I swear my Psychologist is amazing. She’s been calling me since our session on Thursday, just to make sure I’m still alive. I panicked this morning because my phone was on silent, so she emailed me and said if I didn’t get back to her by the end of the day she was calling an Ambulance. I joked with her that by then I’d likely have been dead 8 hours by that time, but at least the Coroner wouldn’t fault her for checking up on me in an inquest, which prompted her to write some proper notes on our sessions just in case. When she asked me how I was feeling and my reply was “Meh” she knew exactly what I meant. “Sobriety sucks, doesn’t it?” she laughed. “Indeed, cold turkey was not as delicious as I’d hoped it would be” I responded. It’s a nice feeling to have at least one person in my corner, who’s concerned enough to call and check on me. I know she’s probably legally obligated to, but nothing requires her to be so kind and empathetic on the phone or during our sessions. And yes, I pay her to be on my mental health team squad, but in the past I’ve had some poor players. People I felt I couldn’t count on. Not like her. She’s there when the team is doing well, and when it’s faltering completely. And she makes me laugh, to boot so there’s that. I wish everyone had someone like her in their lives. I might buy a cactus to take into her when I see her in a week’s time. Just something small so she knows her hard work is appreciated, because it is, greatly.
Loving, and being a caretaker to, someone with mental illness must be a tough gig. I know sometimes, when I look at my mother, who’s been forced to deal with my mental health problems since I was 16, I can see the exhaustion in her expression. I can hear the frustration in her voice when she asks how my day was and my only response is a shrug. I can see the lament in her face when I’m packing my bags to go to the Psych Hospital, again. She’d never, ever tell me she was tired of me and all the baggage I come with, but if she did, I wouldn’t blame her for a second. Like all her friends, she should be a grandmother by now. Her daughter should have a home of her own, and a partner to care for and grandkids for her to spoil. But instead, she ended up with a fucked up loner who barely leaves the house, with only cats for her to dote over, which she does, frequently, like tiny little fur covered grandchildren. I know she’d deny she was disillusioned, but how earth could she not be? This wasn’t the life she imagined for me. Fuck, it wasn’t the life I imagined for myself. Mental illness can sometimes feel like one giant flaming shitstorm of disappointment after another, for both you and the people who love you. My depression manifests as constantly feeling like a complete failure to myself and the people around me. It can’t be easy to love someone so critical of themselves all the time. Any time she compliments me, I contrast it to my multitude of faults and suck the intentioned kindness right out of it. I don’t mean to do it. It’s just my default when someone tries to compliment me. When she suggests ‘smiling’ and ‘bucking up’, I cringe inside. I know she’s trying to help, but all that serves to do is make other people feel less uncomfortable with witnessing my misery. I guess she doesn’t know what else to say. Hell, what is there to say? I’ve struggled myself to come up with anything insightful or meaningful to say to my close friends who struggle with mental illness. All I can usually conjure up is “I’m here for you when you need it.” I don’t serve up platitudes and cliches. It’s nothing that a person who suffers from poor mental health hasn’t heard a thousand times before. Sometimes, all I can think to is let them know they can call me anytime day or night, and I promise not to judge. Kind of like Marge Simpson acting as the ‘Listen Lady. That’s about all you can do for someone you care for with mental illness. Just show up and be there. It doesn’t matter if you don’t talk. Shoot a few hoops in the backyard. Bring your nail polish to a friends place for mani/pedi night. Send them a book. Ask them if they’d like to go for low stress outings, like a dive in the country or just to check in on the kitties at the animal shelter. You don’t have to have the wisdom to cure them, or a magic trick to help their brains work properly…you just have to be there. And don’t be disheartened if your offers are rebuffed. It’s not unusual for people with Depression, especially, to isolate themselves. Let them know you don’t care if they’re still in the pyjamas, or that their hair isn’t done or the house is a mess. It goes a long way when a loved one can overlook those things. Assure your friend that you’re happy to both just geek away on your respective laptops in silence if that’s what they’d prefer. Sometimes, just being alone with company can make someone’s day a little better. Occasionally, I even like to have a Skype conference going while I do my own thing, just so I can occasionally look up and see someone’s face and ask what they’re up to.
And as a carer, make sure you look after yourself first. Like the way they tell you to put your own air mask on in an aircraft if things are going bad, then you can help the people around you. It’s okay to say no if you’re not up to things. You deserve long luxurious baths and fluffy dressing gowns too. Caring for someone who’s mentally ill can be exhausting and draining, but I promise you, your efforts don’t go unnoticed. You can’t believe how much we appreciate your hard work. I still think about the people who helped me 15 years ago, like my best friend as well as my boyfriend at the time. I’m still grateful to them every day for sticking with me when I was hardest to love. And so will the people in your life. They’ll remember who stuck around and loved them when their lives felt like they were falling apart. There will be plenty who offer empty platitudes, but very few who actually see them through. Carers who show up are worth their weight in gold and well worth holding on to. I can’t begin to tell you how we’d cope without you. This is for the people who show up consistently and who always have my back. I won’t forget you,.
CW: Strong themes of suicide
Chester Bennington of Linkin Park died yesterday of an assumed suicide, following the self inflicted death of his friend Chris Cornell of Audioslave in May. I know for many it must be hard to imagine that one can have it all- money, fame, love, family and still want to take your own life, but it happens time and time again. I’ve seen talk on Facebook alleging that it was actually the Illuminati killing off celebrity rockers, one at a time. Wouldn’t that be a significantly easier, more digestible scenario than the actions of two seriously despondent individuals that just couldn’t endure the pain of living anymore. Suicides can be notoriously difficult to come to terms with. They leave so many questions unanswered. When my friend J took her own life a few years ago, I struggled with those unanswered questions myself. How could this beautiful, smart, mother in her early thirties, that was finally heading in the right direction after years of drug abuse, chose to end it all now, just as her life was turning around? I’ve consoled myself with thoughts that it may have been accidental. It’s easier to come to terms with than the thought she was so desperately unhappy without my ever noticing. I kick myself for not noticing the signs earlier. Were there signs? If there were, I don’t remember seeing them. I knew she was sad and lonely, but she suffered from Depression and feelings like those are par for the course. The last conversation we had was about her books. “At least I’m surrounded by my precious, precious books” she wrote. That’s it. That’s where our conversation ended. It was the last thing she would ever say to me. How heartbreakingly ordinary.
Sometimes I think I see her when I’m out, but inevitably it’s just another thin brunette with a willowy frame walking with her back to me. I still haven’t deleted her number from my phone. I’ve thought about doing it, but it feels too final. I pass an Indian restaurant on my way to the Hospital on Wednesdays, called Biriyani something or other. I can’t help but think of her and the last meal she made ever made for me. I have tiny indented scar on my neck from a zit that went rogue that she tried to squeeze. Every time I run my fingers over the blemish, I think of her look of perverse pleasure as she tried to evacuate it. I thought of her as I packed my Kate Bush albums into storage. I’d put them away to give to her, but she died before I could. I think about her when I see someone roll a cigarette or when I use the handbag I took to her funeral. All these things still bring me a sense of shock when I remember she isn’t amongst us anymore.
My own Psychologist has me under close watch for similar reasons currently. She called today to see how I was doing. At my last appointment on Thursday she told me she’d call in 48 hours to make sure I was still alive. If I hadn’t answered the phone, or the proceeding email she sent, she was going to send an ambulance to my house. She said she’d call again Monday to make sure I was okay. It made me wonder if J had had the same level of care, if she’d still be here today. Would just knowing someone cared enough to follow up have kept her here? Would that phone call have kept her alive? Who’s to say. Maybe it would have, maybe it wouldn’t. But I can’t help but wonder.
If you’re feeling suicidal, please tell someone. Your doctor, your partner, your shrink, even the person on the other end at Lifeline. You don’t have to do this all on your own.
There are people who will care. There are people who will make it their mission to keep you alive during your crisis. You can get through this with help, you just need to ask.
“Prue, would you like to share with the group?”
I steadied myself, sighing with defeat before I’d even begun. I knew what I had to share in Support today was going to make me feel like a complete failure, but what choice did I have. Making oneself accountable for a complete collapse of will power and poor choices never feels good, but you have to own them all the same.
“So, the last week has been shithouse…like, really bad.” I started. I could feel five sets of eyes keenly set on me, eager know why my week had been such a disaster. “I’ve been really depressed, like the worst I’ve been since a few years back when I tried to take my own life. My moods have been all over the place…at lunchtime I’m a three out of ten, by dinner I’m at negative 10 and planning my death.” Lots of sympathetic nodding ensued. “I’ve started drinking to cope, on top of the painkillers I’ve been taking by the fistful…I know it’s a stupid, reckless way to manage my feelings but I just…well, fuck, I don’t know…I haven’t been able to cope.” I felt bad for swearing in group, but worse was the feeling of being completely transparent with my failures. I’ve been the recipient of tens of thousands of dollars in psychiatric care in the last year alone, and I couldn’t harness a damn thing I’d been taught to try and pull myself from the abyss I’ve inhabited of late. Instead, I’ve tried to suffocate my feelings with rum and codeine, only exacerbating the problem and creating a dilemma all of their own.
The group therapist encouraged me to tell my Psychiatrist the gory details of what I’ve been dealing with. Which I did to a certain point. I confessed to him about the suicidality and how much I’d been drinking. It was such a quick appointment I didn’t get a chance to bring up the painkiller issue, which I admit I felt relieved about. To be quite honest, I’m hoping I don’t have to mention it at all because I plan to have it under control by the time I see him next in three weeks. I suspect cold turkey won’t be half as appealing as it sounds.
The Shrink adjusted my medications by 100mg here, and 20mg there in an effort to help my mood, but suggested a stay in hospital for a medication review of my antidepressants. It’s really not something I’m keen to do, because this has been the only medication I’ve found that helps me to actually manage some of my OCD thoughts and compulsions so far. The thought of going back to the absolute chaos that was my mind only a few months ago is completely unbearable. He assures me they’re stronger than what I’m currently taking and should work better for me, but I’m skeptical. Antidepressants are notoriously hit or miss. Instead, I’m hoping that an increase in both my antipsychotic medications will help alleviate some of the distress I’m currently working through.
I really hadn’t planned on writing this blog entry. I didn’t think the painkiller abuse was something I felt I could share. It started to control chronic back pain, but it soon took on a life of its own. It’s been going on quite a while in secret, and to be honest, I thought I had it relatively under control until recently, that was, when I was prescribed painkillers for dental pain. When I found myself consuming two different prescriptions for heavy opiates within 24 hours, I shocked myself at the tolerance I’d built in the last 12 months. It gave me pause to take a serious look at the habit I’d acquired. Right now, the desire to delete this and continue this path is so alluring. I know I could say nothing, and keep getting away with it, but eventually I know the shit will hit the fan and I’ll think back to this moment and wish I’d kept myself honest and accountable while I still could. So there it is, grisly frankness in all it’s shame. I hope you’re not as disappointed in me as I am with myself.
Friday was, without doubt, the most emotionally distressing day and night I’ve had since I attempted to take my life four years ago. I’d felt myself sliding for the week leading up to it. I’d lost my ability to concentrate, I’d become agitated and uncharacteristically angry, I wanted to be left completely alone as I’d lost patience with everyone around me, and I’d begun to formulate a rough plan of an exit strategy. I was feeling overwhelmed with animosity and grief and all my usual coping tools were failing, so I turned to alcohol as one is want to do. Before I knew it, one drink turned into six and then of course, I was just depressed and drunk. And as it feels so advised in that scenario, when one is three sheets to the wind and sobbing uncontrollably, I took to the keyboard to hammer out some austere self loathing to a particularly patient friend, who graciously received my inebriated ramblings and recommended I put the drink down and head to bed.
The next morning, I woke feeling exceptionally embarrassed and ashamed of my behaviour the previous night. In addition, the sombre desolation that shadowed me the day before was still there upon waking, even more intensely than it had been previously. The first thing I did was apologize to my friend who had borne the brunt of my despondency the night before. I tried to explain how a combination of madness, loneliness and melancholy all drunkenly conspired to hit the send button on my morose thoughts. They were forgiving yet concerned about my mental state. As am I, if truth be told. I’ve since considered that it might be beneficial for me to go back to hospital for a spell if I can’t shake the black dog on my own. I’m going to give it a few days and see how I feel, but I’m going to pack a bag just in case.
I had my first Panic Attack at 17. It roused me suddenly from a deep sleep with an acute pain in my chest that made me sit bolt upright and clutch at my breast. The pain was so intense I started to cry hysterically. This was it. This was where it was going to end. In the double bed of a caravan in some backwoods hick town an hour out of Melbourne. My mind raced, and the urge to bolt outside was immense. I threw the doona off, and fled outside into the garden in just my knickers and a tee shirt. I dropped to my knees, and begged the Universe to save me from what I believed was certain impending death. My mind raced with panicked thoughts of confusion. I couldn’t understand what was happening. Was this a heart attack? Surely I was too young for that? If not, then what? I couldn’t articulate to my worried boyfriend what was going on in the scene that confronted him. I couldn’t describe why I’d hot footed it from the bed and raced into the garden, instead. I just felt the overwhelming urge to escape. To flee. There I was in the dark, poised in the down dog position, bawling furiously between shrieks of pain that radiated from my sternum. As I closed my eyes, I could actually see the insane spectacle I’d created as if I were floating above myself. I was conscious but similarly completely detached from what was going on. I began to beg for help with screams that made me relieved we didn’t have neighbours for miles. I must have sounded as though I were dying, but that’s exactly what it felt like was happening. I don’t remember the drive to the hospital, but I do recall arriving there and attempting to explain to the Triage nurse what I was doing there at three in the morning, barefoot wearing only a Oasis tee shirt and cotton undies. I could have been naked for all I cared, the pain was still that overwhelming. They gave me some IV benzodiazepine and some Tramadol for the pain and left me there alone to wonder what in god’s name had just happened. The doctor couldn’t tell me definitively. A broken sternum perhaps, they suggested eventually. When the pain finally subsided and I had calmed down suitably, I called my mum to tell her about the nights terrifying events. Her response prompted the first time I would ever hear the phrase “Panic Attack”. She suggested I leave my live in boyfriend, and return home to see a Psychiatrist who could help me, which I did without any further convincing.
I’ve had Panic Attacks in a plethora of different circumstances. At home, at the Pub, in the middle of Chadstone’s 24 hour Christmas shop-a-thon, at workplaces, in the cinema, at the supermarket. I’d have them as often as five times a week. Each time, the symptoms are just the same. Panic, confusion, fear, sweating, nausea, chest pain, the fear of a loss of control and the urge to run from the situation. Eventually, just the very idea of a potential Panic Attack left me debilitated. In unfamiliar circumstances, I’d find myself assessing the venue for public toilets to hide in, and ready escape routes to bolt through should I need to flee the scene. Then I found myself unable to return to situations and locations where I’d experienced a Panic Attack, worried merely being there would provoke another freakout. Eventually, it morphed into a fear of being anywhere outside of the safe confines of my house. The things I couldn’t avoid doing, I combated with the liberal use of Xanax. It wasn’t unusual for me to have to take so much, that when I finally reached my destination I was completely useless because I was so sedated. The only way I could be convinced to leave the house was if the person I was with promised to turn around and come straight home if I felt the beginnings of a Panic Attack. I was blessed at the time to have a best friend who was kind enough to have her plans potentially ruined each time, just so I could attempt attending certain situations and events. And I did ruin plenty of plans. Quite often, we’d only get halfway to a destination before I freaked out and needed to come home. Like a trooper, she never complained or made me feel badly for ending her outings prematurely. I’d feel terribly guilty but she’d always tell me it was fine and that we’d try again another day. For years, she was the best ally one could ask for.
And that’s our cue to discuss how you can be a good ally to a friend or loved one who suffers from Anxiety or Panic Attacks. I know a lot of people feel quite uncertain how to interact with someone who lives with these illnesses. Understandably, it can feel like an overwhelmingly impossible task if you, yourself, don’t have any lived experience of what it’s like to deal with these issues. In theory, all the things I’ll tell you will seem relatively simple, but putting them into action can be require a great deal of patience and consideration.
Loving someone with Anxiety or Panic Disorder can, at times, be incredibly frustrating. You’ll probably be no stranger to cancelled or altered plans. Trust me when I tell you that it’s not because the person you love doesn’t care, that they aren’t keen to spend time with your or they don’t value the effort you put in. When we agree to do something or go somewhere, we really truly want to be able to follow it through, but sometimes Anxiety can turn those plans on their ass. It’s okay to be disappointed with us. I will guarantee you the loved one who’s cancelled on you will feel disappointed too, and in addition copious amounts of guilt and frustration. A ‘see how we go’ approach is something you can adopt that can help us feel more comfortable with plans that might make us anxious. Set a plan that you’ll both go as far as you can. If that means you make your destination and have a great time, awesome. But if it means you get there, and after 5 minutes your anxious friend freaks, let them know you’ll have no issue leaving. Reassure them it won’t be a big deal. Even if you’re miffed, try not to show it. Suggest you both take a timeout in the car, just the two of you and listen to some tunes. You might find your friend is able to try again and return to your plans after a brief break.
Another thing that can be helpful if you have something planned is the dry run. A few days before your scheduled plans, try taking a drive to the destination. Scope it out with your friend. Help them find the exits and the bathrooms if possible, or anywhere they could escape to for a 10 minute breather. This will provide your friend with some feelings of security when the actual event comes to fruition. Something else I always found helpful was a friend who was kind enough to keep a sick bag in their glove box, just in case I felt I needed to puke. When Anxiety strikes, it can upset your stomach really badly and there’s nothing worse than feeling anxiety about perhaps making a fool of yourself and vomiting inappropriately on top of regular anxiety about your outing.
A good way of keeping track of your friends anxiety, is with a number rating. So, a quick check in about where they’re at on a scale of 0 to 10 can give you an indication how the situation is progressing. Obviously, at a 0-3, you’re pretty good to go and you can proceed as normal. A 4-6 response might require you to ask if there’s anything you can do to help ease their anxiety. If you’re in the car, it might be to put the windows down for a bit of fresh air, or putting on some music to act as a distraction, or it might be time to begin to let your friend know that you won’t be upset if the plans are cancelled or changed. It doesn’t mean they will be, but sometimes knowing there’s a bit of freedom to pike without you becoming annoyed is enough to keep us going. A 7-10 rating let’s you know things are getting out of control and you’re friend could be looking at an impending Panic Attack. Gently guiding them through some breathing techniques is a great way to help your friend remain grounded. If you’re at an event or venue, ask them if they’d like to step out for some fresh air. If a Panic Attack ensues, short reassurances that the panic will pass, that they will be safe and that you’ll remain with them as long as they need can be a great comfort.
It can be distressing to watch someone you care for in such a state, so don’t feel badly if you’re overwhelmed. Being a good friend, and at times, caretaker to an individual with Anxiety or Panic Disorder can be exhausting. Remember to take time out for yourself and to treat yourself with the same patience and kindness you show others. It’s not just beneficial for you, but it will help prevent you feeling resentful of the sometimes extra requirements your friend may need from the relationship.
I’ll never forget the incredible understanding some of the people in my life have showed me during my illness. The friends who reassured me they still loved me in spite of my lack of ability to show up, those who put their own interests on hold to help me manage my own, and the folks who who have waited patiently for me to be well enough to follow through with certain plans. Such kind hearted individuals have made my journey with mental illness easier than it could have been and they are appreciated beyond measure. I’ve no doubt your understanding will be too.
CW: Themes of suicide
I’m plagued by disappointment in myself today. I was supposed to go to the day program where I do CBT for Obsessive Thoughts, but when the alarm went off at 6.30am this morning, the idea of going was just unbearable. Between that time of the month and dread at the thought of leaving the house, I pulled the blankets back down over my head and slept for another hour before calling in sick. I eventually left the house to go to the pharmacy and the supermarket but that’s about all I could manage today. Even in those familiar situations, I was filled with anxiety. You know that terrible feeling you get when you realize you’ve lost your wallet? Or left your phone somewhere you can’t remember? It feels just like that. Your stomach drops a hundred floors and your chest beats like Ringo Starr performing a solo inside your ribcage. Your skin feels prickly, you get the shakes and feel as though you’re about to spill your lunch all over the tiles. I tried to focus on my breathing to calm myself down, but it’s difficult under the fluorescent lighting amid a crowd of people. Even now that I’m home, in the security of my safe space, it’s still there. A few Clonazepam would go down pretty well about now, but alas the Simpsons and cigarettes are about as close to sedation as I can muster right now.
To be honest, the last few days have been particularly rough. My OCD has flared out of control, which leaves me stuck checking my face and body repeatedly for signs of infection bred from contamination. It’s an exercise in futility and exhaustion, as every blemish becomes the onset of some nightmarish disease. I check repeatedly that it hasn’t spread or become some festering blight every fifteen or so minutes, as long as it takes my my brain to recreate some new imagined malady that forces me to consult the mirror again. It’s like I’m stuck in this tedious loop that just never seems to stop. Sometimes, it’s hard not to lapse into thinking of ways I could end this constant mindfuck. I’m aware of how morbid and misanthropic that sounds, but for me, it’s the harsh reality of living with such an intense chronic mental illness. I’m not in an acute suicidal phase, so don’t Section me yet, but what they term passive suicidality. It’s more those morose thoughts like hoping I never wake up ever again, or wondering whether the ceiling could bear my weight or how long I’d have to inhale nitrogen for before I passed out. They’re not pretty thoughts, nor are they a cry for attention. They simply are. I’ve lived with them for a long time. There are days they are more intense than others. Sometimes, they are almost even comforting in a perverse way. They’re not shocking to me anymore, like they might be to you. For me, they’re just a reality of the illnesses I live with. When your life feels like it has nothing of value to offer anyone, it’s difficult to rationalize why you should keep going. I’ve merely existed for years. I haven’t lived. Living is laughing with friends, dinners out, a lover to build your life with, a satisfying career. It is not camping in your childhood bedroom, living with your parents at age 35 because of one’s multiple hospitalizations and risk of psychotic episode. I knew a friend growing up whose sibling was in a similar situation to that I’m in now. I remember thinking how desperately sad it was, and what a loser they must have been to be so stunted. Karma is a harsh fucking mistress.
I know what people must think of me. What a failure I appear to those who know me. A hilarious tragedy of a woman who got her comeuppance. I know how few people would be affected if I suddenly ceased to exist. That’s not a plea for you to tell me otherwise. You’d only be humoring me. I know I’m of no worth in the lives of most people I know, merely a character on social media who’s posts one occasionally ‘likes’, who bears no actual value in their existence. These grim assessments percolate through my mind on a 24 hour cycle. They are the thoughts I live with every day. They simply abide beside my useless pop culture trivia knowledge and memories of when I thought I had a chance at a regular life, like assurances that the sky is blue, or the grass is green. Perhaps one day, they may evolve into something less pathetic and more optimistic, but tonight, all I can do is drown them out 20 year old episodes of Springfield’s finest, swallow my handful of medication and hope tomorrow they’re not so intense.
If you’re having thoughts of taking your own life, please talk to someone whether it’s your partner, parent, friend, doctor or call Lifeline on 13 11 14 within Australia. You don’t have to deal with this alone. Click here for other crisis lines.
Some days, I feel I’m barely tethered to sanity, as if the connection were made with the finest cotton likely to fray and unravel at any moment. I see things out of the corner of my eye that aren’t really there. Shadows that leap in front of me, causing me to blanch with shock. I question everything I hear, hoping that tiny high pitched noise is something other people can hear it too. The myoclonic jerks that erupt from my core and tremor from my arms, pull and tug at my body like a sad, drunken marionette. I’m literally twelve tablets away from irrationality at any given moment. 24 tablets, and 2 nights away from complete breakdown. An ominous yet decidedly cut and dry affair. Medicate or perish. These are the choices I’m given, though they’re less choices and more ultimatums. Be consumed by compulsions, leap off the ledge of reality into a psychotic break or be crushed under the burdensome weight of a depressive episode. Unlike the missed contraceptive pill, there is no back up protection if I fail to remember to take it. It is simply a slip down the ladder that bridges the real world with darkness, edging closer to the abyss. And even when I am compliant with my medication, I’m inexplicably drawn to that void. To that somber chasm that promises eternal nothingness. It is always there, in the back of my mind, calling my name. Sometimes more loudly than others. I do what I can to drone it out, yet even only as a faint echo, it lures me close to the precipice where I sit a while, fantasizing about it’s cold embrace. The tether is stretched to it’s flimsy limits on these frequent occasions. One day, I imagine it will give as I peer over the edge, beginning what will either be a descent into madness or numbness. Which, time will only tell.
My mood journal hasn’t looked this bad for months and to be honest, I didn’t really notice it until I filled it out tonight with another Fugly mood report. That’s 4 days out of 6 where I’ve felt really incredibly low. In all four cases of ‘fugliness’ this week, I’ve slept through the majority of the day. Sleep has always been my greatest refuge from anxiety and depression. It’s somewhere for me to hide from Black Dog as he attempts to sniff me out and maul me to the ground. Sleep is where feelings are suspended in infinite darkness for a few glorious hours of numbness. I know, inevitably, all the same problems will be there when I wake up, but for those few perfect hours, I can exist without fear and sadness, assuming they don’t devolve into a night terror. I’ve tried other coping mechanisms, like mindful meditation, but the constant chatter in my head won’t shut off. It’s like turning a radio dial through an AM channel at speed, and picking up bits of conversation here and there that doesn’t make any sense at all, which is hardly conducive to meditation. I’ve tried Progressive Muscle Relaxation, but as soon as I bring awareness to certain parts of my body, they trigger compulsions for me to flex particular muscle groups and I end up in a loop because the stretch doesn’t ever feel quite right so I have to do it over again. Just writing about it then made me have to do it, damnit.
Sometimes I sleep because it keeps me safe from the thoughts I have to end it all. When I feel like that, I generally curl up in bed and sleep until the urge isn’t quite so dire. Or I sleep to avoid engaging in my compulsions to check things or pick at my face or consult Dr Google. Sleep keeps me safe from myself. God, isn’t that a terrible thought? That I’m my own most poisonous enemy and I’m constantly trying to escape myself? When I was younger, I used alcohol to avoid feeling negative emotions. But I knew it could turn into something dreadful, so I gave it up before I turned 19. About 7 sober years later, I found myself using cannabis in the same manner. At first it was just to make myself feel like I did before I was medicated, creative and able to laugh and feel emotions that weren’t pure misery. But eventually, it caught up with me and only served to exacerbate my negative emotions like fear and paranoia and sadness. I knew at that point, I had to stop. In the few years since I stopped smoking, sleep has become my dominant escape. I know I need to find a new coping strategy, although I’m not entirely sure what that will be. I know whatever it is will mean having to sit with negative emotions that I find distressing and not relying on booze, or drugs, or sleep to manage them, which is in itself a particularly scary proposition for me. I’ve never been particularly good at self soothing. In the hospital, we played with kinetic sand and play dough during a lesson on self soothing. They suggested we make a box full of things to help us cope when we’re feeling low. Things like a nice snuggly blanket, a few dvd’s, something to do with our hands like playing with the aforementioned sand or dough, something that smells nice like an essential oil or a favourite perfume. I’d planned to do it, but I just never got around to it. I think it might be a good time to find the time to make one for myself. Whether I’ll utilize it when I need to is an altogether different question, but at least it will be there if I decide to make use of it.
This week coming, I’m going to try not to sleep through my emotions. It could get really ‘fugly’, so be warned. If you have any coping suggestions for me, I’d love to hear them.
I can barely keep my hands still and strong enough to type tonight. They’ve been tremoring and shaking most of the day from the anxiety that’s coursing through my body. Yesterday, I made a stupid mistake that’s left me at the mercy of my OCD since. I accidentally coughed into my hand, then without thinking, rubbed my eye. Sounds benign enough, right? Not for me. I’ve spent the last 24 hours fearing I’ve contaminated myself with Ocular Herpes. God, just writing the words makes me feel sick with panic. I know it makes no sense that I should freak out about it, as I don’t have a cold sore and I probably only touched my eye with the side of my palm, but in the last 2 hours, I’ve consulted the mirror 30 times or more. Each time, I peer into my reflection, trying to find a spider vein of redness that could be the beginning of it. I can’t help but notice my right eye looks slightly redder than the left. Everything inside me tells me that this is really happening. It has to be. How could it not be? In the morning, I fear I’ll wake and find my eye blistered and swollen. I’ll be diseased and contaminated and a threat to other people around me. No one will ever be able to love me again, and I’ll live like a complete pariah, alone and disfigured. I feel sick and paralyzed at the thought of it. God, why can’t I stop? When will this ever end? It’s just a constant cycle of checking and waiting and conjuring up the worst scenarios I can imagine. There’s no relief in my checking compulsions any more. It just adds more and more to the anxiety I feel I’ll never escape. For the rest of my life, it’s just going to be me waiting for the impending misery of my obsessions to manifest. Sometimes, a life like this just doesn’t seem worth it.