July 3, 2010
This is dedicated to all those out there who are struggling… whether it be with depression, anxiety, borderline personality disorder, suicidal thoughts… Anyone who is hurting, lonely, sad, hopeless…
This video and these words go out to you, as if said personally by me…
You are not alone.
I hope that whoever you are, you escape this place.
I hope that the world turns and things get better.
But what I hope most of all is that you understand what I mean when I tell you that even though I do not know you and even though I may never meet you, laugh with you, cry with you, kiss you… I love you, with all my heart…
I love you.
July 2, 2010
It is hard to believe that just eight months ago, I truly thought my life was over. That there was nothing left for me to live for. That I was worthless, used up, incapable of ever being happy again. After years of struggling with debilitating depression, anxiety, panic attacks, and what I later found out to be Borderline Personality Disorder, I was tired of trying. I was ready to throw in the towel. I was ready to give up the fight. Over a two month period I attempted suicide three times and overdosed on at least five other occasions. I coped with the pain of past and present abuse, trauma, guilt, and self-loathing with binging, purging, cutting, alcohol, drugs, and victimization. In order to survive, I either disassociated from my surroundings or changed my entire personality depending on where I was and who I was with. I didn’t know who I was from one moment to the next. Most people didn’t even know everything that was going on with me, because I was very good at putting on a mask. Life was chaos. Chaos was life.
I failed therapy after therapy. Medications made me even more suicidal. It wasn’t until I was diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder that things started to make sense. However, it still took me a little while to accept my diagnosis and to make the decision to change. It wasn’t until after my third hospitalization that something inside me snapped. I realized that if I didn’t commit to recovery now, I never would, and I would be miserable the rest of my life. It was a decision I had to make on my own. No one… not my family, not my therapist, not anyone… could make it for me. It was a deep, inner choice and true dedication to becoming healthy.
I am convinced that the one deciding factor to my success in recovery was my commitment in that critical and pivotal moment to becoming better.
Without that, nothing would have worked. Not the best therapy in the world, not the most perfect combination of meds, not even the most loving relationship. No…only that commitment that remained even in the most difficult, heart-wrenching moments when those voices screamed at me “Give up! Give up!” …that one small voice of commitment inside that remained, that whispered… “Remember, remember…” That is what made the difference.
My current state of happiness and healing did not happen all at once. It is a result of a lot of hard work, of a long and painful process. Healing, progress, recovery… They are all a result of a series of small, but very important, choices. Really, there is no such thing as a small decision. Every choice you make has vast consequences, no matter how insignificant it may seem at that moment. Remember that when you when you try to get down on yourself when you think you are “failing”… give yourself credit for the tiny successes…. They make more difference than you realize….For it is those seemingly small victories that accumulate and create something magnificent in the end.
Another thing that has greatly helped me in this process has been getting outside myself. The more I reach out to others, the happier I am. The more I isolate myself and retreat inside my own little world, the more depressed I feel. It is hard because I struggle with social anxiety, but just like any other skill, the more you practice, the better you get and the easier it becomes each time. One thing I love to do is bake, especially at night when I can’t sleep. But I don’t just do it for myself, I do it for my friends and family… There’s nothing more fun and rewarding than seeing the joy on someone’s face when you show up at their door with a plate of fresh-baked cookies. Talk about endorphin rush! Believe it or not, it’s little things like that that can really lift you up out of a rut. Try it. Experiment. Can’t hurt, right?
I also had to decide, at a point, to let myself be happy. For most of my life, whenever I started to feel happy, I would immediately begin to feel guilty. For me, I never felt I “deserved” to be happy, because only “perfect” people deserved to be happy. And since I was never perfect, I could never be happy. Took me a very long time, well… my entire life!… to realize that: 1) I am never going to be perfect, and no one is; 2) There is no such thing as “deserving” to be happy; and 3) I can (and should) be imperfect and happy simultaneously. Once I could accept that, emotionally as well as logically (and I still have to work on this daily, as a lifelong habit is hard to break) I was able to do things like enjoy the little things, be in a relationship, and get married (tomorrow!)
Something else I’ve had to learn and work on is boundaries, especially when it comes to helping other people at the expense of neglecting myself. I’ve always had a bit of a “savior” complex, partly out of a genuine compassion for others, but also as a result of low self-esteem. I need to love, but also be loved, as much of my self-validation comes from others’ approval. As a result, I tend to give everything I have to others, whether they deserve it or not, and am often left empty. I give others validation instead of encouraging them to validate themselves.
Over just the last couple of months, I have learned (the hard way), that unless I am taking care of myself first, I am not good to anyone else. I had to learn to step away a bit and focus on my own recovery, otherwise I was at risk of breaking down again myself. One day, when things have settled down and I am comfortable and strong in this new chapter in my life, I will return to helping others in their journey – it is part of who I am and always will be. I love helping others – listening to them, comforting them, being a help and support wherever I can. But I always need to be sure I am in a good place myself first, before I can be a strength to someone else.
The best thing I can offer the world and others is myself – healthy and whole, with a voice that is clear, strong, and true.
March 30, 2010
It was an interesting day… I feel a bit uncertain about it. Some parts were fabulous, some parts not so great. It may be just the fact that I am becoming more acutely aware of my quickly changing emotions and what brings them on, or perhaps today was just particularly emotionally volatile…. But whichever it was, I felt like someone was playing “tug of war” with my mind. I felt great this morning. I woke up early to help out with a service project at my church. It was so great to do something “outside” of myself, and I felt more comfortable around other people than I have in a long time – probably because I was thinking less about being watched and judged than I was about getting the project done. It was a nice change.
However, it seems like Newton’s Third Law of Motion – every action has an equal and opposition reaction – is actively at work in my life. As soon as I had come down from the “high” of the morning, painful thoughts began to push and shove their way into my mind. How frightfully inconsiderate! Here I was, having an near perfect day so far, and then my mind takes a 360 on me! Even my mom (who was with me at the service project) noticed a change. I had developed a bad case of what I call “Velcro mind” – when thoughts get “stuck” in my brain and drive me to the point of despair and/or neuroticism. I did my best to fight it despite my stomach knotting and anxiety threatening to creep in. I tried listening to some upbeat music, but it didn’t help. Baking is an effective distraction for me, so as soon as I got home, I went straight to the kitchen. Desperate to keep myself from slipping, I vigorously whipped up a batch of snickerdoodles. I don’t think anyone has ever baked cookies with such great drive and purpose I did today! I wound up with about four dozen to, and baked goods are a dangerous thing to keep around the house, so I decided to share the bounty by delivering most of them to friends (which activity also helped me escape from my mind, at least for a while). I owe a lot to those little savory morsels of buttery, cinnamony sweetness…
So everything was again right with the world. My mom, my sister, and I ventured to Coco’s for dinner. I decided to let myself splurge a bit and ordered shrimp pesto pasta with garlic parmesan bread. It tasted so good and before I knew it, I had completely obliterated the thing. Almost immediately after putting the fork down, I was hit by a tidalwive of shame and self-loathing. Even though I had decided that I wasn’t going to purposely “diet” today, I still felt disgusted with myself, and that familiar gut-wrenching anxiety set in full force. Every sound in the restaurant seem amplified, and the lights much too bright. I covered my eyes and tried to breathe but the feeling persisted until I was back in the car. Thoughts of self-harm fought for dominance, and I was tempted to just give up and give in to the negative emotions sweeping over me. Instead, I asked my mom if we could stop at the bookstore. One of my favorite hobbies is creating collages from pictures I find in magazines, so I thought that working on that tonight might help keep my mind off what I was feeling.
Now what I’m dealing with is a guy that just won’t get a clue. I started to talking to him on Facebook (big mistake) and became so fed up that I literally screamed with frustration. No matter how clear I have tried to make it, no matter how many times I have said, “Sorry, I can’t see you” or “Sorry, I can’t talk” or “I really need some space right now,” he has kept pushing and pushing and pushing… Finally, he said something tonight – the straw that broke the camels back… “So, when are you coming to visit me in San Diego?” EXCUSE ME?! How dense ARE you?! Then he started to say how he’s tried to be understanding and be a good friend even though I kept pushing him away, etc. Now, this is a person that I became “friends” with during a time in my life where I was completely fake. I put on a different mask for each person. So the girl he got to know is not the girl I am today. I said right out “I don’t know how much more clear I have to be that I’m not interested. I’m not the person you once knew. I have changed. I have different desires, a different direction, and a different outlook on life. I really don’t believe we have much in common anymore. And I need to stop being pressured. I need to move on. This will be our last conversation.” As I wrote it, my heart was pounding and my anxiety level through the roof. Confrontation and directness is the hardest thing in the world for me. It makes me feel like I’m somehow “bad” or “mean” or “unfair.” But something inside me snapped. I couldn’t take it from this guy anymore. NO means NO! For so many years I have let people walk all over me. Rarely have I ever stood up for myself. But I did. And I know it was the right thing to do… But I still feel so awful. The voices in my head are saying “You were too harsh,” “How could you be so mean to someone who tried to be so nice?,” “You can’t even have a normal friendship,” and “There’s something wrong with you.” I feel like crap. Did I do the right thing? Did I handle it the right way? …
Why does this keep happening to me?
How did I develop so many unhealthy and even poisonous relationships?
Am I right in eliminating them now?
Who do I let in, who do I keep at bay, and who do I shut out forever?
Am I thinking black-and-white again, or is this simple self-preservation?
I can’t handle this right now… That one conversation shot me down into a complete emotional mess… I feel sick…
March 26, 2010
It is 8 o’clock in the morning… AND I AM AWAKE.
And I have already been up for TWO HOURS. This is highly unusual for me, especially as I didn’t go to bed until midnight. With the Seroquel, I usually sleep 9-10 hours. But I woke up at 6am, and just didn’t feel like sleeping anymore! Astounding.
Well, I promised myself I would write about yesterday now that I’ve had time to sleep on everything. I guess things always do seem better in the morning, or at least less emotionally overwhelming.
I have a confession to make. As I knelt down to say my prayers before bed last night (yes, I actually got on my knees instead of mumbling a prayer as I’m falling asleep as is my usual custom haha), I said “Dear Father in Heaven, I must admit, I am not very grateful for this day.” Then I just started laughing because I don’t think I’ve ever said that in a prayer before… but I’m pretty sure God has a sense of humor and was laughing along with me (I hope). But really, I wish I could have just skipped the day entirely.
For you see, yesterday was my first session with my new therapist. All day leading up to the appointment, I was a nervous, anxious wreck. I basically threw a mental fit that went something like this:
“What if I just lock myself in my room and refuse to go?”
“No, you can’t do that. You have to go.”
“But I just want to run away instead! Please please please don’t make me go?!”
“Grow up Edde. What happened to your commitment to recovery? This has got to happen no matter how nervous you are!”
“I know, I know. Fine, I’ll go… But I’m not going to like it!!!” (*insert pouty face*)
I think the worst part was sitting in the foyer waiting for the foreboding moment when the door would swing open and I would look upon the face of this stranger to whom I was about to “tell all.” Yikes!! I almost had a panic attack right then and there, but forced myself to breathe and calm down. “Get control of yourself Edde!”
At last, the door opened. He was tall. And intimidating. And very… professional. He shook my hand and said “Nice to meet you. Come on in this way and have a seat on the couch.” So there I sat, hands clasped, bending forward, while he nonchalantly leaned back in a comfortable lounge chair. I half expected him to prop up the footstool and maybe reach behind the chair for a bowl of mixed nuts, but he didn’t. All I knew was that while I was fretting and sweating and wishing I could be anywhere but there, this was all just a matter of course to him, and he was as relaxed as if he had been in his own living room watching tv. In any other circumstances, I would have found the entire scene to be incredibly humorous, but at the time I couldn’t feel anything but dread at the torrent of questions to come.
Sure enough, in his calm, quiet, articulate voice, he asked me about… Everything. For most of the hour we reviewed my entire life history from age three onward. It is stressful in the first place to have to talk about everything you have ever experienced, but when it is a complete stranger you’re talking to, it’s at least ten times worse (add to that the fact that I was intimidated, self-conscious, and wondering with every word I spoke whether he had “sized me up” yet). My heart was pounding, my breath short, my muscles tense, and my chest tingling with anxious energy. I was not comfortable at all.
While I proceeded with my “word vomit,” he furiously jotted notes on a yellow pad of paper, which made me paranoid. What was he writing about me? What conclusions was he coming to? I hadn’t even finished the session and I was already over-analyzing! We went over the various things that I struggle with – in fact, he made a detailed list and read it over with me to make sure we got everything. Then we picked two things to work on first – binging and the urge to self-harm. So that was ok. What concerned me more were his observations about the source of my mental and emotional instability.
First, he said he believed that the abusive relationships I found myself in during college were probably more traumatizing than the sexual abuse I experienced as a child. That was a strange concept for me at first, but he said that as he watched me describe both experiences, it seemed that I became more disoriented and emotionally distraught when describing those traumatizing relationships than I did when discussing my childhood experiences. I recognized that as well, and I believe that is because I had already worked through those things with my previous therapist, so it is not as stressful for me to talk about anymore. Also, it wasn’t until after those relationships that my borderline symptoms really became severe, even though I have manifested a number of them since I was young. His conclusion was that on top of the depression, anxiety, and BPD, I am also suffering from PTSD. Super. Collecting diagnoses now, am I?
Another thing he pointed out was the contribution of what he perceived as my “isolation” during my later childhood and teenage years. I was homeschooled from second grade until college, and he believes that because of that I wasn’t able to develop good coping and social skills. I’m not sure if I completely buy that, but I do see how my feeling “different” contributed to my issues with self-esteem and relationships. I was always “the smart one,” “the talented one,” “the good girl,” – I was made to feel somehow different from everyone else, which was tough when all I really wanted was to fit in. Even in college, I never quite fit in socially. I have always felt that there was something somehow “wrong” with me, that I was a social/intellectual/emotional “misfit.” I think it was because of this that I began trying to be what I thought people wanted me to be. I became a chameleon of sorts, attempting desperately to blend in with whatever crowd I was with. Their interests became my interests, their values became my values, their attitudes towards me became my attitudes towards myself, etc. I lost all sense of self in conforming to whatever situation I was in or person I was with. At the time… It worked. I finally had friends, I finally felt like I was “fitting in.” But the trade off? I became a hollow shell. I had a hundred different masks that I could switch from moment to moment. While I was bright and lively and fun on the outside, I was dying on the inside.
At the end of the session, he gave me a list of books he wanted me to check out, and also a website where I could download “hypnosis” sessions. I’ve never been involved in any kind of hypnosis… I’m not opposed to it, but I’m curious how it will work. My only hang-up is that it costs about $12 to download one session… And he wants me to start off with at least three. Without a job right now, money is tight… But I guess I have to make sacrifices, right?
On the way home, I just cried and cried. For some reason, I felt hurt and I didn’t even know why. I felt somehow invalidated, for no real reason! Looking back, I think my it was because when I told him I had been diagnosed with BPD (by two different psychiatrists, I might add), he smirked like “Well, I’ll be the judge of that.” That’s fine… But I just have a repulsion to the whole “know-it-all” attitude that some therapists and doctors have. I don’t know. My tears were not only of emotional exhaustion, but also of sadness and anger that my previous therapist just had to move two and a half hours away. I miss her so terribly. She was so reassuring, and always said everything perfectly. And she never made me feel in the least bit uncomfortable, invalidated, or intimidated. I still plan on calling her today, because I don’t know if this new therapist she recommended is the right fit…. Though maybe I just need to suck it up and stop being a cry-baby.
I also found out yesterday that my Cobra insurance will only last as long as the company I previously worked for exists. Turns out, the company will likely be dissolving next month which means… Bye-bye insurance coverage! If that happens, I will have to go back to the counseling services provided by my church, as they charge half of what a typical therapist would. Even then, I will be paying from my savings account, which I’ve already spent more than half of with all the medical bills I’ve collected over the last few months. Sigh…
Well that’s my rant about yesterday. Thankfully I’m not feeling anxious about it anymore, which is progress for me. Typically things like this stress me out for days at a time, but I’m pretty much over it now… Well… Until the next session… 😉
I felt that familiar emptiness inside today. It frightened me. It is that empty ache that leads me to self-destruct or run away from everything…
I do not think I should be left alone.
I walked outside and looked up at the stars, and felt lost…
February 27, 2010
Today was rather odd. For most of the day I felt like I was walking around in a dream and I was going to wake up any moment… Almost like I never really woke up this morning. Nothing felt “real” and I kept spacing out. I kind of had this ache in the pit of my stomach that didn’t feel like my normal anxious/panicked feeling. It was more like a melancholy mixed with nausea, and my thought patterns and mood were just kind of “out there.” I don’t know if it was my medication, or just a side effect of the flu I’m still fighting, or what.
That achy feeling wouldn’t go away, and it was making me really uncomfortable, so my mind went automatically to somehow numbing it. I considered binging but I decided to play the piano instead. To my surprise, it actually helped quite a bit and that surreal, spacey, achy feeling subsided. I was glad I was able to use my music as a coping skill instead of going downhill again.
I also got rid of a big stressor that has been hanging over me for a while. This guy who has been interested in me for a few months now has been putting pressure on me to be in a relationship. A few weeks ago I told him I needed some time away from talking/texting (I needed time away from everyone, as a matter of fact… took a “social hiatus” if you will). He was still pretty persistent though in trying to contact me, to my annoyance. Well today he wrote me this long letter about how much he wants to be with me and will wait until I’m ready… blah blah blah… I mean, he’s a nice guy and everything… But I’m just not interested in him romantically and, in fact, I’m not ready for any kind of relationship with anyone right now. Dating is the last thing on my mind.
Well, I was pretty proud of how I handled the situation. I’ve been working with my therapist on setting healthy boundaries with others. So instead of being afraid to be honest, and allowing him continue to put that pressure on me, this is what I said:
I need to be honest with you about everything. I really needed this time “away” to regain a sense of self and figure things out. One of the things I realized is that I’m nowhere near being ready for any kind of relationship, and probably won’t be for a while. I’d hate for you to wait around for me, because I really can’t promise anything. I’m not even sure that when the time comes that I actually do want a relationship, I will be interested in you as anything more than a friend. I’ve changed a lot and “moved on” in a lot of ways, and it’s just not something that I think I want anymore.
I’m sorry if any of this hurts you. I just needed to tell you the truth. I do want to stay good friends though. You are a great person and I appreciate you being there for me through the tough times. Good luck with everything. I’ll talk to you later.
That’s it. No excuses, no beating around the bush… Just sweet and to the point. What a relief! So even though I didn’t really feel that great today, I still had two victories. And that made the day worth living.
February 25, 2010
Well, I took a small step backward last night. I won’t go into what triggered the self-destructive behaviors… But, basically, I was in so much emotional pain that I regressed into cutting myself again. However, I have to give myself some credit, because after just a few pretty minor scratches I realized that, as horrible as I felt, I didn’t want to go down this road again. So I took the knife to my mom and begged her to stop me, but then experienced a full-blown panic attack. I was pretty much hysterical and it took me a long time to calm down. I hadn’t felt that way in weeks… It scared me. The events that triggered felt traumatic and overwhelming at the time, and I went right to that automatic coping mechanism, both to numb the emotional pain and act out the self-hatred I was feeling in the moment. I guess it was just proof that I still have quite a ways to go before I don’t regress to that place in my mind again. It was awful… For a second I thought I was going to have to go to the hospital again. In fact, I think it was that thought that ultimately stopped me and made me force myself to calm down. I could not go through that chaos for the fourth time… No way.
Again on a positive note, my anxiety attack could have turned into an all-night binge-fest… But it didn’t. I was actually able to calm myself down much quicker than in the past, and though I cried myself to sleep, I was able to sleep. So although I do have a ways to go, I have made some significant progress. And I’m going to keep it in my mind that next time I feel this way, I will find some other way to relieve the emotional pain I’m feeling… Maybe finding someone to talk to immediately, or even just letting myself cry until the pain subsides. I don’t know… At this point I’m really not sure what my alternatives are. Of course I know there are other and much healthier ways I can cope besides cutting, binging, overdosing, etc… It’s just hard to think of anything else in the moment, when I’m in that self-loathing, overwhelmed mindset.
However, in order to make this a “fall forward,” I need to come up with a plan for the next time I’m feeling self-destructive. And as hard as it might be, I also need to deal with both the events that triggered the attack and the resulting thoughts and feelings that overwhelmed me.
One of the thoughts and that coursed through my mind, almost as a plea, was “This is not who I am. This is not who I am…” Last night I had been made to feel like the borderline symptoms I struggle with are a part of my being, are who I am at the core. That hurt so much because I hated those things I used to do. They were not me. THEY ARE NOT ME. Borderline personality disorder does not define me. How could it? I know myself better than anyone… And I know that the real me is above and beyond the illness I deal with. It is so painful to be misunderstood. I already struggle with shame and guilt, both for things that weren’t my fault and things that were… And I am trying to overcome them and make them better, and work through those things that happened. To be told that I would always be this way was like a stab at my very core. I couldn’t handle it. I know I can overcome this… and I am desperately clinging to that knowledge. I know I have made mistakes and I am not perfect. But certain major mistakes I made, I am confident I will never make again, because I have learned from them. As I work through therapy and make healthy choices, I know I can get better. I have to. I want to be me again… Or rather, be that real me I know is inside and that I am discovering more and more every day.
Another thing that consumed me last nightwas looking at the past and some of the poor decisions I made that hurt both myself and others, and wondering… What was me and what was the illness? That thought tortures me because while on the one hand I can’t bear to think that some of those things I did were brought about because of my own weaknesses and negative things about me, separate and apart from my disorders, on the other hand I want to take responsibility for my actions and make reparations. What should I feel guilty for and what should I accept as an aspect of my disorder? Or does it even matter?
After my panic subsided, I came to the conclusion that in the here and now, it doesn’t matter. Moving forward, it doesn’t make a difference. Guilt and blame shouldn’t even be playing a part in this. What happened, happened. The mistakes I made, were mistakes. I hurt myself. I hurt other people. I got myself in situations that were dark and destructive. I can’t torture myself over whether it was a completely conscious decision, or something brought on by the mental state I was in at the time… If I’m going to move forward, I can’t think that way. I am making amends to myself by getting therapy and practicing making healthy choices. I can make amends to those I hurt by apologizing and then just being the best person I can be. I can’t change the past. I need to look forward towards full recovery and put the past behind me as best as I can…even if that means finally dealing with the unresolved, painful memories and feelings so I can lay them to rest forever.
I think, all things considered, I can look at last night as a “fall forward.” Though I regressed in some of my behavior, I was also able to de-escalate fairly quickly, identify the triggers, and deal with the overwhelming thoughts and feelings. Ultimately, I was able to regain control and move on. And I am proud of myself for that.