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Posts Tagged ‘anti-depressants’

To my best friend’s children, I am “Auntie”.  After taking the boys to the playground several times a few weeks ago, apparently I’ve been associated with that place.  Now, when anyone says “Auntie” at my friend’s house, her two year old looks up, eyes wide and hopeful and exclaims “paygwound!”  He is presently parading around my living room with a Nerf sword as long as he is tall and I am remembering just how much more energy toddlers require.  I remember calling my friend when my boys were small.  I’d call her in the morning and she’d still be asleep.  She’d smile and laugh and tell me “someday your kids will be big enough to get their own breakfast and you can sleep in again!”  Now I’m the one with older kids and she has a second round of little ones waking her up at the ass-crack of dawn.

Strangely, though, I miss my kids needing me more.  There was never any question about being bored or not knowing what to do.  Each moment required me to do something.  I had to keep the house clean for their safety, I had to prepare endless meals, snacks and drinks, I was constantly doing laundry or changing someone and if they were sleeping, there was a long list of things I had to accomplish before they woke.  Now I sit, lost in my thoughts and confusion.  Wasting the day clicking and reading and plaing games on the computer – sometimes curled up with a book.  They occupy themselves and I only prepare meals once or twice a day.  I need to be busier.  I just don’t know what to do.

Lately I’ve been craving extremes.  I want to feel something big.  I’ve worked overtime the past few weeks to suppress the intensity of feeling released by the EMDR.  I’ve been angry about my fears with therapy possibly ending and overwhelmed about finances and car repairs.  I can’t let myself be really angry, though.  There was something that felt so dangerous and vulnerable about how I cried that day that terrified me.  My therapists office has shifted into the category of places where Bad Things Happen.  I’ve been irritable and sullen.  My body is sore and tired all the time.  I’m being pretty productive, but almost on auto-pilot.  I feel like somethings gotta give.  I’m going to explode or implode.  I feel like I just need to keep it together until my little one goes to camp and his brother goes to his grandfather’s, then maybe I can let my hair down.  Maybe I can find some way to let loose.  I don’ know.  I feel reckless and dangerous.  I feel tired and scared.  I feel lost and confused.  But I keep on keepin on.  I’ve got to put on a bra and take the kids to the beach.

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It was cold and gray today.  I pulled on a pair of jeans, a t-shirt and a faded old flannel plaid shirt.  I pulled my black Chuck’s out from under the bed and felt a little more like myself when I slipped them on.  I might look a little silly, pushing forty at almost 300 lbs in my All-Stars, but it feels like me.  I spend most of my days in pretty anonymous clothing, the same stretchy comfy clothes that every other plus size Walmart shopper in America wears.  Today I was inspired – just a little.  And it felt good.

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No one wants to smell like garlic – in America, “garlic eaters” is a long-standing insult with implications of poverty, lack of sophistication and people who are not *normal*.  But I love garlic.  I eat garlic all the time.  I don’t think it reflects on my social standing, financial status or education.  I just like garlic.  I’m typing away with fingers that carry the lingering smell of garlic having prepared spaghetti sauce to simmer.  The smell is wafting through the house with echoes of comfort and warmth – not judgment and shame.

As a side note – I went to the grocery store the other day, armed with my mother’s gift card.  I decided to indulge myself.  I bought a set of bamboo cooking spoons and spatulas to replace those that the dog has managed to find and chew up, I picked up some expensive moisturizer, brand-name Q-tips, and a very special indulgence… a $12.99 garlic press.  It is magnificent.  It has heavy red-rubber gripped handles on a shiny steel body.  Best of all, on the reverse side, there is a red plastic prickly pad that reminds me of those funny building blocks I had when I was a kid.  You flip the press backwards, and the little prongs fit neatly into all the holes to push out any remaining garlic!  For readers who don’t use a garlic press – there is little more annoying than trying to gouge dried garlic out of those little holes to clean it…  So I have a fancy-schmancy new garlic press, and I love it!

But I still have smelly garlic fingers.  Should I be ashamed?  Does this make me a “garlic eater”?  What if I said I was mentally ill?  Should I be ashamed of that.  What if I said I was a victim of child abuse?  or worse, a victim of incest.

Yep.  That’s not one you want to put on a badge and wear proudly.  I was able to “come-out” about my mental illness.  I decided to challenge the stigma and deny the shame.  Let my friends carry the discomfort if they couldn’t avoid it, but I wanted to shed the heavy shell of shame I wore, hiding my situation.  While mental illness carries more than its share of stigma, there are public efforts to change that.  There has been a lot of advocacy to change the cultural views of mental illness over the years.  That can’t really be said for incest.

I cringe just writing the word.  This is the part of the PTSD that I really struggle to admit to – even to myself.  I know that I need to address it in therapy, but it absolutely terrifies me.  The feelings around child sexual abuse are SO complicated, conflicting and complex (and maybe a touch redundant 😉 that I can barely wrap my brain around them enough to think about it, never mind start talking about it in therapy.

I might encourage others to bare their scars, but I recognize that scars can be deep and strange and represent so many things.   Sometimes they say “Hey, I’m a freak!”,  sometimes they say “Don’t ask, you don’t want to know”, sometimes, they are best left covered.  For me, baring my scars says that this shame is not mine to carry.  I have mental illness, but I am not mentally ill.  I was a victim of sexual abuse – I am not a sexual abuser.  I am who I am with all my warts and scars – a complicated, confused and creative individual who loves and hurts and breathes.  Just like you *normal* folks.

I was feeling pretty sunny and optimistic this morning when I commented on Gemma’s post – but it got me thinking that scars are more complicated than I thought.

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The more I think about dealing with childhood trauma, the more the propaganda campaign grows in my mind.  I always have plenty going on in my head to argue with – constant refrains about my inadequacy, craziness or laziness, random intrusive thoughts that are vivid and violent and sexual and embarrassing, or just busy talk of random things that make it hard for me to focus.  This is different.  There is suddenly a massive coordinated, unrelenting campaign of propaganda in my mind telling me that I am a liar, that I wasn’t really hurt badly, that I exaggerate everything, that bad things never really happened, that I’m just being dramatic.  All the while extolling the virtues of those who abused me, painting them as good-hearted, kind people who never wanted to harm me.  It is exhausting.

I don’t really know how to defend myself.  My memory is so foggy and I have distanced myself so completely from some of the events that I can’t produce them on cue as proof or justification.  I keep thinking about cutting my head and the blood in the bath tub.  When I had the memory in the therapist’s office, one of the things I described afterward didn’t really happen.  I thought I remembered our tenant talking to my mother, telling her that she was over-reacting, but she couldn’t have been there, because my mother hadn’t even renovated the basement yet – there was no apartment there yet.  The propaganda campaign keeps trumpeting this as proof that I’m a liar and can’t be trusted and I’m obviously making this all up.

I have to qualify this – I might de-personalize the “propaganda” to write about it, but I am fully aware that it is my own consciousness creating these thoughts.  I know that it is me, and my thoughts are conflicted, but sometimes the conflict takes on bigger proportions.

I told my therapist yesterday that it is really critical to me to filter through these jumbled memories and put things in time and space so that I can trust what is real.  If I can’t be sure that I can trust my memory, the propaganda proves right and I am everything my mother said that I was – a liar, dramatic, a hypochondriac, etc.

It is hard.  We’re going to continue the EMDR next week, I had too much to process yesterday…  I just want so much to be well.  I want to be able to function again.  I don’t feel like it is enough to pat myself on the back for doing the dishes or shaving my legs – I want to be able to do more.

On the brighter side, I went to my 12 year old’s school curriculum fair last night.  It wasn’t easy, being shoulder to shoulder with the radiant, Abercrombie-clad, former cheerleader crew – that always brings back horrible memories of how they treated me in school…  A couple of students in his class stood up to give oral reports which they read in monotone from a shaking piece of paper without even looking up.  Then my son – the Aspie-ADD’er who is awkward and younger and a social outcast – stood to present his.  (As he stood in front of the room, two of his biggest tormentors looked at each other and whispered and laughed, catching my eye as they looked up.  I glared at them so hard I hope they wet their pants.)  He introduced himself, looking around the room and proceeded to give a full three minute presentation about students who had raised money to install a wind turbine in their high-school.  He glanced at his paper occasionally, but by and large, he shared a very knowledgeable, conversational report that was very engaging and interesting.  It was head and shoulders above the others and just made me so very proud.

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I hate bureaucracy…  People can be such monumental assholes and be so utterly insensitive.  I’m wiped out after 35 minutes on the phone with Edgar and Wally at the USDA Centralized Servicing Center that manages my mortgage.  I had to get them to explain to me why they wouldn’t accept my money for my overdue mortgage… apparently, I owe them money, so they can’t take my money…  Yes, folks, our tax dollars hard at work.  I know I’m in foreclosure, assholes… that’s why I sent you $3,500 to get OUT of it.  Nope.  It took me too long to send the check.   Why did it take you so long to send the check, maam?  Um… let’s see… because you told me to send a cashier’s check and that took me a month to get to the bank to get it another month to find the address and a few days to find a stamp and envelope.  Because I have trouble with organization on a MASSIVE scale.  Because I am mentally ill.  That’s why I’m on disability and can’t AFFORD my mortgage because I’m living on pennies a day…  I don’t want to talk about all the ways I fucked up.  I don’t want a lecture on how I need a fucking positive attitude when I talk to the foreclosure department if I want them to help me and I sure as hell don’t need you threatening to hang up on me because you already have me in tears.  Just tell me how to get you people to take the fucking check I had to go through an act of congress to get ahold of and get my damn mortgage paid!  Oh, what’s that?  Mail it again?  Gee.  Okay.

Now I have to find another fucking stamp.

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Ten days of feeling good.  Ten straight days.  What have I done to deserve such respite?  It isn’t the weather – we’ve had a few sunny, warm days, but there have been a number of gray, stormy days and today is chilly and gray.

I was wondering about good days and bad days and noticed that The Warm Milk Journal posted on the subject today.  I found an affirmation there one day that really struck me – I adapted it to my screen saver to remind me “life is safe to live”.

I was wondering about wondering… and saw Gemma’s post earlier.  I left this comment:

I think we need to give ourselves credit for wondering why. As long as you are able to question and examine what is happening in your life and mind you are not just a passenger whisked along the ride, but a participant and sometime navigator. There’s power in asking why, even when the answers are hard to reveal…

I wonder if wondering is enough?  In terms of dealing with depression or anxiety, when the answer was medication, I could expect to see changes in a matter of weeks.  If the answer is therapy, I’m expected to understand that this is a process which can last years.  I’ve chosen therapy because the pills only ever offered me temporary relief and extended upset – I describe that story here.  So now it has been almost a year since my breakdown – the end of May – and what have I achieved?  How far have I come?  I worry that I’m standing still, so I need to take an inventory.  I need to identify what I’ve done in the past year and is where I’m sitting today better than where I was a year ago.

I think the short answer is yes.  One of the best parts being that I can read again.  I’ve been reading blogs about mental illness, mental health, child abuse and PTSD.  I’ve read a number of memoirs about journeys through mental illness and I’ve picked up a fair amount of non-fiction on the subject, the latest being “The Body Remembers” by Babette Rothschild.  This last is a real eye-opener and is helping me understand how my body and brain have processed the trauma in my past and how that manifests itself in my adult life.  Again, this reinforces that the healing process is not a short one – there’s no quick fix.  I feel optimistic about therapy, more so now than I have in a while, knowing that the EMDR feels like something concrete and productive.  I still can’t get over the physical reaction I had to it – this incredible sensation on movement inside my body as if a dam had literally burst and I could rid myself of the negative energy.

So, I’ll go back to therapy tomorrow and tell her about my son nearly burning down the house, how I disowned my mother, how I survived mother’s day and how I am still – for now – okay.

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I rediscovered the yummiest salad dressing yesterday… Green Goddess.  It is the prettiest color green and oh so creamy delicious.  I drizzled it on my reheated leftover rice and it felt so decadent 🙂  Some days it is about the little things, like laundry in the summer breeze.

I’ve had a few good days in a row lately – still running off the change in perspective from chopping my locks, perhaps.  I managed to clean my son’s room and today attacked my own.  I dealt with about half the mess which was quite an endeavor.  My dad came over this morning and we were able to repair my porch door which wasn’t closing properly.  I made him a sandwich and we just stood (clean folded clothes occupy all the kitchen chairs) and talked for an hour or so.  It felt so healthy and normal.  I don’t know how to describe the change.  Last week I was in bed all week.  There were days that I could hardly move – my whole body felt heavy and achy and miserable.  These past few days I’ve been so productive – not exactly happier, but busy – and I feel like a different person.  My therapist asked me what it was that stirred me to get up and clean and I was at a complete loss.  I can’t pinpoint anything that changed or that might have triggered a change in behavior.  I just felt like I needed to get stuff done and did it.  It is absolutely infuriating on the one hand to just switch directions completely – not knowing when I might just switch back to complete helplessness…

I’m feeling much better about where my treatment is headed, too.  I’ve always known that I am deeply affected by childhood trauma, but the PTSd diagnosis was just another in the long list… My therapist has helped me to recognize just how dissociated I am from the abuse.  She says I drop information about the abuse in passing – like a random associated tidbit – as if I’m talking about laundry or groceries.  It is funny, because I remember in high school and college talking about my past and people being really surprised at how nonchalant I was about things like my mother choking me or being molested.  I always thought it meant that I had dealt with it and gotten past it, so it didn’t hurt anymore.  I need to go back and read “Little Men” by Louisa May Alcott, because I remembered yesterday that I read a scene about putting bad memories and hurtful thoughts away in little drawers and locking them away.  I have this very vivid image of a wall of shelves and different size drawers and I remember at one point when I was around 12 years old, that I cleaned up my mind and just put things away in those drawers.

So I am coming to see PTSd as the most important issue to address – with the understanding that most of my other symptoms can fall under the umbrella of PTSd, so treating them is like treating the symptoms without treating the cause, or treating a fever without treating the underlying infection.  We are starting EMDR tomorrow, so it looks like I’m going to need to pry open those drawers and get a peek at what is inside.  I’ve told my therapist that I’m worried about it.  She’s worried about the pain of dredging up traumatic events, but I’m more concerned that I won’t be able to reach them.  I’ve distanced myself so completely from them that they are as if they happened to someone else.  Funny thing is that I feel guilty for distancing myself… like I’m not human for not feeling pain or anger at what was done to me.

Today I feel normal.  I feel like a person who is in extremely difficult circumstances – financially and otherwise – but who is functional.  I feel competent and capable today.  I did dishes and laundry and opened doors and windows to let the house air out.  I got dressed and made coffee, entertained a guest (albeit my dad…), and prepared a meal – I’m even planning supper.  My body feels strong and tired, not heavy and unwieldy.  My head feels sane.  How can this be the same person who lay in her own stink all last week in the depths of despair?

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