06 February 2016 @ 10:34 am
Diary of a Leave, extra  
I got a lot of good advice this week, especially in the form of mantras to use to keep my energies focused in positive ways, and my mind anticipating things in a good way. So I thought I would write them down to both easily find myself, and so that others could take them if they wanted to.

Jan told me yesterday that she wanted me to use mantras differently than I have in meditation in the past. Instead of repeating them in my mind to give myself focus, she wants me to say them out loud, since articulating a thing involves more mental processes than just thinking a thing. She suggested I put little cards around the house with my mantras on them, and every time I saw one I would say it out loud. So a more active mantra-ing than a meditative one.

The mantras I agree upon with Jan:

I am capable
I can handle this

The mantras I got from S's mom:

I am real
I matter
My needs matter
My desires matter

S's mom also gave me what she called "panic mantras," but which are perhaps more accurately called 'reconnecting after dissociating mantras":

I can handle this
It is what it is

And some that were focused on when I'm feeling less than myself:

I will recover
I am recovering
I can recover

S's mom also told me to keep beauty in front of me at every manageable opportunity, and to enjoy lots of "active repose": massage, baths, meditation, sitting under my sun lamp, music, art, writing, and tea. Which is a lot like my self-care list from Jan, which I've pinned to my noticeboard. I am so grateful for these two wonderful women.
05 February 2016 @ 04:39 pm
Diary of a Leave, Day Seven  
I went to the gym this morning (hurray for four days of moving!) and then I went to therapy. It was a revelation.

We talked about my going back to work next week, and all the anxieties I have about it. Jan asked me what was the most daunting, and I said that it wasn't going back to the place, or to my office, or even doing things I could do on my own - it was when I contemplated being responsible for other people that I felt overwhelmed and incapable. Give me an example, she said. I started with "Well, I'm responsible for . . . . " and then stopped. The example I'd been about to give was when I'm in charge of people who are still learning things, but it occurred to me that I'm not responsible for their learning. They are. So I expressed that. Jan smiled and said, okay, where else are you responsible for other people? And I ran through my list, and in every instance I'm not actually responsible for other people's progress, learning, ability to handle things etc. They are. It's like discovering the other side of the "you do you" coin - I'll do me. I'm responsible for myself, for making sure I'm doing what I should, for taking care of this body and mind, and everyone else is also responsible for that in themselves. That doesn't mean we don't support and encourage each other, it just means that it's not my job to fix things for people, or take on the responsibility they have to shoulder for moving forward in some way.

This lifted a huge weight off my shoulders. I could immediately think of half a dozen situations where if I'm responsible for me, I'll say no to someone's ask. I am not responsible for making a whole project sink or swim. And if I say no to something, what's the worst that can happen? We spent a lot of time today talking about realistic worst case scenarios - not catastrophizing everything, but saying, what will really happen if I don't do X or Y? Again, this was all news to me. My mind tends to run to catastrophe, and I hadn't thought to reason with myself and examine that train of thought more clearly.

Jan said I seemed a lot calmer and peaceful today, and I told her that was true. I feel like I've had several shifts of thought that are going to make things easier for me. And I've learned a whole new set of ways to take good care of myself and prioritize myself, and that's invaluable.

I came home and found myself locked out (I live in a town where you can leave the doors open, but my cleaning lady had come and locked up as she left). After running all over town to find a friend with a key, I finally got inside and discovered a BEAUTIFUL OASIS OF CLEANNESS. There are some odd things, like four of six chairs in the dining room being pushed up against the wall, and my cleaning lady doesn't have a good eye for where photos in frames or decorative items were before she dusted them, but eh, that is a very quick and easy fix. And it is so liberating to have the whole house clean, top to bottom, at the same time, and before a weekend no less - a weekend where usually I'd be trying to chase down dust bunnies, and get in time to myself, and work.

Tonight it's my friend B's birthday, so we're going to dinner and then to see Hail Caesar, in which my friend C has a small but important part. So fun! And then I will likely duck out while the rest of them go get beer, so that I can fall into my floofy bed and sleep soundly until tomorrow. Yay.
04 February 2016 @ 07:55 pm
Diary of a Leave, Day Six  
I slept like a champ last night, and slept in a little this morning, and it felt so delightful. And then I went to the 10am yoga class, where there were two seniors, one of whom was injured, and one other person with an injury, too. Ends up that is totally my speed. We moved slowly, we held positions for a long time while the teacher talked us through little adjustments, and I left feeling loose inside and out.

This afternoon I went and had my colors done, and I take back my suspicion of the process and mocking of the idea. All but my face were greyed out - a grey cap on my head so my hair wasn't visibe, a grey smock covered my body - and then my friend S draped me with big swathes of fabric. She'd do two at a time so that we could compare which was the better of the two, and it was absolutely undeniable that some of the colors made me look lively and pretty and some made me look yellow, or green, or ill, (or all three). I wouldn't have believed it if I hadn't seen it with my own eyes, but it was fascinating to watch. It took us about two hours, and it turned out I am a Bright Winter, which means lots of saturated jewel tones - greens, purples, pinks, reds. The only color not on my palette that I like to wear is orange, and I got confirmation of my sense that I can't wear cream or beige, they just wash me out. S did my make up at the end, and put me in bright pink lipstick, which I have never worn in my life. But it looked so good! A very fun and enlightening afternoon.

I met G for coffee after that, and that was low key and fun, but my gosh, I was spent afterwards. So now I'm glad to be flopped on my couch, watching Top Chef, drinking a glass of wine, with a nice little fire going.

Tomorrow, more therapy, and my house will be cleaned while I'm gone! I'm so excited.
03 February 2016 @ 03:33 pm
Diary of a Leave, Day Five  
I had therapy this morning, and after telling Jan how I felt yesterday she had two things to say: 1) your friends (i.e. all of you) are very smart, and 2) let's just do talk therapy today, no EMDR. The latter came as a complete surprise to me, because my previous therapist's approach was to Do The Thing no matter what had come up, and no matter how I felt about it. Jan simply said, how about we give you a little time to bounce back? Jan wins.

We spent today talking about self-care and positive anticipation. She gave me a list of over a hundred self-care choices, and had me mark those I'd done in the past, as well as those I was willing to try right now. The first thing that surprised me was how many things on the list are already things I do. The second thing that surprised me was that there were things on the list that I've done in the past - splurge; buy clothes - that I don't want to do anymore. Fascinating peek at growth and change, there.

She observed, from my answers, that creativity is central to my definition of who I am, but I'm not creating at the moment. She suggested I pick one of my creative outlets and try something in that arena, because as well as being good self-care, she thinks it might be a breakthrough for me if I can do that. So I picked knitting, after working out for myself that I don't have to do the project a friend gave me first. (Said friend noticed I was knitting a lot for others, so she gave me yarn and a pattern to knit a cowl for myself. But I don't enjoy knitting for myself as much as I like knitting for others, so it's been a mental obstacle to me knitting at all. But of course there is no reason I must make that cowl first. Brains.)

We then talked about positive anticipation - the act of writing scripts about things you're going to do where the outcome is warm, positive, functional etc. As Jan put it, if you only anticipate negatively (which is where I'm at with going back to work next week) you help bring that about by your attitude, body language, and selectively latching onto whatever confirms your bias. So my homework is to write some scripts for myself about going back, and we'll affirm those through EMDR on Friday.

Then this afternoon my friend S's mom came over to do reiki and Akashic Records with me. Now, if you google Akashic Records, you'll come across a host of websites that will likely convince you that the whole practice is a bit bonkers. Adherents believe that there are records of all that we do, feel and experience 'out there' (within an energy source) and that it's possible for people with training to access those records (and the guidance of the record keepers). And S's mom definitely believes in all of that, and it's at the core of her practice. I'm not sure I share her beliefs, but my experience of it was not bonkers - it was a lot like a guided meditation, and whether she was getting messages from the record keepers or was merely incredibly intuitive, she was a big help to me.

Of particular note - she asked me to imagine that I had a core of light, and that that light was my strength, and no one could ever touch that, harm that, or take it away from me. She suggested that when I get triggered, I physically and emotionally recoil, and I lose my balance - I'm off kilter from that core of strength, and what I need to do is return to it. She gave me a series of mantras to repeat to help me do that, and they're very similar to what I already do when I'm dissociating. She assured me that I matter and that I am loved, and there was something about her saying that during the meditation that just made me weep. It was very moving. And she cautioned me against too much empathy - that I needed to learn how to empathize without needing to fix everything, or take on the pain of others as my own. She said this was particularly true at work (and she's right). Also fascinating was the fact that I had told her I had PTSD, but had never told her why. Yet she honed right in on abuse as a problem, and told me that I had done nothing to deserve it, and it was not my job to heal the person who had abused me, so no guilt.

The whole thing was very peaceful, very gentle, and very kind. Whether it was just two people coming together in a spirit of possibility and allowing themselves to be open to those things, or whether it really was the record keepers providing insight, it was important.

I ate a bunch of chocolate afterwards. It seemed appropriate.
02 February 2016 @ 07:39 pm
Diary of a Leave, Day Four  
Today has been a struggle. There are lots of potential reasons: EMDR hangover, disturbed sleep, a mix up that had me without birth control pills for two days. All I can tell you is that I've felt really low, and I been at my wits' end trying to think of some way to respond to it.

(Perhaps I'm not supposed to respond to it? Maybe I'm supposed to sit with it? But I keep thinking, I have so few days left. I'm supposed to be healing.)

I went to my hair appointment, and it was nice to be pampered. After lunch I roused myself to go to the gym and I walked 1.5 miles, which did raise my spirits some. I texted my friend T and asked her if she'd like to come over for tea, and she did. And yet I still feel low.

I'm hoping a good night's sleep will help, and if it doesn't, there's therapy tomorrow morning where I can share it all with Jan. But I wish, so much, I felt better than this.
01 February 2016 @ 04:22 pm
Diary of a Leave, Day Three  
Things I Have Done for My Mental Health Today

1. Managed my money

Traditionally, I tend to manage my money by avoidance, and by keeping a running tally in my head of how much money I have remaining in my checking account. It makes me enormously anxious to look up my balance in my online banking app, and so I don't. None of these things work. So a few days ago I started using You Need a Budget, an app that helps you set up a budget for yourself (with customizable lists of expenses), and then tracks how much you spend. You can link it directly to your checking account if you like, or you can, like me, put in the amount in your checking and saving balances on the day you start using it, and it keeps track from then on by you registering your transactions. There's an app for the phone, so while you're out and about you can add transactions that way, and it's all very nifty. What I like best about it is that I can see, at a glance, how much of my budgeted funds I have left for each line item. So today I went grocery shopping, leaving me with $291 left for the rest of the month in that category. Very helpful!

The budget isn't set in stone - in fact they encourage you to adjust your budget as you spend, so that you can trade off, say, going out one night for dinner with your grocery budget, for example.

This morning I entered all the checks I mailed off today, and all my beginning-of-the-month bill pays, and instead of feeling mildly terrified by watching my balance go down, I felt totally in control, and able to see where I had money left and where I didn't. Major victory.

This afternoon I also took my tax documents to my accountant. He's a lovely man, but his office is up four very long flights of stairs, and then at the end of a long, long corridor, and some days it's like climbing Everest to go there. But I girded my loins, gathered up what I needed to give him, and dropped it all of. This is the earliest I have ever done that.

2. I went to therapy

I went to therapy with two things to talk about - the fact that I felt sort of jumpy around two of my friends last week, and the fact that I've realized I'm terrified of all men in England. All of them. To my surprise, Jan decided we'd process the first one first, but she explained that since those were core relationships to me, we needed to get that sorted out before we did anything else. Smart lady.

Last week while out (separately) with G and then M, I felt as if I was in a bubble, unable to really connect or empathize with what they were saying, feeling like I had something I needed to say to them but couldn't remember what. Jan immediately said, do you think that's dissociation? Which, duh, yes it is, but I hadn't realized that before she said it. Amazing how the most obvious things just fly by us.

So we EMDR'd one of the conversations I'd had with M, and I let every dang thing in my mind come up in my consciousness, and mentally followed all the leads. It ended up that yes, I'd been dissociating because I'd been triggered, and being so badly triggered that I needed a week off work has scared the pants off me, leaving me feeling things are badly out of my control. This manifested in me feeling like I would always feel 'in the bubble' - that I wouldn't be able to connect, and maybe I shouldn't expect to connect, because my friends were so much better than I was, and so on and so on. Jan said, nope, that's a cognitive distortion. Have you ever felt 'in the bubble' before? Yes. Has it persisted since that time, or did it come to an end at some point? It came to an end. Did you survive the bubble? Yes. So you see, you have evidence of what's going on and what the outcome will be, but you're feeling so anxious you're taking your panicked feelings of 'this will never get better' as if they're truth.

Wow. It's strangely empowering to consider that I know what I'm doing when I dissociate, that my mind and body know how to handle it because they've done it before. I love that positive twist on things, because so often feeling like this makes me feel weak and powerless, and instead of me looking at the last few years as a recurring set of examples of me being triggered, I can look at it as a recurring set of examples of me triumphing over that.

So in the last round of EMDR I thought to myself, like a mantra, you are strong and you are mighty. And that's opened up some mental space for myself. I still feel anxious, but at least I feel like that anxiety is not agency destroying anymore.

We talked about miscellaneous other things, including my daytime lack of appetite. Body talk )

3. I hired a house cleaner

My friend's cleaning lady, Veronica, came over today and looked over my house, checked where all the cleaning supplies were, and gave me a time and cost estimate. It was all in my budget, so she's coming on Friday to clean everything thoroughly. I am so grateful that this is not my responsibility anymore, I cannot even.

4. I am sitting in my big chair right now, drinking tea

I could be doing a hundred things but I am purposefully not doing any of them. Jan said today that nature hates a vacuum, and things will pour into empty spaces if we don't put something there ourselves. So I'm looking at this week that way. I am empty of resources, and I need to put good things back in that space.
31 January 2016 @ 02:05 pm
Diary of a Leave, Day Two  
Yesterday went pretty well. I did too much in the morning - I was wiped by the time I finally went to bed - but I didn't expect too much of myself in the afternoon, and was made very happy by the bits of things I did do - a bit of laundry; washing those wine glasses. Washing the wine glasses turned out to be really important, because where I thought I was going to a friend's house for drinks, she thought she was coming to me, so when she did I actually had wine glasses to drink out of. That was a nice confirmation of it being useful to do these things!

Today has been wonderful. I slept in a little bit, and had some tea while I caught up online, and then my mom called. I had told her last week that I was struggling with seasonal affective disorder, and it was making work really hard, so she asked me if this week had been better. I decided to risk telling her at least part of the truth and said no, it had been worse, and I was taking a week's leave to get my mental health in order. She immediately asked me how the weather was :)). But she returned to the subject after a couple of other questions, and I told her how I felt, and what I was going to do to help myself, including that I was going to therapy twice. I explicitly mentioned that PTSD was part of the issue. She asked follow up questions; she accepted that the things I was telling her were important. It was kind of revelatory, actually, to know that I could be honest and she would listen.

And then I went over to the home of my friends, S and J, and my time there was genuinely blissful. I don't know what it is about them, their home, the energy there, what it was, but I left with my shoulders down for the first time in weeks, breathing more deeply than I have in a long time. We had delicious food - baked eggs on a bed of spinach; sausage; gingerbread french toast, a bloody mary each - and we talked for a long time. S's mom lives with them, and she took their son to play giving us time alone, bless her. We talked about everything imaginable - astrology, legacies of abuse and alcoholism in our families, work, our Myers-Brigg types (I don't actually know mine), dealing with conflict . . . the conversation just kept unspooling in the most amazing and unpredictable ways. S has been trained to do color matching, so she's going to "do my colors" on Thursday (for free) as part of my week off. I don't really place much stock in that, but it can't hurt, and maybe it will help. And it ends up her mom does Reiki, so we're going to set up an appointment for that later in the week. Again, I don't know whether I "believe" in it, per se, but I think the mere fact of being in a place where people are focused on healing could be really powerful. (Oh! And my hair stylist is making me three mint bath bombs (mint is my favorite scent) and bringing them to my hair appt. on Tuesday. I plan to take a couple of really luxurious baths with those.) S and J sent me home with one of their Blue Apron meals to make for dinner - I couldn't have been more cared for if I tried.

My gosh, it is amazing to feel so relaxed. I am so lucky to know both J and S, and so grateful for what they gave me this morning. They are the best.
30 January 2016 @ 02:53 pm
Diary of a Leave, Day One  
I'm counting today as the first day of my leave. I have nine days before I have to go back to work - nine days to take care of myself and my mental health in every way I know how. I'd like to feel capable by the time I go back, even energized. But just waking up and feeling like I have the resources to tackle the day would be wonderful.

I've made a plan for the week - things that will help me, with unscheduled time between to do whatever feels good and right. I'm planning on going walking at the gym on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, and doing a drop-in yoga session on Tuesday and Thursday at my favorite local place. I have therapy on Monday and Wednesday, and I'll do it Friday, too, if I need to. I've arranged social contact almost every day - brunch at a friend's house tomorrow, some colleagues coming over Monday night, dinner with G on Wednesday, B's birthday dinner on Friday. I brought home some work, which I plan to do gradually, but not with a goal of Being The Most Productive Ever, because that way lies madness (quite literally). Instead I'm just hoping to get some things done, slowly but steadily, and be a little ahead of the game when I go back.

Today I went to the grocery store early, before most other people were thinking of such a thing, and I bought lots of fruits and vegetables and some chicken so that I can make good food for myself all week. I went to the bakery and bought fresh-baked bread. I went by Lowes and bought firewood for the week. I met a friend to have breakfast for lunch, and I stopped by the library to pick up a book. My only other goals for today are to start some laundry, and wash all the wine glasses in the kitchen that won't fit into the dishwasher.

I feel such relief knowing I have this week, and the time to do whatever my brain needs me to do. I'm so glad for the double therapy, and for so many friends agreeing to be my social contact day by day. And I'm so grateful to my colleagues who have stepped up to make this possible. This is a rare opportunity, and I plan to do everything - including studious nothingness - with it that I can.
23 July 2015 @ 10:33 am
My therapist and I had a long conversation about sadness yesterday. Sadness, she said, is how we know we value things - it gives us a fresh perspective. Even the anticipation of sadness can function in that way, although too much of that can be crippling. Sadness is also a cue to make some changes, she said, to consider what would constitute comfort. So, in the case of my missing my brother terribly, my sadness is a prompt to consider how I might have more contact with him despite him being someplace else - facetime, skype, phone calls, whatever I want.

I love thinking about this, and considering that sadness is a thing that can prompt us to seek out meaningful comfort. I'm so used to depression, which is different, where there is no immediate remedy, no single decision you can make that will help ameliorate the situation, that I'm grateful to be feeling plain sadness, I think. It's freeing to realize sadness isn't an end, but a beginning. Depression doesn't feel like that at all.

So I'm still sad that my brother is gone. We had a wonderful time last weekend. He helped me get ready for my housewarming party, and had a great time meeting all my friends. He helped me clean up afterwards, and did a stellar job of cramming all the leftover drinks into my fridge. We drove around the backroads near where I live looking for cool barns for him to photograph. We went shopping - I introduced him to the Banana Republic Factory Outlet - and he gave me a Sonos as a housewarming gift (which I had no idea was a thing and now love). I took him out to dinner at the local brewpub and we had an awesome time. We hung out and chatted and traded youtube clips of our favorite comedians, and played many a game of 'is this the same in England or different?' It freaked him out that I love somewhere safe enough to leave the back door unlocked (he lives in central London), and he couldn't get over the fact that we can turn right on a red light.

I like him, plain and simple. He's funny, generous, kind, thoughtful, smart. We came out of the same house with vastly different experiences, and yet we've both been on our own emotional journeys that have brought us to similar places. And we are similar - we both like clean, neat homes; we both dislike big cars; we both love superheroes; we both find the same things funny. Being with him was like rediscovering my own face.

I haven't shut down my sadness, which is big progress for me. My usual M.O. is to dissociate from big emotions, be they positive or negative, and live my life as if those feelings don't touch me. But this felt important, felt like something I could and should handle, and so much as I don't enjoy the feeling, I know that feeling it is good. We talked about that at therapy yesterday - that my feelings in general are offline, and they'll come online when it's safe to do so. I blurted out at one point that being distanced from good emotions made me feel like something was wrong, and my therapist said, something IS wrong. You were abused. That's wrong. It was such a simple statement but so kind and so supportive that it took my breath away.

I slept in this morning. I've distracted myself over the last couple of days with lots of work, but today I'm easing into the things I have to do. Today I'm going to be sad, but not depressed, and I'm a rookie at it all, but I think I can do this.
20 October 2014 @ 07:55 pm
Today my therapist asked me, "are you afraid if you date you'll be raped again?"

I burst into tears. So that would be a yes.

What a hell of a mess that is to unpack. Discussion of rape beneath the cut )
18 August 2014 @ 06:37 pm
the work  
I went to see my therapist today. Many things had me make the appointment – increased lethargy, lack of motivation, the fall out from Robin Williams' death – but the primary thing I wanted to talk about was something that occurred during VVC.

Cut for discussion of miscarriage and sexual abuse.

Read more... )
21 July 2014 @ 11:29 am
"Life only moderately messed up"  
A couple of weeks ago I read a great blog entry by activist and commentator Ethan Zuckerman called, "Life, Only Moderately Messed Up: Understanding (My Own) High-Functioning Depression." Zuckerman grapples with something I'm sure many others must grapple with, too - how to understand and navigate their depression when it isn't cataclysmic, in a context where they have friends and family who perhaps are navigating depression's scariest depths.

The piece resonated with me deeply. I've been to the scary place, and experienced the paralyzing effects of deep, deep depression. In contrast, I am in an incredible place now, where I can feel again, where I can function again, where I feel I'm (mostly) in control of my life instead of having it dictated by the whims of my brain and body. But the gift that Zuckerman's piece gave me was that I realized I am still depressive, and that's liberating, because the only other explanation I had for the glitches in my life was that I was lazy, and that felt both castigating and misapplied.

I still sleep more than most people I know, and retreat to bed when I simply cannot deal with thinking or feeling anymore. I still have days where I have to drag myself to work, even if I'm effective when I get there. I still struggle to pick up after myself and keep my house in order, despite the fact that I'm always happiest in a clean and tidy home. I still have trouble motivating myself, often out of a diminishing sense of self-worth that easily slides over into panic. I have trouble reading, and I have trouble writing, and I know those things are linked to my mental state in general.

Before Zuckerman's post, I couldn't make these two pieces of myself match - my gratitude and cognizance of how very far I've come, and the places where I still can't match my friends' productivity or creativity. But now I can, and I feel like I can take a deep breath and face things again, knowing myself that little bit better, able to cut myself some slack and to strategize how to manage those still-depressive traits.

You can read the entry [here]. I hope it helps someone else as much as it helped me.
02 October 2013 @ 05:04 pm
welcome back, depression  
Discussion of depression behind the cut )
18 September 2013 @ 10:05 pm
sneaky, sneaky PTSD  
It's been a while since PTSD has actively impinged on my life - so much so that when it happened recently I didn't sort of didn't notice.

Yesterday my neighbor stopped me to tell me there had been several burglaries in our neighborhood. Both houses over back of mine had been hit, and my neighbor had surprised someone who was trying to break into her car. I immediately felt anxious - stayed anxious, woke up anxious, felt my anxiety climbing as today went on - but it wasn't until I was telling my therapist about it this afternoon and she said, "you were triggered," that I realized oh, yeah, I was.

It was strange to pay attention to my body and realize what it had been telling me. I haven't felt my elbows hurt in a long time, so much so that when they did it today I thought I had to be imagining it. I haven't woken up tired in a long time, either, but I did today and thought maybe I was coming down with something. It's a gift, to realize how long it is since those things cued me to take good care, but also weird, to re-experience them and realize there's a vein of fear that still runs underneath everything else.

More significant was our conversation about eHarmony. A seemingly very nice guy (we'll call him P) had shown a lot of interest in me - instigated contact, replied to all my questions very quickly, gave me his email address so that we could talk more. But the moment I got that email address I lost interest altogether - it was like hitting a big blank wall. On the advice of some friends, I didn't write the guy last week, since there were a bunch of big professional things going on and I didn't have the spoons. But this week I didn't feel like it either, but I wasn't exactly sure why. He didn't suddenly become a different person; his interests didn't change; he didn't ping my radar for trouble.

And my therapist told me I'd disassociated, which seems so obvious now, but wasn't in the living of it. My brain saw things moving along and leapt down the road to where something terrible would (surely) happen (because bad things had happened before), and my emotional self just upped and left the building. It explains so much, not least of which the was stress I was feeling last week, and my inability to think clearly.

It's like I'm relearning PTSD - slipping into entirely familiar patterns, but without the ability to recognize them. I don't feel bad that I didn't recognize them - this isn't about blame. But it is about feeling connected to my body, and knowing what specific kindness to bring to bear.

I'm rusty at my coping skills, but the thing to do when you disassociate is to try and stay rooted in the present - to repeat the date, to name the things you see as you walk down the street, to pull the balloon of your consciousness back down to earth. So my therapist's advice was to email P, because that's real, and that's now, the very antithesis of what my brain has been trying to do. So I guess that's my job tomorrow, to stay in the present and email a dude, in between numerous cups of bracing tea.

O hai, recovery. You come in the weirdest of shapes.
10 August 2013 @ 03:00 pm
I just got back from a two-week business trip, and it was an excellent couple of weeks away. I got an enormous amount of work done, which had me reflecting on other trips I've been on that weren't nearly so successful. And the difference between then and now is medication. Also therapy.

On a basic chemical level I'm in a place, for however long it lasts, where everything is balanced and I can be myself. There's a poem about depression somewhere, in which the poet talks about taking medication and falling back into her life again (eta: Jane Kenyon's [Back] - thank you to [ profile] kassrachel for remembering it!) That's exactly how it feels – that I've fallen into the life I was meant to have; that the medication is making up for my chemical shortfall and I have, for the first time in a long time, (perhaps ever), a full range of options before me from which I can pick and choose without worrying about whether I have the spoons.

Therapy's also part of it, because without the therapy I'd still be plagued by the very worst parts of PTSD. I still have flashbacks – they're the most persistent symptom that will not budge – but I no longer freak out about them; I just recognize them for what they are and keep going. That's all down to therapy, too – to be able to separate what's happening from fear of what's happening. It feels nothing short of miraculous.

All of this has me doing even more reflection on this past ten years and what it's been like to struggle with MDD and PTSD for so long. I can see, with an awful lot of empathy for my younger self, all the coping strategies I employed to try and get through, from eating Ben and Jerry's to cutting myself off from social contact; from sleeping for hours to taking all the alcohol in my house over to a friend's place so that I couldn't self-medicate through drink anymore. I can name all the moments where someone with greater mental stability would have reacted to a given situation very differently to the way I did – itemize the moments that I reacted with deep anger and confusion, the times I lashed out, the conclusions I drew that weren't smart or fair.

And I've been reflecting on the people who surrounded me, the people who supported me and the people who didn't. And what surprises me – and perhaps it shouldn't – is how many people never took the time to understand. It seems an obvious thing, that if someone I know tells me they have X illness, my next step is to learn about that – to learn what means, and to learn what will and will not help. But most people don't take that step; most people still expect that you'll perform and act and react like a neurotypical person, even when they have information that says no, there are specific challenges here. And there lies the split between the people who are my friends and my respected co-workers and the people I've cut off or have as little to do with as possible. There lies the gap between those I trust and those I do not.

I'm so grateful to be feeling so much better. And I guess I'm also grateful to have learned who in my life has empathy and who doesn't; who has compassion and who doesn't; who can think expansively and who can't.
29 April 2013 @ 06:59 pm
A friend came to visit in March. We spent four days hanging out, watching movies, drinking wine. After she left to go home I tidied up my house, put things back where they belonged, and once everything was ordered . . . I realized how desperately lonely I was.

It was a complicated moment. Here I was, pinned down by the weight of my feelings, and it sucked, and I wanted it to stop – but I also knew that this was big stuff, that this was progress, that hey, Gepetto, I might be a real girl.

I haven't felt lonely in years – since the raw moments after my last relationship bled out. I was often alone, but rarely lonely. Solitude was sometimes a wild, unfettered thing, full of flashbacks and nightmares and panic that I was glad not to share, but as I got help, got drugs, got information, it became fulfilling and comforting and wanted and whole. I was satisfied by being alone – I wasn't just making do; I was cat-who-got-the-cream content. I liked my own company, and solitude felt safe, and that was my clue all along that my fulfillment might be temporary, a consequence of my PTSD. And I was okay with that; said time and again that if things changed, things changed, but as things stood I was perfectly happy to be alone.

And then loneliness visited, and I didn't like it one little bit, but I stood in my living room and thought, self, you're edging toward risk, and you want it, and that's huge. And I navigated the feeling the best I could given that it was like getting back on that proverbial bicycle – I might not have forgotten the skills I needed, but they sure as hell get rusty, and there was a lot of wobbling going on.

With loneliness came other discoveries – a brief burst of thinking I looked awful (repulsive was the word I used to my therapist), a feeling that I quickly realized was my damaged hind brain trying a new tactic to keep me (as it saw it) safe; a wondering what it would be like to share my thoughts with a partner, a fascination with the idea of trust. I've been studying my friends' relationships with an eye to how they make it work, and I've thought of all the bad relationships I've seen them move through, and I've wondered how many of each a person has to have to find their equilibrium, whether I'll know so much about myself that I'll someday find dating maybe easy, or whether I'll be clueless and frightened and fuck it up.

(Somewhere between the two seems good.)

I'm not looking to date – not yet, not quite. I'm riding the edge of a new discovery and testing how the world looks with this prism shift, and who knows how long I'll linger in this place. But I'm feeling something that many people feel – a tiny spot of light has broken through the armor I've arrayed against the world. I want to turn the feeling over and over in my hands, feel the texture of this sentiment, weigh its heft. Because lonely feels crappy, but lonely feels.
24 September 2012 @ 10:57 am
riding out the downswing  
Sometimes it feels like there's nothing new under the sun to say about depression. But perhaps that's the point - that this isn't a singular, isolated experience for all that it feels like it might be; it's an experience that hundreds (thousands, millions) of us share.

This downswing has been kicking my ass. The meds are working to a degree - things are not as bleak as they were before my doctor added Wellbutrin to the mix; I can concentrate far better than I could; I'm capable of self-care that I wasn't before. But I'm tired all the time, morning, noon, or night, and motivation is hard to come by. I have to coax myself to do the things I need to do, pause before every new action to sit and contemplate nothing very much. I drive to work and have to sit in the car a while before I can coax myself to go to my office; I drive to the grocery store and have to sit a while before I can go inside.

Therapy helps. On Friday we talked about the previous session, about all that I'd confronted about being twelve, and being seven, and all the things that were murky and made no sense to me - the things those selves are not yet ready to tell. I feel such a sense of responsibility toward those younger selves, feel so much like I'm letting them down when they can't communicate clearly. My therapist pointed out that it's not some fault in adult me that prevents me from hearing what the younger selves have to say, but issues that the younger selves still carry. I am quick to assume blame, even when I'm only dealing with myself, and I hadn't recognized it as such. It was good to unpack that and let it go.

I cried toward the end of session, cried because there is still so much I don't know, so many layers of experience to explore, and because the memories keep coming. My therapist said, but this can't be a surprise? You've known your childhood was immensely damaged for a long time now. And I cast around for better words for what I was feeling and said, maybe it's not surprise, maybe it's simply sorrow instead.

I haven't yet managed to get a lick of work done today, and I could put my head down on my desk right now and fall asleep. But I am in my office; I made my bed and washed my dishes before I left the house; I look put together; I won the battle against inertia and picked up my work mail. Small, steady steps. (And an appointment with my psychiatrist again on Wednesday. Hallelujah. I cannot wait.)
11 May 2012 @ 07:00 pm
Then and Now  
At the urgent care clinic this morning they ask me, any body aches? and I fumble for the answer, because yes, every day. I turn my attention inside myself, listen to the burn in my joints and find it's only in my shoulders, in my arms. PTSD, then, not something connected to the swollen throat that brought me to the exam room – at least not directly, at least not as far as I know.

Fatigue? the nurse asks, and I listen to the differences inside myself all over again.

Mention of past suicidal ideation beneath the cut )
26 April 2012 @ 07:25 pm
Letter from therapy  
"Feelings are not the enemy. Feelings are the goal."

So says my therapist. I know she's right, but goddamn, feelings are inconvenient. (Rational self points out that not feeling things hasn't been terribly convenient either. I may be sticking out my tongue at rational self.)

Read more... )
13 April 2012 @ 09:29 am
therapy thinks (and fanfic)  
I said in the header of my last story that it was a fic that existed [somewhere between wish fulfillment and the chance to figure something out.] I started writing it early in the week, but it wasn't until yesterday, with it almost ready to go to beta, that I recognized what had been going on.

Which was . . .  )