What would it look like?

This is a Really Real Mental Health Post.

This one got long and I’m leaving it that way, because there’s some really good stuff in here.

It’s been almost a week since I wrote.  I can normally tell things are going well when I’m not writing every day.

It’s hard to write when things are just,

Okay.

I started asking for a word a week or two ago.  I asked my therapist, asked in group therapy, asked Wonder Woman. “What’s the word for baseline, midline, “normal”?  Not manic, not depressed, just, okay.”

I don’t like using the word normal. I don’t think there is a “normal.” Add to that, having a period when I’m not hypomanic and not depressed certainly isn’t normal for me.

It hasn’t really lasted any significant period, so I wouldn’t classify it as stability.

Euthymic.

According to an online medical dictionary, “Euthymia is a normal non-depressed, reasonably positive mood. It is distinguished from hyperthymia, which refers to an extremely happy mood, and dysthymia, which refers to a depressed mood. It is a term used frequently in mental status exams.”

I’m mostly euthymic right now.

My meds are working. Unfortunately I’m on some higher doses and I’m having some shitty side effects, but I’m finding ways to cope with them.

Meanwhile I’m working on some hard shit in partial. I’m digging into some core beliefs about myself that are supremely unhelpful. I’m trying to sort out the process of getting rid of them and replacing them with positive truths. I’m digging into how I’m supposed to do that.

It’s easy to say on the surface, especially when I’m doing well, “I’m not too much,” “I’m not less than,” “I’m good enough,” and ultimately “I’m allowed to be me and I’m wholly lovable as my true self.” But, when there’s an underlying belief that it’s all bullshit, that surface shine falls apart as soon as depression hits.

It becomes a spiral.

Depression makes me question my validity.

And my worthiness.

And my right to the space I take, both physically and emotionally.

And eventually my desire, and even my right to exist.

That’s so hard to look at from the outside.

How do I change it?

Telling myself “I am pretty, I am kind, I am important” is a great place to start. (Side note: I’ve never seen that movie) However, it only goes so far.

I was asked, “What does life look like without those beliefs?” “What does life look like without mental illness?”

Well, fuck.

This is all I’ve known.

Where does the illness end and I begin? What happens if you take me away from the trauma, away from the chaos, and away from the mental instability?

Who would I be if I were to achieve stability?

I keep saying, that right now it isn’t fair that my brain is being such an asshole. My life is the calmest it’s ever been. My bills are paid, I have lights and food and a stable roof over my head. My house isn’t filled with tension from the latest screaming match, or problems we are avoiding. I’m, in a lot of ways, living my best life right now.

And my brain is more unstable than it’s ever been.

Maybe it doesn’t know what stability should look like.

I mean, it’s not just one thing. It’s also that life is finally calm enough that I can process and heal from all of the trauma, and healing isn’t pretty.

But maybe it’s time to take a long, hard look at what my life would be if it weren’t the only thing I’ve ever known.

And that’s some hard shit.

No, I don’t wanna.

This is a Really Real Mental Health Post.

Today has been long and difficult.

I’m tired and overwhelmed.

I sit alone at my desk.

Not even 8 in the evening.

My bed is calling my name.

It’s my safe space.

I can be sad there.

I can hide under the covers there.

I can let myself be fully depressed there.

I can lean into it there.

I fight back, whining out loud “No, I don’t wanna.”

I don’t want to give in and crawl into my bed.

I don’t want to feel like this again.

I’m fighting so hard.

I’m taking the medication.

I’m going to my program.

And depression is wrapping its arms around me again.

The thoughts are whispering in my ears again.

I’m wondering how safe it is to be alone.

I say it louder “No, I don’t want to.”

I don’t want to feel like this.

I don’t want to fight this fight.

Again.

I don’t want to fight my brain so I can get out of bed.

I don’t want to fight my brain to stay engaged with life.

I don’t want to fight my brain for the right to live.

The right to exist.

I don’t want to fight my brain for survival.

I’m doing the right things.

I’m staying out of bed.

I’m finding things to stay occupied with.

I’m redirecting my thoughts.

But I feel so very tired right now.

“I don’t want to.”

I don’t want to ride this roller coaster again.

I don’t want to be at this amusement park.

I don’t want to be in this movie.

I don’t want to be part of this play.

Why can’t I set this book down.

Do I have to stay in this library?

Can someone cancel my subscription?

I already have too many issues.

“I don’t want to.”

Will to live.

This is a Really Real Mental Health Post.

I used to have this feeling, when sitting in therapy, or the psychiatrists office, or at PHP, that they knew something that I don’t know. Like there’s some big secret they aren’t telling me, something happening in the conversations behind the scenes.

Like they know the outcome and just weren’t letting me in on it.

That feeling was so strong last year.

I haven’t thought about it in awhile.

But back then, last time I was here, I wanted to scream at them.

“Tell me, what does the ending of this story look like.”

“Does the main character live, or does she die?”

“What type of story is this?”

I hadn’t thought about that in a long time.

I’ve been feeling like I’ve taken 20 steps back.

Like I’m right where I started.

Like the past year has been useless.

But somehow, in the midst of this crisis.

Even while buying bottles of pills.

Even while checking into the hospital.

Even while sitting in the rooms at Partial.

Even though I don’t know what the ending of the story is.

I know the main character makes it out alive.

Of course, it’s kind of funny (and horrifying) that today they let me in on a little secret.

The last time I was sitting in the rooms at Partial, they weren’t sure what the ending of the story was going to be.

They had their own doubts.

Not that I was in immediate danger, they would have gotten me safe, but that overall, I hadn’t solidified my will to live.

I remember being that person. I remember the wish to die being so strong that I could feel death surround me. I remember that darkness. I remember feeling no connection with life.

I remember.

Suicidal thoughts are different now. Even at their worst. Even in absolute crisis. Even when I’m truly in danger.

It doesn’t make them any less dangerous.

They could still make me just as dead.

But there’s a will to live that wasn’t there before.

There’s a fight.

There’s a chance.

There’s a light.

There’s hope behind it.

Yeah, shit still sucks sometimes and I’m honestly not sure just how far I’ll be able to go with this fucked up brain of mine.

But at least we aren’t questioning my chance at survival anymore.

And I guess that’s some pretty significant growth.

In the grand scheme of things.

Sick of Being Sick

This is a Really Real Mental Health Post.

I’m tired.

I crawl in bed and close my eyes.

But this is not the kind of tired a nap will fix.

I’m tired of being sick.

I’m tired of knowing this will never go away.

I’m tired of not knowing what days will be good and what days will be bad.

I’m tired of it being out of my control.

I feel like I do the right things.

I take the meds and I go to the classes and I go to the groups and I do the therapy and I work hard. I practice mindfulness and all of the skills I’ve learned over the years. I stay active and I eat well.

I give myself all of the things a little plant needs.

And I still never know when I’m going to have a bad day or week or month. I never know when it’s going to come back.

And I know it will get better, and that’s great.  That’s wonderful. That’s fantastic.

But I can’t plan around it getting better. I can’t even plan around it getting worse.

It will always do both, on it’s own timeline, and sometimes it doesn’t matter what I’m doing at the time.

I could end up suicidal on my wedding day, just because the chemicals in my brain decide it’s a good day to go haywire.

I could end up manic the day I’m supposed to have surgery (which has most likely been cancelled, again, anyway).

I could end up fine as they’re checking me into a psychiatric unit.

I’m tired of being sick.

I’m tired of it being out of my control.

The idea that I just can’t do things now, but that maybe one day I’ll be able to do them, seems like bullshit because I have so little control over this shit.

And it’s not fair.

I didn’t ask for this.

I didn’t do anything to deserve it.

I got out of PHP 15 months ago with the idea that after DBT I’d be able to return to work, because DBT was going to give me the skills to better manage my illness.

I WAS IN MY SECOND ROUND OF DBT WHEN THIS EPISODE STARTED!

I’m doing the work and it seems pointless. It seems like I’m never going to get any better than where I’m at now.

And where I’m at now means two pages worth of medications daily, suicidal thoughts almost daily, a severe mood episode monthly, not being able to work or even hold down a part time volunteer position.

It makes life itself seem pointless. It makes me want to give up.

I’m tired.

Bounce Back

This is a Really Real Mental Health Post.

I started an all day, 5 days a week, Partial Hospitalization Program last Wednesday.

The school semester started today.

Therapy every Friday afternoon.

Derby and NAMI Wednesday nights.

I need to get back to the Gym.

Somewhere in there I need to clean the house and grocery shop and cook dinner and pack my lunch.

I keep expecting myself to be 100%.

This weekend I got so mad at myself because Friday I ended up melting down. I was exhausted, emotionally and physically. I was overwhelmed. I was realizing that there was so much that needed to be done with school starting and here I was away for the weekend.

But the alternative was staying home alone for three days which didn’t feel like the greatest idea either.

So while I was in the car trying to nap I was also beating myself up. The crisis was over, why couldn’t I handle this?

Because I’m not 100%. I’m not even 50%. I’m not suddenly, overnight, all better, just because they let me come home.

They only let me come home because I’m safe.

But that doesn’t mean the thoughts are gone.

That doesn’t mean this mood episode has totally passed, even though I try to act like it has.

The good news is, Saturday and Sunday were a lot better. I was able to relax into the flow of a tournament. I met some new people. I saw some people I hadn’t seen in awhile. I watched some great derby.

I enjoyed myself.

But the knowledge of what was coming as soon as I got home was still looming over my head. I looked at my classes online a few times. Tried to read some of the coursework. The words got jumbled in my brain. My focus isn’t quite where it should be, quite where I need it to be.

I’m overwhelmed.

And that’s okay.

Because I’m not 100%. I’m not even 50%. I’m not suddenly, overnight, all better, just because they let me come home.

I still have a lot of healing left to do.

I need to cut myself some slack.

No one is expecting perfection.

Except me.

Except me.

Except.

Me.

Maybe this isn’t the semester to worry about deans list and honors programs. Maybe this isn’t the semester to return to full time classes. Maybe passable work and part time classes are just fine.

Maybe a messy house and Instacart and frozen meals.

Maybe it’s time to reconsider some priorities, even if just for now.

Maybe I’m allowed to be less than 100%. Maybe even less than 50%. Maybe I’m not expected to be suddenly, overnight, all better.

Healing takes time.

Working on myself has to be the top priority.

Otherwise, I’ll never bounce back.

Pick Up The Pieces

This is a Really Real Mental Health Post.

(Trigger Warning: Mention of past suicide plan)

I came home from the hospital yesterday.

I walked into an empty sink and empty trash, but there were still obvious signs of my depression.

I needed them gone.  I needed to pick up the pieces that I had left scattered around as my brain fell apart around me.  I needed to sweep away the evidence that showed I was gone for almost a week. I needed the house to return to normal as quickly as possible.

I needed to reclaim my space.

I was exhausted but driven by a need that I couldn’t put words to. I hadn’t yet figured out why I was straightening the kitchen and cleaning out the fridge.  Why I was changing the litter and cleaning my desk. Why I was cleaning my craft room and doing my laundry.

I just wanted to sit down and play with relaxing things that I hadn’t had access to all week and I couldn’t let myself.

So I kept going through the house, cleaning this and that, working from one thing to the next until I had finished picking up all of the pieces left behind by my depression.  Until I had finished putting everything back in order.

We returned the 365 count bottle of Benadryl that I bought that last day home (with every intent of ingesting it along with a bottle of wine). We discussed whether or not any of my new meds were dangerous enough to be locked away.

And then we got dinner at the one place I had been craving the entire time I was eating hospital food (RoFo Fried Chicken of all things). And we got me the first real coffee I’d had in nearly a week (Holy Shit I missed coffee).

I sorted my meds for the coming week with the new dosages in place.

Eventually, everything was done, I felt like I had picked up all of the pieces.  I went to bed knowing I had wiped the slate clean.

From this episode.

Blurred Lines

This is a Really Real Mental Health Post.

Trigger Warning: Mention of Suicidal Thoughts.

Chances are, this isn’t the last time I will be hospitalized.

I’ve always been really good about reaching out for help, and in the last couple of years, the line between safe and unsafe has blurred.

Most of the time the suicidal thoughts are just background noise. I can see them as just thoughts, and I go between seeing them as dumb, to seeing them as annoying, to seeing them as depressing.

But, sometimes I get actively suicidal, with a plan, time, and intent, and that’s dangerous, I’m not safe during that period. When that happens it can last for as little as 10 minutes or so.  Then just as quickly, I’m fine again, seeing a future for myself, knowing that the suicidal thoughts are just thoughts and that I can ignore them.  It may not get dangerous again. Or it may be dangerous again in 20 minutes or an hour. Sometimes the dangerous period lasts longer, even as much as an hour. Sometimes I go back and forth between dangerous and safe. We have no way of knowing when it will start and when it will stop. We have no way of knowing if it’ll be one episode, or days full of them.

Part of the problem is the fact that my active suicidal thoughts (plan, time, intent) pass relatively quickly. By the time I get to the ER, if I’m not actively suicidal, it’s really iffy if they’ll keep me. It’s borderline if they need to keep me, because the truth is, it may not come back.

I have a hard time reaching out for help when I’m like that, because during the actively suicidal moments I don’t want help. When it passes I feel stable enough that I don’t really need help any more, especially since sometimes the episodes are over.

Wednesday morning I had an extra appointment with my therapist via phone because I knew I wasn’t doing well. I knew I needed the extra support. I’m lucky to have a therapist who will fit me in (even if it’s a phone appointment) for a second appointment in a week whenever she can. I also text her when I’m having a rough time and she stays in contact during those periods.

We had discussed inpatient but decided on partial hospitalization because I was still future oriented most of the time and we didn’t feel I was quite at the point where inpatient hospitalization was warranted. Throughout Wednesday I got a lot worse and ended up making the decision to go inpatient instead.

This may not be the last time I see the inside of a psych unit. But I also won’t be inpatient every time I get suicidal. So far, with the help of some close friends and my therapist, I’ve been really good at making the judgement call.

I do the best I can to stay on the safe side, even though the lines are blurred.