February 26, 2010
Right after I wrote yesterday’s post, I went to see my therapist. During the session I was able to process more of what had happened the night before, as I was still struggling with whether to trust my own opinion of myself or believe someone else’s perspective of who I am. While I just couldn’t believe that I am permanently broken, I was still experiencing doubts about my worth and my chance of recovery. I mean… I know I have things I need to work on, but I don’t want to be made to feel like I’m doomed to forever battling these demons. Like this is who I am and that will never change… If that’s true, why not just give up now? I just couldn’t accept that, but there was still that voice in my head saying “See? It’s true. You’re a horrible, weak person. Someone else doubts your ability to succeed, so you must just be a failure.”
It’s that same voice that leads me to hurt myself, to binge, to run away, to lie, to ultimately give up on myself. It’s that voice that I fight every single day. Sometimes I can make it shut up. Sometimes it screams so loudly I can’t hear anything else. But my therapist helped me see that for the first time… there was another voice in my head that was even louder than this one. It was the voice that said “No, you don’t have to believe that. That’s just his uneducated perspective. You’re better than that. You know who you are. You know you don’t have to give in to self-doubt and self-hatred. You can get better, and you will.”
My therapist helped me see just how far I’ve come. Just a little while ago, an experience like that would have destroyed me. I wouldn’t have been able to stop myself from cutting or maybe something even more drastic. I would have believed those negative things, because I had absolutely no sense of self. But now I do have a sense of who I am, even if it’s just an inkling. At least I have developed enough self-knowledge and self-respect to be able to disagree with someone else’s opinion of me instead of adopting it as my own, as has been my habit for my entire life. That is huge progress for me.
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.
February 24, 2010
Today is a brand new day with brand new goals! I have to say, I’m pretty excited to start the program I’ve created for myself. The two over-arching goals that I will be constantly working on, even as I master other goals, are:
1) Stick to exercise and nutrition program to achieve weight loss goal and maintain a healthy lifestyle.
- Start with 30-min cardio/day and work up to 60 min cardio, 5 days a week.
- Gradually incorporate strength training 2 times a week and stretching every day.
- Eat 1,200-1,400 calories/day – high protein, complex carbohydrates
- Cut out any excess sugar and caffeine.
- Weigh myself once a week to track my progress.
2) Attend weekly therapy sessions and work on applying skills discussed.
- Journal what is discussed during therapy
- Identify skills I need to work on and set up a plan of action with therapist
The other three goals I will be working on now are:
3) Daily scripture study and prayer, and weekly church attendance.
4) Reading assigned therapy materials.
- Read at least a chapter a day in one of the books I’m reading and take notes
5) Practice my piano and singing.
- Practice piano at least 30 min every day
- Do some amount of vocal exercises every day
And, of course, blogging every day 🙂
I think my medication is finally starting to take effect… The last few days I’ve had a lot more mental and physical energy than I’ve had in a long time. I’m currently on Seroquel (an anti-psychotic) and Lexapro (anti-depressant). The Seroquel still makes me sleep 11-12 hours a night, but I’m a lot less sleepy during the day. I’ve also noticed less obsessive thoughts and mood swings. My uncontrollable urges to cut myself or overdose have also left almost completely. After trying so many medications that either made me a zombie or made me suicidal, it’s such a relief to finally be on something that seems to be working for me.
I still struggle with urges to binge, but I’m hoping that by sticking to a healthy eating and exercise program, that will decrease as well. Also, since my binging or restricting urges are usually a way for me to escape or distract myself from emotional stress, I’m working on turning to other outlets when I’m feeling triggered. That’s where my 3 goals come in… Practicing my music is a huge emotional release for me, and nourishing my faith and continuing to learn from my therapy books will keep me motivated to choose healthy coping skills.
I will be honest… I’ve never been good at sticking to things or keeping promises to myself. But I know without a doubt that if I don’t stay committed to my goals and to my recovery, I will never have a fulfilling life. It will just be the cycle of depression and self-destructive behaviors, over and over again. I’ve gotten to the point where I can’t accept that anymore. I know what kind of life I want, and I will do whatever it takes to get there. For the first time in my life, I feel truly committed to something. Sure, I may make mistakes … It’s kind of inevitable… But as long as I “fall foward,” and pick myself up again and again, there is no way I can truly fail. I will make it, step by step…
February 23, 2010
As follow-up to yesterday’s post, I sat down today and wrote out the qualities of the person I want to become in the following areas: physical, spiritual, emotional, social, and intellectual. These qualities/characteristics (in bold) are my “long-term” goals, with bullet points underneath that constitute my short-term goals. My plan is to choose three short-term goals at a time to work on (each from a different area). Once I feel I have mastered those, I will move on to three more, and so on (while continuing to work on the previous three goals of course). Many of these short-term goals will actually wind up breaking down into even more specific, daily, “bite-sized” tasks.
1) Fit, toned, healthy and vibrant
- Stick to exercise and nutrition program to achieve weight loss goal and maintain a healthy lifestyle
- Engage in enjoyable physical activities such as biking, dancing, rollerblading, hiking
- Get at least 8 hours of sleep a night, going to bed and waking up at the same time every day
2) Well-groomed with a unique personal style
- Treat myself to a “make-over” (new hair style, facial, manicure, etc)
- Go through wardrobe and throw out baggy/unflattering clothes
- Shop for new clothes when I have the funds
1) Develops relationship with God and nourishes faith daily
- Daily scripture study and prayer, and weekly church attendance
- Journaling thoughts and impressions
- Get involved in church-related activities
2) Is confident in sharing faith and God’s love with others
- Pray for opportunities to love others and be a positive influence in their lives
1) Able to use healthy coping skills to deal with stress
- Attend weekly therapy sessions and work on applying skills discussed
- Read assigned therapy materials
2) Sets healthy boundaries
- Practice assertiveness and saying “no”
3) Able to love others and share myself with them appropriately
- Be a good friend but don’t let allow people to drain my energy
4) Is honest and open with self and others
- Be true to myself in social situations (not doing/saying what I think others want me to)
- Saying what I mean and meaning what I say
5) Has respect for self and high self-esteem
- Practice standing up for myself and not letting others take advantage of me
- Be my own best friend (positive self-talk and refraining from self-destructive behaviors)
1) Makes plans with friends and follows through
- Make an effort to get together with friends (instead of isolating)
2) Is comfortable in group settings
- Gradually get to the point where I can go to dances and parties without being overwhelmed
3) Spends time with family (put family first)
- Be sure to spend time with each family member and be a positive example for my siblings
4) Is involved in volunteering
- Find a program to volunteer with once a week
1) Constantly develops mind
- Tackle my reading list
- Learn something new every day
- Take classes
2) Develops talents and shares them with others
- Practice my piano and singing
- Work on my music writing
- Overcome nervousness by practicing performing for others
Two of the above goals are kind of over-arching goals that I will be constantly focusing on, in addition to the two other goals that will eventually be switched out once they are mastered:
1) Stick to exercise and nutrition program to achieve weight loss goal and maintain a healthy lifestyle.
2) Attend weekly therapy sessions and work on applying skills discussed.
I will talk more in depth about the other three goals I’ve chosen tomorrow. And just so y’all know… not EVERY post is going to be about my goals or my progress towards them… It’s just my main focus these last few days. Once I kind of get in the swing of things, more of my posts will be about my thoughts, feelings, and experiences as I work through therapy and adjust to my new life in recovery. However, setting goals is an essential part of my journey, so it’s a good beginning.
“The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step”…
February 22, 2010
I’ve got to say, this virus is really kicking my butt! Headache, fever, sore throat, cold… Recipe for misery right there!
But after resting most of the day, I am finally starting to feel better. I’m looking forward to feeling at least 80-90% tomorrow (here’s hoping) and being able to get back to work on my goals. I just realized something though. Not only do I have trouble setting realistic, attainable goals (as I pointed out in my Saturday post), but also in formulating specific goals and writing them down.
I realized this while I was trying to decide on what to write about today. I was feeling a little uninspired so I asked my mom to pitch me some ideas. Her response was, “Well, what are your goals?” I realized that all I could really say was “Umm… good question! Just get healthy I guess.” Good goal, but pretty vague, don’t you think? So I started pondering on what “being healthy” looks like for me. What exactly am I trying to attain? How do I define “healthy” and in what areas?
Dennis Waitley (motivational speaker/writer) gave a pretty good outline for the goal-setting process that I would like to follow. He said “The secret to productive goal setting is in establishing clearly defined goals, writing them down and then focusing on them several times a day with words, pictures and emotions as if we’ve already achieved them.”
Once I’ve settled on a “picture” of what I’m trying to attain and then breaking long-term goals down into specific, short-term goals, the next step is to write them all down. This will be my main project tomorrow –taking time to sit down and really figure out what I’m specifically trying to accomplish during the healing process and who I want to become.
With my goals put into words, the next step is “focusing on them several times a day with words, pictures and emotions as if [I’ve] already achieved them.” The first part of this is fairly simple – I will type them up and put them somewhere I can see them frequently, like above my desk and on the bathroom mirror (and here, of course). It’s the last part of Waitley’s statement that seems a bit trickier “… with words, pictures, and emotions as if we’ve already achieved them.” Hmm. I guess this idea here could be that “You become what you think about.” If I envision myself already achieving my goals, and try to feel the positive emotions associated with the achievement of those ideals, the better my progress will be and the more motivated I will feel to stick to the plan. I could also incorporate my music and artwork into this, surrounding myself with positive and creative influences that will help keep me on track. For example, decorating my mirror with inspiring quotes, or listening to motivating music—anything that will encourage me to keep on going.
I also came across a site with some tips on writing goals that I found pretty helpful: http://www.goal-setting-guide.com/writing-goal.html). To summarize:
1) Write your goal in the positive.
2) Write your goals out in complete detail.
3) Write in the present tense as if they are currently true (Goes right along with Waitley’s quote!)
4) Re-write your goals – words written repeatedly and rephrased have maximum impact.
February 21, 2010
Dedicated to the angels in my life… You know who you are.
One of my angels wrote this about me a little while ago. It gives me comfort and strength every day:
“I’m proud of her. I really mean that. She hasn’t given up and that takes more guts and strength to try and get up when you’ve got nothing left then to just stay up. I recognize that and I’m proud of her for it.”
Seems small, but for me, it was huge. I don’t think we realize how much we can touch others’ lives by even just a few heartfelt words. “By small and simple things are great things brought to pass”…
I thank my Heavenly Father for the angels he puts in my path. Their very existence in my life is proof of His love for me.
(Still not feeling well today… Will write more tomorrow.)
February 20, 2010
I woke up this morning with some very lofty plans for the day. I was going to wake up early, exercise, tidy my room, do laundry, and spend the rest of the day reading, writing, and maybe even getting out of the house a bit. (Doesn’t seem like much, I know… But when your typical day consists of sleeping 12-13 hours a day due to medication and spending the rest of the day in front of the TV because you have no energy or motivation to do anything else…well… Aiming for a normal day of activity feels as daunting as running a marathon!) As luck would have it, I had a restless night and woke up late in the morning with a migraine, sore throat, and cold.
So, instead of having day full of productivity and goal-setting as I had planned, I wound up spending most of my time blowing my nose and sitting in front of the television with my laptop. My natural inclination is to view this as a failure. Yes, I know it’s not my fault I came down with a cold. Yes, I know I shouldn’t push myself when I’m sick. Which is why instead of being hard on myself (perfectionist that I am), I’m going to look at this as just another “fall forward.” I may not have accomplished what I wanted to, but the day was not a total waste. Even if writing this blog entry was the only thing I did today (which… well… it pretty much is haha…), I could still count today as a successful baby step towards recovery.
As it happens, I was able to do a considerable amount of brainstorming while in my somewhat debilitated state. I’ve recognized that a large part of my struggle in moving forward towards healing is my inability over the last few years to set goals and persevere until I reach them. One of the symptoms of BPD is the proclivity towards extremes. I set goals that are unrealistic and then either punish myself when I fail to reach them (example: not letting myself go to a party because I didn’t lose five pounds in one week), or try to attain them in unhealthy ways (such as attempting to lose weight by starving myself). Or, I give up on myself and don’t challenge myself enough. Then I end up stuck in a rut, experiencing no progression or growth.
I think I will continue to use weight as an example, since it is something I struggle with. My “black and white,” extreme thinking has led to serious problems such as anorexia, bulimia, yo-yo dieting, and binging. It is difficult for me to stick to a healthy and reasonable plan of diet and exercise as I tend to slip into “over-doing” it (overly restricting calories or exercising excessively) or giving up entirely (binging). Often this becomes a cycle. Well, I’m tired of it. And I’m not going to do it anymore. My physical health has suffered greatly from what I have put my body through. What I do to myself is related to my issues with low self-esteem, body image, and sexual abuse I experienced as a child. I’ve never liked my body. This is something I am working on in therapy and is probably going to be one of the biggest hurdles I will have to overcome, as it is something very deep-rooted and the behaviors are very ingrained. However, no matter how many times I have tried to break the cycle and failed, I have picked myself up and tried again.
And here I go again. Falling forward. Lately I haven’t been treating my body very well, but that is changing. Starting now. Instead of saying to myself “I have to be this many pounds by this date,” I am simply starting a healthy nutrition and exercise program that I will be able to maintain. I will reach my goal weight whenever I reach it. As long as I am sticking to my plan and avoiding the binge/purge cycle by using the coping skills I am learning in therapy, then I will feel successful every day. The key is not giving up. I CAN do this. I AM strong. Though health and eating issues are not the sole focus of my recovery, I believe that if I can overcome this particular struggle (or at least being able to feel confident in my ability to master it in time), it will give me even further motivation and strength to tackle the other areas of imbalance in my life. Ultimately, everything is connected to each other, and improvement in one area will affect the progress of all the others.
Hopefully tomorrow I will feel better and will actually be able to begin my nutrition and exercise program, as well as do some important reading for therapy. A good night’s sleep will help… So I’m off to bed. Goodnight… Whoever you are. 🙂
February 19, 2010
Something incredible happened as I lay there in the hospital bed on that pivotal Sunday. I heard a voice inside me say, “There is a reason you are still alive. You have a work to do.” I was overcome with a feeling of deep purpose, a feeling that there is something very important I need to do with my life. I don’t know what that purpose is yet, but I am confident that as I recover and move forward in my life, I will discover what it is that God put me here to do.
Make the most of every failure. Fall forward.
I feel that writing this blog is perhaps a small part of that purpose. If nothing else, it will give me a reason to keep on going. By making a commitment to myself to write each day, to tell the story of my recovery, I am giving myself a reason to get up every morning. A reason to push forward no matter what obstacles lie before me. At this point in the process, the smallest thing is a struggle, and this is a huge undertaking for me. However, I have a feeling that writing this blog, even if no one else in the world reads it, is going to be the most important part of my recovery.
Since that last time at the hospital, I have had many ups and downs. I have had some successes. I have also had failures. But I have realized that as many times as I fail, I pick myself back up again, brush myself off, and move on. Failures are my greatest opportunities to learn more about myself. This blog is itself a result of “falling forward,” and it will continue to be a source of motivation and strength to me as I embark on this journey to discover who I am. Day by endless day, step by stumbling step, I will become just a little more unbroken.
It was the evening of January 3, 2010. I blinked into the glaring fluorescent lights on the emergency room ceiling as I rubbed the stinging handcuff marks on my wrists. Dazed and lethargic from the 24 Nyquil pills still running through my veins, I stuttered my way through an awkward series of questioning from various nurses and doctors who forced their way into my consciousness. Talking was the last thing I wanted to do. Giving them reasons was not only daunting, but seemingly futile at this point.
“Why did you overdose?”
“Were you trying to kill yourself?”
“What’s going on in your life that would make you want to do this?”
All I could do in response was shake my head and say, over and over again, “I don’t know.” I don’t know. I don’t know why I took all those pills. I don’t why I’m so hopeless and depressed. I don’t know why I hate myself so much. I don’t know why I hurt so badly. I don’t know why I just want my life to end. All I know is that I don’t want to feel anything anymore. I’m tired of my life. I’m tired of being me.
The entire scenario – the paramedics, the ambulance, the emergency room, the subsequent seclusion in a psych unit – was all too familiar too me. This was my third suicide attempt in the last two months. My first attempt involved overdosing on liquid Nyquil and slicing my arms, wrists, and neck with a utility knife. During the second episode, I submitted myself to the hospital before I followed through with my plan. And here I was again, in a hospital, choking down charcoal. This time was a bit more dramatic, as I had actually written a suicide note to my parents and, in my medicated state, apparently attacked the paramedics…hence the handcuffs. Even now I can’t say for sure whether or not I truly wanted to die. I figured, whatever happens, happens. If I die, so be it. If I don’t, I guess it wasn’t mean to be. Either way, I didn’t care. Either way, I hoped to somehow escape the overwhelming intensity of the emotions that bombarded me from moment to moment, making life meaningless and unbearable.
Episodes of severe depression and turmoil have become a way of life for me. My first episode occurred at sixteen years old, accompanied by severe anxiety and panic attacks. I have dealt with both depression and anxiety on and off for seven years now. I have also struggled with eating disorders – first anorexia, then bulimia and uncontrollable binges lasting days at a time. Though I have experienced social anxiety, perfectionism, low self-esteem, and excessive shame and guilt for most of my life (largely as a result of childhood sexual trauma), the severe symptoms of depression, as well as other self-destructive behaviors, had become especially prevalent over the last several years.
I could never understand why the very act of living was so difficult for me. Why couldn’t I just be happy and normal? I felt stuck in destructive patterns of behavior that affected my health, my relationships, my schooling, and my work. Over the few months leading up to my first suicide attempt, and continuing on until the third, sexual promiscuity, binging and purging, drinking, and cutting had become the norm for me. I absolutely hated these things, but I felt as if I had no control over myself. I no longer cared what happened to my body, because I hated it. I no longer cared what happened to my spirit, because I already felt dead inside. Dead to everything but pain, loneliness, and self-loathing. I turned my back on God. I was somehow angry at Him for what my life had become and, at the same time, felt I was a filthy, disgusting creature unworthy of His love. I felt that I had nothing, no one, to turn to. I was in complete darkness.
Two weeks ago I was officially diagnosed with chronic, recurrent depression and borderline personality disorder. Though depression is commonly known, BPD (borderline personality disorder) is not. The symptoms of BPD include frantic effort to avoid abandonment; a pattern of intense and unstable relationships; identity confusion and disturbance; impulsivity in a least two areas that are self-damaging; recurrent suicidal behavior, gestures or threats, or self-mutilating behavior; emotional dysregulation and instability; chronic feelings of emptiness; inappropriate anger or difficulty controlling it; stress-related paranoia or dissociation. I exhibit every single one of these criteria. Believe it or not, I was actually very relieved to hear this. Finally, there was a reason for everything I was feeling and experiencing. I am not a horrible person. I am dealing with an illness that is brought on by a combination of abnormal brain functioning, genetic predisposition, and negative and stressful life events. I have a difficult time dealing with emotions, and I have certain thought patterns and beliefs that are a result of childhood trauma and that lead to unhealthy ways of coping (eating disorders, self-harm, acting out, isolation, etc).
Now that the underlying cause of my distress has been pinpointed, I have hope that I can overcome this illness that has kept me down for so long. Through medication and therapy, I CAN get through the depression, through the BPD, through my eating disorder… and become healthy and whole again. But although meds and therapy sessions are an important part of my recovery, I am fully aware that the strength motivation to achieve full mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual health MUST come from somewhere inside ME. And THAT is where my biggest challenge lies.