing even though there are days when every single breath hurts and every thought, every second of every minute of every hour is occupied by a battle of wills—resisting the urge to run a bath and grab a knife or stop casually poisoning myself and finally get the job done.

For the first time, I know I’m going to live and that thought doesn’t scare me.

I can make it through anything.

self-harm, suicidal ideation, three hopeful thoughts

I can make it through anything.

I lost my job on Friday due to excessive absences…too many doctor’s appointments, and I was unable to make up my hours. It’s very upsetting, but I understand the decision.

Yesterday, my best friend took me to Ultimate Arts to begin my thigh piece. I sat for six hours and started the color work before my body had had enough; I started getting shooting pains up through my hip and decided it was time to call it quits. I’m going back on September 16th to finish the color. I think I’ll go with bright blue, green, purple, and perhaps a bit of yellow as well.

I woke up this morning feeling very depressed, like I’m a burden to my husband and a failure for losing my job. But then I looked at my thigh and the tattoo on my wrist and realized that I’ve made it through so much already…this is hardly the worst thing that’s ever happened to me.

I’m feeling a little emotionally raw but still hopeful.

Flashback: Resilient.

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

Flashback: Resilient

Text and photo from January 5, 2013:

“This is my new wrist tattoo!

I chose the word “resilient” because my very first therapist, who I started seeing when I was 18, frequently used it to refer to me. It is the frank acknowledgement of a hard and often brutal life and a symbol of everything I have endured (an abusive alcoholic mother who wound up in prison when I was seven years old, years of bullying after that, a relationship in my teens that was abusive in every sense of the word, and my struggle with PTSD and MDD that began when I was very young).

I’d had suicidal thoughts for years, starting in my teens, but they were more abstract in the sense that I wanted to have an “escape plan” for if life somehow got messed up beyond repair–I never really intended to use it. When another major depressive episode began last July, I began to have the thoughts more and more often until dying was, more often than not, the first thing I thought of in the morning. My casual indifference to my own existence turned into a full-blown death urge, and the knowledge that I would hurt people if I “eliminated my own map” no longer mattered to me–all I could see was the pain, and I was tired of fighting it.

On September 10, 2012 (Suicide Awareness and Prevention Day), I actually decided to participate and wrote “LOVE” in tall, thin caps on my left wrist. I did so ironically, not believing it would actually raise awareness or prevent anything, but that night I got low enough again that I was considering going into the bathroom and quietly opening a vein while my husband slept in the next room.

But then I saw the word on my wrist and thought, “No, you can’t do it tonight, it’s way too fucked up (even for you) to finally do yourself in today.” From that moment, I decided to find a “motivator” each day to stay alive–one thing that made me feel, at least for the moment, that being alive was still worth it and that I should keep fighting the darkness in my head.

There have been countless days where just getting out of bed and staying alive has taken everything I have, and I have no doubt that there will be countless more. But this tattoo is a promise to myself that when I do die, it will not be by my own hand. I have survived being hurt by almost everyone I have cared about. I have endured some pretty unspeakable acts of abuse. I have fought against some of most hideously dark thoughts imaginable. When I have another dark night of the soul, I need to look at this tattoo on my wrist, inked right over the veins I’ve considered slicing into more times than I’d care to say, and remember that it would be a filthy goddamn shame to give up now.

This is a physical symbol of my commitment to getting well and staying well.”

PTSD, part I.

ptsd, self-harm, stigma

I was looking up some signs of unresolved trauma (mostly relating to dissociation) and came across this awesome list. The ones that apply to me are in bold (and there are way more than I thought).

1. Addictive behaviors – excessively turning to drugs, alcohol, sex, shopping, gambling as a way to push difficult emotions and upsetting trauma content further away.

2. An inability to tolerate conflicts with others – having a fear of conflict, running from conflict, avoiding conflict, maintaining skewed perceptions of conflict

3. An inability to tolerate intense feelings, preferring to avoid feeling by any number of ways

4. An innate belief that they are bad, worthless, without value or importance

5. Black and white thinking, all or nothing thinking, even if this approach ends up harming themselves

6. Chronic and repeated suicidal thoughts and feelings

7. Disorganized attachment patterns – having a variety of short but intense relationships, refusing to have any relationships, dysfunctional relationships, frequent love/hate relationships

8. Dissociation, spacing out, losing time, missing time, feeling like you are two completely different people (or more than two) *

9. Eating disorders – anorexia, bulimia, obesity, etc

10. Excessive sense of self-blame – taking on inappropriate responsibility as if everything is their fault, making excessive apologies

11. Inappropriate attachments to mother figures or father figures, even with dysfunctional or unhealthy people

12. Intense anxiety and repeated panic attacks

13. Intrusive thoughts, upsetting visual images, flashbacks, body memories / unexplained body pain, or distressing nightmares

14. Ongoing, chronic depression

15. Repeatedly acting from a victim role in current day relationships

16. Repeatedly taking on the rescuer role, even when inappropriate to do so

17. Self-harm, self-mutilation, self-injury, self-destruction

18. Suicidal actions and behaviors, failed attempts to suicide

19. Taking the perpetrator role / angry aggressor in relationships

20. Unexplained but intense fears of people, places, things

* My most frequent dissociative symptoms are derealization and depersonalization.

Depersonalization is characterized by a feeling of detachment or estrangement from one’s self.  During an episode of depersonalization, the sense of ‘self’ is disturbed.  There is an overall feeling of estrangement and detachment from the self.  …Depersonalization can be very distressing because it seems like one is losing their grip on reality, losing control, or ‘going insane.'”

Derealization – During the experience of derealization, the perception of reality feels distorted and there is a sense of being detached from the outside world.  It can feel like living in a dream.”

(Source)

In the next post on PTSD, I’ll get into some of the messier stuff–mainly, how I ended up with PTSD and how it affects my life. It’s something that is going to require a lot of effort on my part because (as anyone who knows me well can tell you) I don’t really like to talk about it. Joke about it? God, yes, I’ll do that all day long. I’m also able to write about it, to some extent–just the facts, ma’am. But really getting into the heart of it is something I still find incredibly difficult and try to avoid as much as possible.

On suicide.

suicidal ideation

You don’t go from zero to coming up with an exit strategy (or strategies) right away. It’s a much more gradual and insidious process than most people give it credit for.

The first couple of times, maybe you just wonder what it’s like to be dead or what happens after we die. Pretty much everyone does this; it’s normal. Then, you jump to picturing yourself in a coffin and imagining different ways to die and then all of a sudden, you’ve got your will written in your head, the funeral’s been planned, and the thought of your own death no longer repels you. It happens very slowly and you think you’ve got a pretty good handle on it—it’s not going to get out of control, you’re not going to become a statistic.

And then you wake up one day and you realize all you’ve thought about every morning upon waking for the last three months, six months, a year, is your plan. People tend to paint suicide as a selfish act, thinking that the person in question simply doesn’t care about who their death will hurt. That’s not entirely accurate. When you get to that point, where you’re thinking about it–really thinking about it–you might still sincerely care about your loved ones. It’s just that the pain has become overwhelming, all-consuming, and you’re desperate for a way out.

I read somewhere that suicide occurs when the pain exceeds a person’s resources for coping, and it sounds fairly accurate. So far, I haven’t quite gotten to that point, but I’ve felt the desperation nipping at my heels more than once. I’ve been able to fight it off every time, but I’d be lying if I said part of me isn’t afraid that the time will come when I’m not so lucky.

Because once you’ve thought of those things, it can be incredibly difficult to turn them off. I think it’s probably like what they say about alcoholics—you’re battling it for the rest of your life, except the addiction in this case is thinking about your own death.

So it goes.

Said steam, steam, a hundred bad dreams.

explanations

Welcome to the blog. You’re probably here because you know me personally–in that case, you probably know at least something about my struggle with major depressive disorder and PTSD. In case you don’t (or have forgotten), here’s a refresher course.

  • I’m 24 years old, married, no kids (unless you count cats).
  • You can call me J.
  • I had a pretty brutal childhood and adolescence, but we’ll get into that later, when we know each other a little better.
  • My symptoms of major depressive disorder (MDD) started to surface when I was about nine, ten years old. I had what was probably my first episode when I was about twelve or thirteen, and it seemed to drag on forever–I didn’t start to come out of it until I was almost seventeen years old. However, it’s possible that this episode was actually a bunch of mini-episodes clustered together instead of one long episode. The world may never know!
  • From ages 17 to 19, I was involved in an abusive relationship. More on that later.
  • I started seeing a therapist and psychiatrist at age 18 and have bounced from doctor to doctor. The lack of consistent treatment isn’t for lack of interest–it’s a financial issue primarily, though it’s been difficult to find a good fit. My current therapist is pretty awesome, but I haven’t been able to see her recently (again, finances). Hopefully, I’ll be able to get back into treatment soon.
  • My last major depressive episode (before this one) started around February 2012 and stretched all the way into November 2012. It peaked in the summer of 2012. I’ll get into the gory details of all that, you guessed it, later on.
  • I had a period of relief from November 2012 to early February 2013. This was due mostly to the fact that I was being adequately treated for the first time in my life, but because of some really unpleasant sexual side effects, my doctor and I decided to drop my dosage from 60 mg to 20. I think the drop may have been too drastic, as I’m starting to slide into the depths of another episode.

The purpose of this blog is to educate people about what it’s really like to live with MDD and PTSD. (Hint: it’s pretty awful!) I didn’t pay much attention to my symptoms during the last episode and didn’t even realize I was having an episode until I got to about May 2012 and realized that my first thoughts upon waking every morning were about my own death.

This time, I want to chronicle what’s going on emotionally and how my physical health issues (endometriosis and hypothyroidism) might feed into the mental illnesses. My current therapist is really into the mind-body connection and though I didn’t buy it at first, I can absolutely see how they’re connected now.

This blog will probably have a fair amount of strong language. I’m keeping it raw, mostly to represent my thoughts and feelings as truthfully as possible, but also because I honestly don’t have enough energy to properly censor myself.

Also, I’m not obligated to sugar-coat things or make my illness pretty for other people. Caveat lector!

But don’t let it scare you away. I’m very much willing to answer any questions or explain things differently if my point doesn’t make sense the first time around.