July 3, 2010

Seven Days of Sunset ~ Day 7… Closing Words: Part 2…

Posted in recovery tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , at 2:04 pm by eddejae

When you hold on to your past, you impede your progress.

The greatest thing you can do for yourself is to forgive yourself and to let go so you can move forward. This often the hardest and last step. It was for me.

Ultimately, you make the choice of how you want your life to be. No matter what has happened in your past, you can change your life. Make the decision. Right now. Decide to take responsibility from this moment on for who you become.

Start where you are. This moment. Stop waiting for a miracle.

I realized it wasn’t God that was punishing me. I was punishing myself for things that had happened and things I had no control over. At least not anymore. Living in the past does nothing. So I let it go and chose to begin a new chapter.

I gave myself the power back. I took the power away from my past, from my mistakes, from my abusers, from depression, from BPD, and gave it back to myself. I chose to rise above. When you accept what has happened and relinquish yourself from undeserved blame and guilt, while taking appropriate responsibility for your actions – you become empowered again. You are able to let go of the burdens of the past. You are able to forgive yourself and move forward.

This is what happened for me, after years and years of blaming myself, of striving for unattainable perfection, of feeling guilty for everything I did.

Now I am moving on. Putting my past behind me, only taking what I have learned so that I may use it to bless my life and those around me.

I can allow myself to be happy now. To live, freely.

I can be me.

Perfectly imperfect.

Day by day, step by step, I’ve become a little more unbroken.

And though sometimes I fall… I’m forever falling forward…

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May 14, 2010

The Battle Is Not Over

Posted in recovery tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , at 12:25 am by eddejae

I should have seen the signs.

But I didn’t.

Typical.

The night before last my appetite seemed insatiable.

I prevented myself from indulging in a licentious binge with reckless abandonment, but for the first time in three weeks, food was obsessively on my mind. After an ice cream sundae, two brownies, a sandwich, and a Heath bar, I was about to dive into a jar of peanut butter with all five fingers at 2:30 in the morning when my mother walked in on me. Shame and guilt flooded through me, and I became enraged for being caught red-handed. Leaving the peanut butter jar open on the table for her to put away, I stormed to my room, slammed the door, and cried myself to sleep.

I slept until noon the next day. I woke up on a high, almost in a hypomania. I attacked my room, cleaning it to perfection. I organized my papers, made all necessary phone calls, made my schedule of appointments for the next two months, took care of all the emails that had been piling up for the last few weeks, did my laundry, and exercised intensely for 45 minutes.

While I was on the treadmill, I started having flashbacks of a particular instance of date rape I experienced last year. It was unpleasant and made my head feel like it was in a fog. I started feeling anxious and wanted to just stop everything I was doing and go lay down, but I fought it and pushed the thoughts away. But they scared me because I hadn’t thought them for a long time and I didn’t understand why they would suddenly be taking my mind hostage now.

After I had showered and dressed, I got in my car and headed out to Travis AFB to visit Todd. On the way there, my head started to feel very foggy and I became more and more drowsy. I realized I had only had a protein shake that day, and it was already 4pm. My blood sugar was probably low, but I felt like that wasn’t the only thing going on. I had the urge to listen to some heavy rock, which I usually don’t listen to unless I’m in a very “zoned out” mood. My mind was completely somewhere else. I barely remember the drive there. I was mentally and emotionally checked out.

Todd could tell something was wrong. He kept asking me if I was ok. When he found out I had barely eaten, he immediately took me to go get dinner. I felt strangely high. Once I had eaten, the lightheaded, dizzy feeling subsided, but the “out of body,” “zoned-out” feeling didn’t. Now that I look back, I realize that I was disassociating really badly.

I won’t go into details about the rest of the night… But it did not go well. I slipped further and further, especially on the drive home. I wound up cutting myself pretty badly. I woke up feeling miserable. I couldn’t understand it. I still don’t understand it. I was so happy, I was doing so well. Why the relapse? Why can’t these demons just leave me alone? All day I have been fighting tooth and nail, but it seems that the more I fight against the sadness, the more it tightens its cold, hard grip. Trying to ruin my happiness, threatening to destroy everything I’ve worked so hard for…

I can’t let it. I won’t let it. But I can’t deny the fact that I can’t feel happy today. I am happy, but I can’t feel it. It is hard to feel anything right now. God help me.

This morning I did my best to get myself going. I dragged myself out of bed and did some writing, but quickly tired again. I had made plans to work out, but wound up going back to bed. Todd and I had made an appointment to get our marriage license today, and I started to worry that I wouldn’t be able to muster the energy to go. In a moment of superhuman determination, I forced my body out of bed, ate something, showered, put on some upbeat music, and then drove to meet up with Todd. I was doing everything in my power to make myself feel better. After all, we were getting our marriage license! How exciting! Why couldn’t I feel excited? Why couldn’t I feel a gosh darn thing but melancholy and exhaustion?

Well, I got through it, but not without some concern on Todd’s part. He could see what was going on, he knew I was “checked out” but was trying to put on a happy face for him. I could feel myself putting on that “I’m simply splendid!” mask… I even started a favorite game of mine called “Let’s walk around and talk with a British accent and pretend we’re tourists from London!” But it wasn’t long before that started to wear off… It’s hard to hide what I’m feeling around Todd. It’s difficult to wear a mask around someone who knows you better than you know yourself. I knew he could tell that underneath the random goofiness I was hurting. We decided to go back to his parents house to watch a movie before we parted ways.

His parents own a parakeet. A very old parakeet. This bird has been around for so many years Todd cannot even remember when they first bought it. This parakeet sits in a little cage in the living room all by itself day after day. Todd says it hates people, that it’s crazy. There used to be two parakeets, but it killed its cell mate. For some reason the bird caught my attention for the first time. I’m not much of a bird person, but I felt drawn to it. I felt sorry for it. I sat in front of the cage. And looked at it. And it looked at me.

It seemed so sad. “Todd?” I said. “Can we let it out?” I wanted so badly to hold the poor, neglected bird lovingly in my hands, walk outside, give it a gentle nudge, and let it fly free into the welcoming sunlight.

“Nah,” he said. “I don’t feel like chasing it around the house. Besides, it probably bites.”

“No, I meant… Can we let it go free? Would your parents really care?”

“It’s not our choice hon. It’s not our bird. Besides, it’s so old and stupid it’d probably die anyways.”

“Well… I think it deserves at least a chance. Birds don’t belong in cages. No animal belongs in a cage. I think I would rather die than be in a cage. Wouldn’t you? Maybe… maybe it would be happier dead… Then its spirit could sing and fly… No more cages…”

As I said this, I began to cry. I forgot to mention that I found out this morning that a Facebook friend of mine took her life. I have to confess… Sometimes, when I hear the horrible things people go through, I wonder… Maybe they would be happier on the other side… Maybe it is worth it to escape the pain and horror of this life…

I also failed to mention that another sign that I have slipped into depression is obsessively pondering death and suicide.

I feel guilty for thinking these thoughts. I do, because I know that life is precious and should never be taken for granted, and I know that suicide is NOT the answer. But sometimes I feel so incredibly bad for people who have and are experiencing so much suffering, and I want to take it away… but I can’t… And… I understand them wanting to end the pain. I’ve been there. I know what it’s like to want to die. I know what it’s like to want the pain to stop.

But I also know how wonderful and beautiful it is to live.

It’s confusing sometimes… life and death. The decision whether to stay or to go.

I know I’m supposed to be here. I’m glad I’m here. I’m glad I’m alive. I have so much to live for. I am happier than I ever been, despite the fact that I am fighting with depression at the moment.

As I mourned for the parakeet and for the untimely death of my friend, Todd held me in his arms and let me cry. I was able to say for the first time today, “I am depressed.” And I didn’t feel guilty about it. I didn’t have to apologize for it. I just was. And it was ok. He is there for me… Through good times and bad. Today is just further proof that we can and will get through anything together. Our road will not be easy, but it will be worth it. Neither of us are perfect, but we are perfect for each other.

“I learn so much from your strengths, but I learn even more from your weaknesses.” ~Todd.

On the drive home, this song came on the radio… I’m not much of a Miley Cyrus fan, but the message was so appropriate for what I am going through right now that I had to share it.

I like living. I have sometimes been wildly, despairingly, acutely miserable, racked with sorrow, but through it all I still know quite certainly that just to be alive is a grand thing. ~Agatha Christie

I can almost see it
That dream I’m dreaming but
There’s a voice inside my head sayin,
You’ll never reach it,
Every step I’m taking,
Every move I make feels
Lost with no direction
My faith is shaking but I
Got to keep trying
Got to keep my head held high

There’s always going to be another mountain
I’m always going to want to make it move
Always going to be an uphill battle
,
Sometimes you going to have to lose,
Ain’t about how fast I get there,
Ain’t about what’s waiting on the other side
It’s the climb

The struggles I’m facing,
The chances I’m taking
Sometimes they knock me down but
No I’m not breaking
The pain I’m knowing
But these are the moments that
I’m going to remember most yeah
Just got to keep going
And I,
I got to be strong
Just keep pushing on,

There’s always going to be another mountain
I’m always going to want to make it move
Always going to be an uphill battle,
Sometimes you going to have to lose,
Ain’t about how fast I get there,
Ain’t about what’s waiting on the other side
It’s the climb

There’s always going to be another mountain
I’m always going to want to make it move
Always going to be an uphill battle,
Sometimes you going to have to lose,
Ain’t about how fast I get there,
Ain’t about what’s waiting on the other side
It’s the climb

Keep on moving
Keep climbing
Keep the faith baby
It’s all about
The climb

Rest in peace Kellie Taylor… Fly free sweet little bird…

May 7, 2010

Todd and Me

Posted in recovery tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , at 11:07 am by eddejae

So, as most of you know,  I am very happily engaged to Todd. 🙂

As you may have surmised from my previous posts, Todd and I have quite an extensive history. We have known each other for about six years now. In fact, our wedding date, July 3, is the 6 year anniversary of the first day we held hands. We were at a Fourth of July celebration at a local park, and yes, there were fireworks. 🙂 I was 17, and he was 18.

Many things have transpired during those six years. We dated on and off, we were friends, he lived in Costa Rica for two years as a missionary for our church, I graduated from college, he worked, I worked, he got his own apartment, I drifted here and there and struggled with my mysterious illness… We broke up, got back together, broke up, got back together… There were good times, bad times, peaceful times, frightening times. My personality and inclinations changed from one moment to the next. He continued to grow and change as well, but at a more normal pace. He was more consistent, I fluctuated unpredictably. One moment I would be giddy with joy, the next I would be in the blackest depression. One day I would be bouncing off the walls, the next I would be wracked with panic and despair. One day I would be clinging to him, the next pushing him away with all my might. One day praising and adoring him, the next cursing and threatening him. Life with me was a rollercoaster. Our relationship (when we had one) was a soap opera, a sitcom, a Liftetime movie, a romantic comedy, and a horror film all rolled into one.

Towards the end of August 2009, in a moment of desperation and intense disassociation, I did something that made Todd vanish from my life forever… or so I thought. After I realized what I had done, the pain and remorse I felt was so horrific that my emotions shut off completely. The morning after Todd and I said goodbye, I went into a hypomanic phase. I didn’t eat, I didn’t sleep. My social anxiety vanished. I became the most social, outgoing, spontaneous, talkative person you ever met. I was constantly in motion, never stopping to think or barely breathe. I got into all sorts of trouble. It was as if I had no fear, no inhibition. I went wherever the wind took me, not stopping to consider the possible consequences of my actions. Most of the things I did were self-destructive – alcohol abuse, cutting, victimization, etc. I won’t go into details of all the things that happened to me during that time, but most of them were quite traumatic and resulted in three suicide attempts. During this time, Todd had no idea what was going on. In addition to our resolve not to have any kind of contact with each other, he entered Boot Camp in November 2009 where he was practically unreachable, and went directly from there into Air Force training.

He eventually heard what was happening from my mother, who had always been like a second mom to him. I knew that they were emailing back and forth, and I was ok with that. To be perfectly honest, I thought about him a lot, and missed him tremendously. As I began to recover, I came to realize how much I really did love him and miss him. I looked back at our relationship in a completely new light, made possible by my new understanding of what I was dealing with – Borderline Personality Disorder. Everything started to make sense. It wasn’t his fault. It wasn’t necessarily my fault either. It was this nasty mental illness that ruined everything. It wasn’t that we were essentially toxic, or wrong for each other. I had always been so confused about why it never seemed to work between us even though our love for each other felt so real and deep. It was so frustrating, and I always felt so torn between the love in my heart and these fears and insecurities that tortured me nearly every waking moment. Now, I understand them. I can see what was happening. I can also see how patient he was with me. He never gave up on me. I was always the one pushing him away. He always welcomed me back with open arms, with forgiveness, with unconditional love and acceptance.

And yet, for these last few months, I didn’t feel ready to talk to him yet. I was afraid. I was afraid of messing things up again. I was afraid of the BPD monster trying to sabotage our relationship again and push him away. I was afraid of the cycle repeating itself. I was afraid because I’m not fully recovered yet. I was afraid because I haven’t reached my “ideal” yet. I was afraid because I’m not “perfect” yet. Afraid. Fearful. Hesitant. Hiding. Waiting. Stuck…. Well, I expound about this in my April 27 post “Turning Point” so I won’t go into it here, but suffice it to say, I mustered up the nerve to talk to him again. And it went full speed ahead from there!… Uh… Obviously… 😉

I have a confession. Todd has proposed to me before in our relationship. Having been together for so long, it was bound to happen at some point, right? The last time he proposed to me, about a year and half ago,  I said yes… And suffered a major panic attack afterwards, one of the worst I have ever had. And why? Well, for a couple reasons. First of all, I still didn’t understand what I was going through at the time and was very ill. Second, at that point in my life (and only until very recently) I still clung very tightly to the notion that before I could truly be HAPPY, I had to be PERFECT.

Throughout my life, I have never let myself experience happiness until I had reached a certain perceived level of perfection or accomplishment. Not skinny enough? Sorry, can’t be happy. Not in control of my emotions? Sorry, can’t be happy. Don’t have my life all figured out? Sorry, you can’t be happy. These are the kinds of things I told myself. These thought patterns have been part of who I am since I was a very young child and have affected the entire course of my life. I keep myself down, I keep myself in a rut, because I don’t let good things happen until I have achieved my ideal, if ever that may happen.

Problem is, my “ideal” is unrealistic and unattainable. My idea of perfection is, well, PERFECTION. And perfection is, simply put, IMPOSSIBLE. So as long I do not allow myself to be happy until perfection is attained, I will never, ever be happy. Until I relinquish my quest for perfection, I will continue to keep myself down. Unless I somehow lower the unrealistic expectations I have of myself, I will never allow myself to realize my dreams and experience any measure of happiness in life. I will never let myself be in love, get married, have children, have a successful writing career, be creative… the list goes on…

I won’t let myself experience life to the fullest.

Perfectionism is a deadly disease.

Once I let Todd back into my life, and opened my heart and mind to being loved and accepted without reservation, without condition (which took a lot of effort and strength and self-acceptance on my part)… I felt something starting to shift in my brain. This may sound strange, but it was almost a physical feeling, like my brain was actually beginning to make new connections. Things started to click….

I AM NEVER GOING TO BE PERFECT.

I AM ALWAYS GOING TO HAVE PROBLEMS OF SOME SORT.

I AM ALWAYS GOING TO MAKE MISTAKES.

THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS A PERFECT FAIRY TALE ENDING, ONLY A NEW BEGINNING OF A NEW ADVENTURE.

I’m always going to have flaws and imperfections. I’m never going to feel happy all of the time. There will always be struggles, whether it be with myself, in my marriage, with my family, whatever… I’m never going to be perfect…

THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS PERFECT.

THERE IS JUST ME.

I AM ME.

AND YOU KNOW WHAT?

I AM OK WITH THAT.

For the first time in my life, I’m ok with being imperfect.

Sure, I want to improve. Who doesn’t? But I’m ok with who I am now. For the first time, I’m not beating myself up because I have a few extra pounds around my waist, or because I have scars on my arms, or because I woke up with a few pimples on my chin. I’m not torturing myself because I wasn’t totally happy yesterday, or because I felt guilty for no reason, or because I got irritated at someone. I’m not perfect. And you know what? I don’t want to be.

I’M PERFECTLY IMPERFECT.

Besides, if I were perfect, everyone would hate me. And that would suck. 😉

This new mindset will still take some getting used to. I still catch myself slipping back into the perfectionist, extreme, black-and-white way of thinking. I will probably still struggle with it for a while, and it will take time. But I know what it feels like now to accept and love myself. And I need to hang on to that when it gets hard.

So here I am. More comfortable with myself than I ever have been, and loving it. I never thought I would get to this point. It seemed to happen over-night, but when I look back, I see all the tiny steps I took to get to this point… Finding a good therapist I connected with, opening myself up and talking, expressing myself through this blog and through writing poetry, connecting with others, getting back out in the world socially, welcoming love back into my life… And even smaller, baby steps that made those larger steps even easier… Getting out of bed in the morning, exercising, eating right, drinking water, taking showers, taking my medication, listening to music… The small, simple things DO matter. Tiny step by tiny step until one day you realize you’re where you want to be… or at least that you’ve come very, very far.

And, really, there never is an end to the journey. You will be on it forever. Always learning. Always growing. Always finding new ways to love yourself and to love other people too. Life really is a beautiful, wondrous adventure…