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.
April 16, 2010
WARNING: This series of blogs is going to be very blunt. A bit gutsy. A little angry. Extremely cathartic. Possibly offensive to some, as I don’t plan to censor any language. I apologize ahead of time.
“I’ve wasted a year of my life. And maybe everyone out there is a liar. And maybe the whole world is stupid and ignorant. But I’d rather be in it. I’d rather be fucking in it than down here with you.” ~Girl, Interrupted
My “Patient’s Journal” lies open next to me. The handwriting is tiny, almost impossible to read, as I didn’t want anyone possibly peeking at it behind my back to be given any kind of advantage. It is from my first “incarceration” in a psych ward, from which I was submitted involuntarily and released after five days on account of good behavior. I am typing this it just how it reads, with minor changes made only for clarity or anonymity. Here goes.
TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 17, 2009
I’m sitting here on my bed at the mental hospital. Wondering “Why am I here? How did I get to this place?” My roommate just opened her big, blue eyes and said “My name is Christy.” I said, “My name is Edde. Nice to meet you.” “Nice to meet you.” Her eyes close. I’ve been her roommate nearly 24 hours. I arrived here at approximately 2PM Monday, November 16, 2009. I am here because I drank a whole bottle of Nyquil and cut my arms and neck. I don’t know who I am anymore. I change one day to the next. “Severe depression.” “Borderline Personality Disorder.” What? Not me. Surely not me. There are two people inside me. The one that got me here and the one that is amazing. The two don’t get along very well. Who do I think I am? So many people so much sicker, having suffered so much more. Where do I get off being depressed and suicidal?
Time has seemed to stop, even turn back. I keep feeling it is 2003 and I am 16 years old. This is where I was at 16, then 19, then 21, and now. Over and over. I don’t even know the real reasons, and when I think I’ve found the answer and life is good, I crash again. And now, I don’t feel anything but confused. Tired. Apathetic. Angry with myself for being so stupid. I used to watch over girls like me, and now I’m one of them. [I worked for six months at a residential treatment center for teenage girls with severe emotional issues.] I used to study people like me, and I’ve become one. Or maybe I’ve been this all along. Two people. One happy, one sad. One energetic, one tired. One caring, one apathetic. One cynical, one hopeful.
I shouldn’t be here at all. These people are crazy. I just have self-loathing. Christy is so thin, when I first saw her in bed all I could see was a head and sheets. She sleeps all day and all night. There are strange bottles and rags above her bed. She seems about 45, but her demeanor is that of a shy child.
I myself am behaving strangely in this place. When I first arrived I wouldn’t talk to anyone, and avoided eye contact. I knew from the moment the medics rolled me into the lobby that this was not the place for me. I sat in the hallway in a rolling chair in nothing but a hospital gown which barely covered my back. I sat there for 15 minutes alone while they scrambled to figure out what to do with me. Try to ask me more than basic questions and I say “I don’t know.” I just don’t want to talk. I’m still dizzy and groggy from the Nyquil. I want to see my family. I don’t understand why I did this. I didn’t even feel at my lowest. I didn’t feel ANYTHING but “Ok. This is the plan.” It was the same lack of feeling I had when I drove to San Francisco last summer [The main event precipitating my hypomanic episode followed by the suicidal crash that brought me here].
Christy is a skeleton. I’m so tired. My head hurts. The kind South African man came in to give me my meds. I used to give people meds. Selexa for depression and Ativan for anxiety. I wonder if it will make me feel any different. Prozac made me feel like a zombie.
What kind of person OD’s and cuts herself? Is this a huge joke I’m playing on myself? Did I think that because I cut myself once, I should do it again and again? That downing Nyquil was safe? Why wasn’t I sleeping? Or eating? All that coffee? What is real and what’s not? Am I really depressed or am I playing some kind of part? What the hell is wrong with me?
That man just looked in my room. Saied. He scares me. Last night he came into the day room where I was reading and started talking to me, low and fast in some Middle Eastern language. It was awful how he looked at me. I got up and moved away, slipping out the door before he cornered me. The old lady with the dark glasses and walker with tennis balls yelled, “Leave the poor girl alone. Look, you made her run away.” “She wants it, she wants it,” he said. I hovered by the front desk and watched him skulk back to his room. He made obscene comments to me this morning. Derek sits by me to make me feel better.
Derek is my favorite person here. He doesn’t belong here either. He’s not crazy. He is a little taller than me. Slight. Blue eyes, small features. Light brown shaggy hair and a goatee. I met him last night. “Are you Edde?” “Yes.” “I’m Derek. You didn’t eat dinner either?” “No.” I hadn’t eaten all day and when they made me come to the day room to eat, I threw away the lunch box and went back to bed. “I OD’d, that’s why I’m here. Is that why you’re here?” he asked, pointing to my arms. I nodded, “Partly.” Later, after visiting hours, when they wouldn’t give me the clothes my parents brought me, he gave me a pair of shorts, a T-shirt, and a sweater. He is very kind. Sad that such a nice person would have to be here, and would almost kill himself with drugs. But I understand how that goes.
BORDERLINE PERSONALITY DISORDER?????
No wonder I had such a hard time working at S___. Deep down I always felt like the blind leading the blind, the student teaching the student, the 4 year old taking care of the 3 year old.
Saied just became violent. I heard a lot of banging and screams and everyone was sent to their rooms. What am I doing here??? (And why am I writing so small?) They gave me a red band. I’ve graduated. Whoopee freakin doo. Can I go home yet? “Doesn’t take much to set him off.” I could’ve told you that, retards.
Mike (South African man) says to me, “Don’t let nobody take your joy. Take your weakness, make it your strength. Use it. Have your cry. And use it. Be a phenomenal woman like Maya Angelou. Don’t let nobody steal your joy.”
Enter Christine AKA “Crazy Cassandra.” She is tough, streetsmart, fast-talking. “Blah blah blah” syndrome she calls it. She is thin and worn, but pretty. She’s a year younger but decades older than me. I find her rough yet gentle demeanor attractive. I can tell she has a good heart. I want to be near her and here her talk. She has that charm about her, and stories to tell. She offers me a job as an “escort”/stripper. “You don’t do the dirty. It’s just like a date.” “I’ll think about it,” I say. Right. Later when they told me I was moving from Unit B to Unit C she said “You want my number, you give me your number, or is this just goodbye?” with a smile. I hesitated and grinned, “Just goodbye.” Later I wrote on a piece of paper with my name and number and “Let me know how things work out for you” and went back in the day room to give it to her, but she was gone. I handed it to Michelle, quiet and sweet, and asked if she could give it to her. I’m sure she did. But I didn’t get to say goodbye to Derek, the boy who gave me clothes to wear. Or the old lady with the glasses who told me to eat and yelled at Saied. I miss them.
Here, there is Theresa, who OD’d on coke and has “anger problems.” She wears an orange jacket. She is pretty and nice in her own way. Her group called me over to chat with them, but then tried to get me to talk about why I cut myself and proceeded to discuss some creepy guy who left yesterday who would try to get girls in his room. Great. Thanks.
There is a thin lady with long, blonde hair who must have been very beautiful once. She is talkative and has the air of “I’m queen of this place!” She takes charge of groups and handing out food when staff are less than enthusiastic. She dances for herself in front of her reflection in the day room window, and sings show tunes in a loud, warbling voice. She’s like an old, crazy actress or ballerina from like the 1930s. What’s the word? She’s… Anachronistic? I need to work on my vocabulary. My bank of words is not doing this place justice.
No peace or privacy anywhere. I can’t sleep for the constant commotion. I think I’m having night terrors. My jaw hurts from clenching. It’s cold and my bed and pillow are hard as rocks. I thought I saw someone crawl in my room, up to my bed, making snarling noises. I tried to move but was paralyzed. Finally I sit up and whatever it was, was gone – if it was even there in the first place.
Everyone keeps telling me I didn’t cope right. I don’t know why I cut myself. Or drank the Nyquil. Surely there were better options, and I knew it. I didn’t have to go to San Francisco thereby driving a knife in my boyfriend’s heart. I didn’t have to run away from home and do things I knew were wrong. I didn’t have to drink. Or smoke pot. Or get violent. Or run off in the middle of the night in the ghetto. But I did. Why? I don’t know.
Crazy lady wouldn’t stop talking to me last night. She followed me into the day room. 4AM and she is pacing the halls looking for the next victim of her incessant ranting and babbling. “You can’t trust anyone. They’ll steal from you. They’ll rape you. Don’t trust me unless you can see a halo. Can you see my halo? Then don’t trust me.” I got tired of it and went back to bed.
Theresa doesn’t like me for some reason. Either that or she likes Joweli better. Whenever I sit by her she moves, and didn’t want to sit at my table during lunch. I can’t figure her out. She has self-proclaimed anger issues. Perhaps she’s angry at me.
Steve is here because of something that happened with his 15 year old daughter. He has a lot of regret and says this is a wake up call. He would definitely rather be home than here – it’s more depressing here. I heartily agree!
WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 18, 2009
Best quotes of the day:
“People don’t realize that Farah Fawcett died the same day as Michael Jackson and people don’t remember that C.S. Lewis died the same day JFK got shot. But his books live on. Pig poop. It’s the wave of the future. Swine flu? BAHAHAHAH!!” ~Heather the Feather (blonde dancer lady).
“Amazing grace, how sweet the sound.” ~Shelly, the angelic Asian girl who paces the halls singing.
Had an incident with an unruly staff member or two today. First asshole, Larry, comes in my room with the nerve to ask me why I’m so quiet and why I cut myself. “Your boyfriend break up with you or something?” Don’t mock me you douchebag. Then there was Archie. I asked for my belongings and he blew up at me, then chastised me for crying. “You’ll be here longer if you cry!” Which of course just made me angry and cry even more. Then I got pulled into the office with the doctor who tells me that he’s going to keep me here 2-3 more days. So I went to my room and bawled, totally breaking the rules by doing so. Oh my. Imagine a depressed person crying! Unthinkable. Let’s not be human, ok? My whole problem is the robot syndrome – put on a happy face no matter how I’m feeling inside. Smile for everybody. Pretend. Didn’t think I had to do that here, but apparently, it’s expected.