Category Archives: PTSD

Suspended in Amber & Slipping Through Cracks

11 years ago I had a total psychotic break. It lasted for 4 months. I was never hospitalized.

Instead, I ended up homeless and living in a garage where, my first morning there, my adoptive sister tried to choke me out and had to be pulled off of me. This was because I was not able to drive her daughter to the bus stop less than a block away. Because I was in psychosis. I got choked because I could not drive because I was in psychosis and therefore not safe to drive, because you kind of need a sense of reality to drive, at least in some cases.

I lived in the garage for 2 months, sleeping on a couch with bad springs, surrounded by my boxes of possessions that had come from the apartment I’d lost, the nicest apartment I’d ever lived in, the place I still think of as home. It was winter, and the electricity was shut off because this garage was attached to the house my adoptive sister was renting, and she decided to move out. No, she didn’t care that there was an ill person subsisting in the garage. She left, and I was there with no electricity, freezing cold in the dark, still coming down from the psychotic break.

I was given medication that made me sleep over 15 hours a day and gain 50 lbs. There was no therapy. That would come later, in false starts, with bad therapists, including one who would tell me, based on my history of chronic abuse and trauma, “You will never be happy, and you will never be functional”, because that was apparently her version of therapeutic. Those words still haunt me to this day. I wonder, was she right?

I moved from the garage into an attic apartment that was infested by rats that ran by me as I slept on the floor. From there I found an apartment that I was able to afford on disability – I could afford exactly rent and electric and nothing more. My adoptive sister tried to have me evicted from this apartment, by calling and lodging many false complaints against me, saying that she could smell my cats in her apartment next door – she of course did not live next door and the entire thing was a lie – and had a couple of her friends call pretending to be other neighbors with the same complaint. She did this because I caught her stealing my mom’s Oxycontin on Christmas Eve, and I was honest with my mother about what had happened. What would you have done? Protected the person who broke into your mother’s home to steal her pain medication that she desperately needed, or be honest about what happened? I did the latter, and was nearly homeless again as a result.

Over the next decade, a lot of things happened. Doctors denied me my medication. I couldn’t find a psychiatrist – none in the area were taking patients – there literally was not a single psychiatrist taking insurance who would accept a new patient in the entire city. A psychiatrist fired me, because I complained about the therapist who said I’d never be happy or functional (she worked in the same office, and I told the office manager, who yelled at me. I was fired for “noncompliance”.) My adoptive sister systematically brought my elderly parents down with a thousand tiny cuts and several hundred deep ones, a constant supply of stress and threats and ultimatums if they did not do as she wished. My father died suddenly. My mother dissolved into profound grief and heartbreak from which she never recovered. I could do nothing to help, because I was so sick, and because I had no control over what happened to her, no way to stop the machinations of evil that my sister (and now her daughter) perpetrated on my fragile mom.

And I had no financial means to help, either. My father had died leaving only a very small insurance policy that was quickly eaten up by cremation expenses and bills and an ill-fated used car purchase that my mother insisted on making because she wanted me to have a safe vehicle. The car was a lemon. I should never have let her do it. I tried to argue against it. I look back now and I am sickened that I allowed her to spend money that should have been kept for her own well-being on something to benefit me. It makes me disgusted with myself, and ashamed.

My rent increased each year, and continued to increase. Each year the struggle to get by became more difficult.  A dear friend offered to move in to help out. I accepted, giving him the bedroom I never used, because due to my PTSD, I could only sleep in the living room, where the front door is, because what if someone broke in and I didn’t hear it? My hyper-vigilance demanded this accommodation, even though now I really wish I had a bedroom.

Then my mom died. I lost my best friend.

None of the therapists I saw could help me. None of them ever even brought up my psychotic break. You’d think that would be a topic of conversation at some point, but apparently, no. I went therapist to therapist, searching for someone who would understand, and also, for someone who would fucking listen. Because these therapists all shared the same trait: they’d listen to the first part, then assume they knew everything, and ‘give advice’ based on that. Which, you know, first off, giving advice is not really therapy. Anyone can give advice. If that worked, no one would need therapy. Secondly, I’ve been through so many things, and there is so much detail to all of them because of the way my mind has processed these things, that I am like an onion, with many layers, and all of those layers need to be taken into account. You can’t read a few pages of a book and know the story.

They would also try to fit me into some pre-fab notion of what a “normal person” is, instead of helping me to understand and accept who it is that I actually am, and work with THAT person, with the person I actually happen to be and not the person they thought I should be. Any treatment plan based on changing who I am as a person will fail. A successful treatment plan is one that works with my strengths, works on my weaknesses, gives me tools to deal with real situations that arise. A treatment plan based in reality. None of these people had it. One therapist even told me that my treatment plan was “none of [my] business”.

During all of this time, I have not once had the time to recuperate, to heal, to process what I went through. I have not been successful in efforts to build a routine again, to be part of the world again. Because I have been struggling financially, always stressed about how to pay things, how to get heavy things like kitty litter HERE because I have no car, how to supplement the unsustainable amount that has not grown commensurate with inflation. And I have been struggling, every day, with just how to get through the day, when I am plagued by flashbacks of lifelong abuse by so many different people, and jarred by so many bad memories, and self-recriminations for things I should have done differently, things I did wrong, things for which I should be and am ashamed. In short, struggling to stay on the planet. To stay alive.

Through this I have been fumbling, trying in vain to create a routine to follow, to do things that are healthy and “self-care”, to right my thinking on my own since I have no professional assistance that is not derelict*; trying fruitlessly to fight the bad voices that make me despair and try to convince me to just give up. I have kept going, my knuckles white from gripping onto whatever might tether me to this realm.

The truth of it is, though, that I have spent 11 years in this living room, not getting better.

I have tried so hard to get better. I have done so many different things. I have adjusted my attitude – as much as someone with severe mental illness can – so many times.

I’m not getting better. I have never had a chance to get better.

I have never heard of someone who had a psychotic break who was not hospitalized. But then there’s me. This makes sense, though. Because I was in a car wreck where I was thrown 75 feet and no one even bothered to check me for a concussion. And all the bad experiences with doctors in general – from psychiatric to medical. A continual pattern of disregard.

Things like this, they give me the message that I really, and truly, do not matter.

I wish more than anything I could have just a few months, where I didn’t have to worry about financial survival, where I could actually and finally focus on getting well, or at least better. Where I could look again for a therapist and hopefully find a good one, and concentrate on going to therapy a few times a week. Focus on building a new routine, a new life. Find myself again, in such a way that I don’t disappear and I don’t fall apart every morning, the way I do now.

Because right now, every morning of every day, I wake up a sobbing shambles, a complete mess, paralyzed, not sure what to do, and haunted by so much bad shit in my brain that it physically hurts. The anxiety is so bad I have to take a benzo and then I have to ingest huge amounts of caffeine to stay awake, and also to keep myself awash in enough temporary dopamine that I don’t just say, “That’s it, I’m done, I can’t do this anymore.”

I’m on all the medication that they can give me. So many pills. It does work. It does its job. But it isn’t enough. You can’t just medicate trauma away, you can’t medicate your brain into processing and parsing things and assimilating them into your narrative in such a way that you can go on comfortably.

They always say, if you are down, ask for help. Reach out. I have done that, over and over again. I have done that to the point where I now wonder, have they changed the spelling or the pronunciation of the word “help” and I just didn’t get the memo? Am I speaking the correct language? Or is it as I suspect, deep down, that when it comes down to it, I really don’t matter?

Eleven years have passed away, been wasted, sitting in this living room on this futon upon which I sleep. I don’t want it to be this way. I am willing to put in the work, and I have been from the very start – ever since I tried to kill myself the first time when I was 8 years old, and no one believed that I was depressed because a person is supposed to pull themselves up by those bootstraps, those fucking bootstraps that every mentally ill person would love to brandish at the people who suggest that the Road to Wellness is merely a matter of eschewing some indolence they seem to think we have.

Motherfucker, if I could pull up some metaphorical out-of-current-parlance item to fix myself, don’t you think I would have done that ELEVEN YEARS AGO? Because who among us wants eleven years of their life to just disappear with nothing to show for them? Who?

I have spent time focusing on small problems in order to avoid the biggest one, the hydra-headed one that follows me around like the dust cloud follows Pig-Pen from Peanuts. But all problems lead to one end, and it is this one. The Big One.

I never had time to get better. And so I never have. And things just keep getting more and more log-jammed, in my head, and in my life, and I am overwhelmed.

I am studying coding, in an attempt to make something of this life. But I know that unless I get the actual Life stuff sorted out, it’s not going to help. I have to be a person who is reliable and focused, not someone who has to put themselves back together every morning from scratch.

How the fuck will I ever get there, when my main focus must be survival? What I have to do to survive, it’s not healthy for me in myriad ways. And better still, people judge me harshly for doing it. A cherry atop the melted sundae of all the thoughts of the potential I had as a child, and the possibility of what might have been.

It’s hard sometimes to hear parents discuss parenting with other parents. They are all so focused on their children’s welfare. Their lives appear to be centered around parenting, and being parents. They think about things like which school is best, and how it will affect their child’s future. Their kids are involved in school activities and have friends and don’t have to lie about the stuff that happens at home. And their kids don’t seem to be randomly insulted by people on the street for no reason. It’s like, if I squint my mind’s eye I can almost see that kind of life, where every day is the same, there is a routine and you follow it, and you make progress in things, and your parents know what’s going on in your schooling, and the idea of you going to college isn’t considered ridiculous or impossible or simply “off the table” but instead a real fucking thing. Where you say “I want to do this creative thing for a living” and you don’t hear back, “You’ll never make a living doing that” as the very first response to your giving voice to a dream. Where you know how to plan out things, because you have confidence that the future you are planning is actually going to happen.

Oh, yeah;. And where no one hits you or beats you with a belt or molests you or psychologically tortures you day in and day out. That, too.  And where you can have friends over and know everything will be okay, that there won’t be some horrible scene coming out of nowhere that will end with someone threatening to throw you out of the house to live on the street. Where you can say, “Yeah, this teacher was kinda a jerk”, and know that later on, no one in your family is going to be calling that teacher and threatening to put a bomb in her car.

My parents loved me. But my dad was psychotic for most of my childhood, and neither he nor my mom protected me from the adoptive sister, who was and is a violent sociopath. And they were so busy reacting to her every fucked-up move, that there was no room for anything, or anyone, else.

I don’t know what else to say. I have to try to figure out how to make this day worth something now. I have been crying all morning. I am surrounded by used tissues and I can no longer breathe through my nose. And these tears and this Everything has fucked up a day where I needed to try to do something to earn some money to pay for the ever-growing list of things that need to be paid for, some of which – like redoing my teeth so my facial bone structure doesn’t cave in – will probably never be possible.

This is the truth about my life. Along with so very much else that remains unsaid.

 

*ETA: my shrink is a good shrink. It is the 15-minute hour, though, and just medication, so I didn’t count him among the therapists and doctors I grouped together as derelict. But I wanted to acknowledge him, and say that without him, I would not be here.

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Better Living Through Chemistry

For a time now, I’ve been avoiding following my psychiatrist’s advice when it came to taking my Klonopin on a regular basis in order to deal with my massive amounts of anxiety. He’s been wanting me to take 1 mg three times a day. Usually I take .25mg as needed and it calms me down, .5 if I am really freaking out. 1 mg will knock my ass out. I haven’t been able to imagine what it would be like to take that dose three times a day. I’m assuming I’d be rendered comatose.

But since I have been in such a deep depressive funk, accompanied by this frenetic panic, I have started taking the quarter Klonopin three times a day, and I think I am ready to move up to a half. It seems to be helping. I’m still worried about becoming dependent on it, but the shrink says that if I need to go off of it, I would be tapering down and that shouldn’t be an issue. We’ll see. In the meantime, the benefits are outweighing the dangers.

This new regimen is allowing me some objective distance from my emotions. It’s not a ton of distance, but enough to get a bit more clarity. I’m starting to see what I can do to clear out some of the overwhelm that I feel. I need to add creativity and recreation to my life, instead of thinking I’ve always got to be focused on the struggle. My coding is becoming much clearer as well. I’m starting to get the hang of things I was completely clueless about. It’s cheering me up.

This is all relatively new, and by no means is it enough. I have a long way to go.  I’m trying to learn how to live life again. I need to find a routine gain, and balance. Mostly, I am trying to heal a little. Or a lot, preferably, if that’s possible.

Again, we’ll see.

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The Body Indeed Keeps The Score

I can’t do it anymore.

I tried to force myself. I tried so fucking hard to force myself. And I became physically ill. It’s like my body is saying, Enough.

This happened once before. I was doing so poorly mentally at the time, and in a bad environment, and my body rebelled, Suddenly, I was projectile vomiting like Linda Blair in the Exorcist. For weeks. I couldn’t even keep down Gatorade. And my therapist at the time – I was fortunate enough then to actually have a good one – said that my body was literally trying to cast off all of the bad things I had internalized.

Well, it’s happening again. I’m not projectile vomiting, yet. But I’m nauseated, my body aches, all of the energy feels drained out of me, I’m getting insanely intense headaches that don’t respond to NSAIDs. So now it’s not just the panic attacks that have been hounding me as of late. It’s not just the feeling of being creatively dead, of being a hack with no integrity, of never being able to speak my actual mind, of losing my identity to this thing I don’t even enjoy doing (but that I have to pretend that I do enjoy doing, because when you sell your soul for pennies on the dollar, you need every fucking penny.) It is literally physical shit that is PREVENTING me from doing this.

I seriously tried so hard. Because I need the money to pay my bills. I don’t know how I’m going to pay my bills. I am not well enough to work outside my home. I was never even hospitalized after having a four month long psychotic break. I am sitting here sobbing because I don’t know what the fuck I am going to do. This job has wrecked me. I am not well at all. I straight up need help, I need healing. But there is none of that for me. I have to figure out what to do. I have to figure out how I’m going to feed my cats, pay my utilities, pay the vet bills, pay for Milhouse’s insulin and Tramadol and thyroid meds, how to pay for my SHRINK.

I was in the middle of doing a clip and I just could not finish it. I couldn’t because I was about to throw up. I’ve never felt like I felt yesterday. It was frightening. And what this experience leaves me with is frightening, too. I needed to work my ass off the rest of this month. I need the money so badly. I have to get Tiny to the vet. I have to pay the part of my rent that my disability does not cover, and my utilities, and my shrink appt is at the beginning of the month. But now I am completely fucked. I needed to make miracles happen this last week of the month.  But now, they are not going to happen.

I don’t know what I’m going to do. I’m in a panic. I’m trying to think of options, but what options does a severely mentally ill woman, who isn’t able to work outside her home and is still trying to get better so actually shouldn’t be working in the first place, have? Because I can’t think of any realistic ones.

All I know is that my body won’t let me do this. It no longer wants to actively participate in an endeavor where the main draw is that I am slowly dying.

A woman gets sexually harassed at work – hey, maybe by a famous comedian who whips it out, let’s say – and the world is in an uproar. But a disabled woman has to work a job where she is objectified and where she is told on the reg that her only value is damaged lungs and mortality. Crickets.

You know, when people want you to die, and you’ve got a long history of trauma and abuse, and a few co-morbid mental illnesses, that isn’t good for you. That makes you turn in the “Let’s walk into the waves” direction. The “Hey, that ledge looks pretty fuckin’ good” path. Because hey, if that’s my only value in this world, should I not have at that then? It’s a really hard thought to fight. Particularly when I have no idea how I’m going to survive now.

And in this, too, is the knowledge that some people, upon finding out that this is my situation, that I am a (reluctant as FUCK) smoking fetish girl, will judge me harshly and unfollow me, block me, isolate and ostracize instead of understand that this is all I could do to get by. They make me feel like this is what I deserve. And the people that want me to die make me feel that’s also what I deserve, because THAT’S ALL I’M GOOD FOR.

And I probably do deserve it. I pandered to them, because I needed to survive. I have no family. There is nowhere to go if I lose my place on the couch, nowhere for my cats to go. I’ve been trying hard to learn to code, have gotten a couple of certificates but don’t yet know enough to work as a web dev, but my focus is annihilated because the issue of survival is pressing, and even if it weren’t, I simply cannot learn quickly enough to solve this immediate problem.

I need help. I need to get better. I can’t do this anymore. But I have no idea how the fuck I am going to keep me and my kitties going. And panic is not something that helps you think clearly.

Fuck.

There is the panic about the future.

And then there is the fact that this, all of this, hurts more than I can ever describe.

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Screaming Into The Void

I think one of the worst things about trauma – besides of course enduring it – is how absolutely alone you feel in its aftermath. You want to tell the people you love what you’ve been through. They are well meaning and suggest a therapist would be a good thing, and it probably would.

But I still would not feel seen. I would not feel as though my story matters to anyone. Except maybe the person getting paid to hear and probably misinterpret it.

I’ve had horrific luck with therapists. I would still be willing to try again, if I could afford it. And I could find a good one. But that does not solve the problem.

It’s the problem of feeling stifled and not seen and not heard (which reminds me of “Children should be seen and not heard”, which I heard so many times growing up). The problem of feeling like I have no voice, and that no one understands what I go through each day, trying to maneuver this heavy, tiresome burden strapped to my back. The feeling of loneliness that swallows me up, because how can anyone fully know me if they don’t know what I have been through?

If I can only sketch out a few thumbnails with little detail, if I can only truncate my experience into two or three sentences, there is no relief in that. It’s almost worse than not being heard at all. Whether it truly is or not, this *feels* like a disinterest in the whole thing. And that in turn feels like a disinterest in me, because I am the sum of all these experiences plus what I have been able to do with them.

No one will ever know the amount of mental work I put in each day, trying to straighten out all the horrible knots trauma made in my head. I am mining the good from the bad. I am fighting off the memories. I am striving to be well and to create a life of meaning. Even though I look back on my life and see so many missed opportunities and wrong turns and it would be so easy to just completely fall into despair, I fight like hell not to do that. To somehow cull a bit of Greater Purpose, to somehow win my creativity back, i’m fighting for that too. Not being able to share my history and the enormous inner life that springs from that feels fucking lonely.

The last thing I want to do is be a lifelong victim. That isn’t what this is about. It’s not about just generically “seeking attention”, either. I seek no melodrama in this. I just want understanding. I want the people I love to care about the things that happened to me as much as they care about someone with a single, lesser trauma. It’s not a trauma contest, mind you, but it would be nice if the umbrage could be evenly distributed sometimes.

I have worked hard to maintain a polite demeanor when in the presence of others, in that I smile at them even when I don’t feel like it, I ask how they are, I force myself to be cheerful or at least friendly, not sullen, because who wants to go in with an affect that carries with it every bit of heaviness from every single trauma? I cannot be that person. I have worn my innards on my outside many times and it is a very low place to be. It makes things worse. Much worse.

Not only does it feel like hell, but medical professionals treat you like utter shit.  If I showed on the outside how I felt on the inside sometimes, I’d get 5150’d. Because again, no one knows how much work I have put into rehabbing myself from psychosis and homelessness and a lifetime of alternating torture, abuse, and neglect.

Long ago I was taught two things that figure into this idea of forced affability:

  1. No one wants to hear it. (It being anything wrong, anything bad, any kind of problem.)
  2. You have a face for work and social life and a face for home behind closed doors. (What that means when applied is that you end up with a confusing and vacillating identity and you feel constantly feel like an impostor, or like you are outside of yourself observing. In short, you wonder if you might be a sociopath.)

People think that because I can be polite and inquire about their well-being and carry on a conversation, that I’m not suffering. But every day, I am suffering in some fashion, a little or a lot, depending on what flashback my brain is trotting out to attempt to annihilate me.

This isn’t something I want to spend all of my time talking about. Yes, I have PTSD, among other mental maladies, but I don’t want to be a poster girl for it, nor do I necessarily want to make it my ‘brand’. I just want what I think a lot of people want, most of us really.

I want to be seen.

I want to be heard.

I want to be understood.

Being really, sincerely listened to and empathized with is validating, and it says that a person matters, that what happened to them matters. For someone to say “That must have been really hard going through that”. Especially after you’ve had a lifetime of abusers telling you it wasn’t abuse, that it was YOUR fault, or that ‘hey, nothing happened at all, I don’t know what you’re talking about, you fell’ kind of bullshit’. You feel as though it really was your fault, and no wonder people don’t want to hear it, because obviously anyone can do anything to you at any time and the world is completely okay with that.

People can completely lose their shit over a guy with more power than a woman jerking off in front of her, but it feels like crickets when it comes to my kidnap experience, where I was kept against my will for a weekend by an abuser who it turned out was also a rapist. This is how POC must feel about when a white girl gets kidnapped and her disappearance gets tons of press coverage while a little brown girl is missing and her story gets maybe 30 seconds of air time, if any.

It’s like the world doesn’t give a fuck. Which actually is true.

And the loneliness of that goes right to the bone.

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The Impossible Dream

My eldest cat, who is eighteen, is blind. She screams all day. I say “screams” and not “meows” because it is usually not her standard meow, but instead a howling caterwaul that sounds like how I sometimes feel when I post to this blog. It is blood curdling and, frankly, nerve-fraying. I do my best to soothe her. I make sure she isn’t hungry or thirsty, I make sure she doesn’t have to use the litter box. I pet her, talk to her, sing to her, kiss her on top of the head. Any fix I try lasts for approximately 10 seconds. And then it’s right back to Scream Time. So basically everything I am doing lately is with this backdrop of abject feline misery.

If that’s not enough to make me feel not so good at the life thing, clips are not doing well at all this month. I mean, generally speaking I am not pulling in much from them, but every little bit helps and some months are better than others. I am pretty sure that other people doing this are better at it in one way or many and make significantly better bank than I, because I don’t see anyone besides myself doing this for long without much reward. Why then do I do it for not much reward, and for as long (excuse me, fucking long) as I have? It takes a long time to recover from a psychotic break, first off. Secondly, systems are not set up so that one can easily be weaned off of them, particularly when said systems are set up only for subsistence and not for leveling up Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Spending every day scrambling to do better sucks up a lot of focus.

Not that this will stand in my way. I am stubborn. And though some may believe that hope is a pipe dream, I still see value in it. It is the fuel that keeps me going. The hope that with enough focus, enough effort, even with the bullshit obstacles that stand between me and the serious improvement of my situation, I can overcome. Some may say that my hope is directed toward something ‘too good to be true’. That it’s overshooting to imagine that I could go from what I do now to what I want to do. To that I say, it’s amazing what you can accomplish when you don’t have a choice.

I got started on this road because I lost my job due to mental illness, which violates the ADA – but I didn’t know about the ADA, and I didn’t know that I could apply for Social Security Disability. At that time, I had enough credits. I was absolutely eligible. But my husband, who loved letting everyone know what a Socialist to the Nth Degree he was, didn’t bother to tell me about these two things. I just figured, well, I have to do something to earn a living. And so I did. I I pulled something out of thin air, rather than get assistance from the government. Who knows, had I pursued the idea that the government could help me, what might have happened had I applied for SSDI at that time. I would have gone down a completely different road. I would have had access to needed medication, I would not have worked in jobs where I got no SSDI credit, I would not have met the person who put a gun to my face and who would eventually hold me against my will and assault me in numerous ways. A lot would have been different. A few things might be much better. A couple of things would be missing from my life though, and the people that I now treasure, I would not know. So you know, it evens out. In fact, interpersonally, I come out far ahead. I am lucky, and grateful for that fact.

But, because I worked instead of applying for disability at that time, I am now a “lifer” on a much lower, less survivable form of disability assistance. That is, unless I can pull off the rabbit in the hat trick. Some may think it’s not feasible. But some didn’t think it was feasible that I would be able to rehab myself to the point I am now at, post-psychotic break. One therapist even went so far as to say, “You will never be happy. You will be lucky if you are able to function at all.”

Yeah, she probably should not be a therapist.

There are still some speed bumps, even if the road turns out to be mostly smooth, which is a big even to throw in there. I am still inconsistent in a lot of things, though I try to work on this fact daily. I have a lot of ups and downs and bursts and dearths of energy. Sometimes my brain is a really scary place in which to hang out. And sometimes I get stuck in the past, because there is just so much of it that was traumatic and hurtful and confusing, and because I am trying to unravel all the wrong things I learned and replace them with correct things.

I read a tweet yesterday that nearly knocked the wind out of me, it was so resonant. It was about being just intelligent enough and just high-functioning enough for people to glance over and assume that any sort of difficulty a person was having with things like organization or going places or communicating or what-have-you was not due to illness or disorder – in this case ADHD, which I also have – but to be difficult out of spite. I can’t even tell you how many times that has happened to me. How many times people have summed me up incorrectly and figured, “Oh, well if she can do THAT, then she can also do THIS, and she JUST DOESN’T WANT TO.”  In fact, shortly after my psychotic break – which lasted four months before anyone even thought that maybe my bizarre behavior was a sign that something had gone terribly wrong in my brain – my mom said to me, “That stuff was all just because you were mad at me, wasn’t it?”

She wasn’t saying that out of any kind of cruelty or anything, she just did not understand, having been born in the times of Walk It Off or Be Lobotomized. She listened when I explained that it was mental illness, not spite, that caused me to behave as I did. But a lot of people don’t listen, and they don’t believe. Some of these people are actually doctors. But present as high-functioning and you can be easily labeled as attention-seeking or worse, a malingerer.

Whatever, though. In the end, all of this is a bunch of words, and I will be aided mostly by action. And that action is learning to code. I have achieved a total of seven certificates so far, but only one of them recently – the first six were from a false start two years ago. Still, this one cert is a big deal for me, and now I am trying to figure out something I was never taught – how to set goals, and create a logical daily plan of steps to achieve them. We shall see how that goes.

In the meantime, I am doing the best I can as I can grab time to focus on it. It can be frustrating, because sometimes the free site I am using leaves important info out and then gives you a problem to do that utilizes the info they left out and it feels like you are expected to just magically “know” it. It is really easy to say, “I’m not cut out for this”, but the thing is – I am.

I am cut out for this. I believe I can do it. I do not know how long it will take. I do not know if it will result in my super-hoped-for goal of a really good job. But I am finally using my mind again, and that feels so amazing, and so right.

There is a place within each of us, no matter how stressed, no matter how crazy, where the judgement of others at long last falls away, and we feel most ourselves. The trick is finding out how to access it.

What can you do today that will help you access that place?

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Rambling, Incoherent Update

Stuck. Paralyzed. Ambivalent. Directionless.

Thanks, Mental Illness.

I need to get things DONE. And I am trying. But there is so much to do, each task easily a complete 9-5, each requiring a separate focus. Okay, I can try to do that. I can try to be positive about it. I can knock down a 5 Hour Energy Shot (Berry, please). But the financial stress is Kicking. My. Ass.  On a regular basis, new bills are falling from the sky, like apocalyptic frogs signaling impending doom. Old bills are growing whiskers and breathing the foul breath of the undead over my shoulder. I admit, there have been a few times where I have cursed in juvenile resentment that there was no life insurance left for me, no inheritance, just a gaping void where my parents used to be. And the combination of having no support, moral or financial, and being overwhelmed by all this pressure to earn more, is just suffocating. It places me in suspended animation, through which I must break to do the things that must be done.

Basically, I feel like the Sorcerer’s Apprentice from FANTASIA, trying to mop up the water while Spooky Disembodied Mop after Spooky Disembodied Mop carries down more and more buckets to add to the mess. Two steps forward, ten steps back. Sisyphus without the smile.

And my birthday is coming. This should be a joyous occasion, but I have mixed feelings, because I don’t seem to have any other kind. It’s an annual reminder that the person who gave birth to me was able to do so and just walk away, never searching for me, though I have certainly searched for her for years now. There’s an author whose name escapes me who refers to the condition of adoption as “The Primal Wound”. Just being adopted carries with it the trauma of separation. Then there are the questions. Who am I? How did I get here? Why don’t I look like everyone else… or ANYONE else? And though logically you know it’s not your fault, you still carry this feeling that you did something bad and that’s why you were given up. That’s all stuff that you deal with, if you are like me, anyway. Some people can be adopted, and it never bothers them one bit – but then, a lot of those people were adopted into stable households with no abuse and with extra “Chosen Child” nurturing. So, there is that also, that conflict between “You were a Chosen Child” and “You should have been aborted”. Which to believe? The fact that my birthmother has never searched for me is the cherry on top of this dump cake of extremis.

Also, the looming anniversary of my birth gives me a nice, long window with which to look into the milky eyes of Father Time and see sands fall quickly through the hourglass. Exciting adventures await me. Wrinkles. Elastin loss. Menopause. Becoming invisible to half the population. And, in my poverty-stricken state, the future looks like it is going to contain mistreatment and an indigent burial after an early death from the heart ailment my Medicaid doctor keeps insisting is “just an anxiety attack”. Which apparently you can get from NOT being anxious? Anxiety attacks generally do not include jaw pain, but it’s on the list of symptoms for a heart attack, along with the intense, debilitating chest pain I experienced. I have had anxiety attacks. That was no anxiety attack. But why listen to me? That would set a dangerous precedent of people actually paying attention to the things I say. Which is not exactly a recurring motif in my history (or lack thereof).

I don’t mean to be so negative. Despite all appearances on this blog, I try to be cheerful and positive. I have perfected the art of delivering the lie, “Everything’s fine”. I have accepted that I will not be getting any therapy that might help me, because of financial issues, of course. The therapists on my Medicaid have combat fatigue from dealing with low-income, mentally ill people, some of whom have no interest in getting better. One therapist YELLED at me when I had done nothing wrong, and even if I had, she’s a freaking THERAPIST, what the hell? Where’s the study that says further abuse is therapeutic, cause she read that fucking thing for sure. So, yeah, what I’m saying is I’d have to go cash-only like I have to do with my psychiatrist, because that is the only way to get good care. Your tax dollars pay for a Medicaid program that is useless when it comes to mental health, and so far I have not encountered anyone to whom this is a concern. Puzzling.

My original point that I try to be positive devolves into a complaint about the state of public health care. I don’t think I’m doing a great job illustrating my positivity with that. Dang.

But kitties! Kitties save the day. Kitties have kept me alive for the past decade, because I couldn’t bear the thought of leaving them alone in the world. Many times I would have offed myself if not for this, if not for them. I redid my Amazon wish list a bit to add a bunch of cat food and litter, because I worry about being able to provide for them. There are blood tests coming up also, that are so fucking expensive and as usual I have no idea how I will do this. Thankfully there is still half a bottle of Lantus for Milhouse. Milhouse is my special guy, and his and Tinyhead’s medication regimen helps give me a morning and evening routine, helps stabilize my day, which often gets confusing otherwise.

I know this is a novella, but I do want to say: It’s criminal that Milhouse’s – or anyone else’s – insulin is $300 a bottle. Most people who take insulin need a lot more than the one tiny unit Milhouse takes. I cannot imagine how diabetics without adequate prescription coverage handle this. Shouldn’t it just be drugs that are optional that are so expensive? Shouldn’t something that you need to live every day be less expensive, because it’s the right fucking thing to do?

I swear, I don’t play the lottery, but if I ever did and I won, I would buy groceries for food banks, give lots and lots to the elderly and to help animals, and I would buy expensive medications for those that need them but can’t afford them. That would be the coolest.

Anyway. Seeing as how I don’t have a therapist, this blog is sort of my therapy. My shrink suggested I talk to my friends, but there is too much to say. They don’t read this blog. And it feels very awkward trying to discuss this stuff. I can tell that while they really care about me, they also just don’t wanna know. It’s not fun stuff to hear.

I feel pretty fucking alone in this, and that is probably because I AM pretty fucking alone in this. And that really sucks. I’m haunted by traumatic memories, guilt, shame, and a lot of other gross emotions and thoughts. There can be voices, though thankfully they are mostly friendly and even helpful these days. The fact that I acknowledge them as voices that could actually be fragments of ME, ones that I have compartmentalized far too well perhaps, is a good sign. Being able to hold space for this possibility, to keep at least ONE foot in reality, is very important.

But to my point about this blog being my therapy. That sort of makes you like a silent therapist, one who was never asked if they really wanted to BE a silent therapist. So it is my intent to try to mix up these long, emotionally-flayed posts with some things you can use, or something funny, or something interesting. That is my intent, anyway. I fall short of it. I fall short of posting on a regular basis. But these are things I strive to do, because Jesus, I don’t wanna bum YOU out, too. Think of me as an insect under glass. Or preserved in amber. A curiosity to peek at. Writing this stuff helps me a lot, so please know that your eyes help, too. You make me feel heard.

So thank you for that. That means more than I can possibly express, Dear Reader. I probably had more I was going to ramble incoherently about, but it seems appropriate and necessary to end this post with a sincere and heartfelt expression of appreciation for you. A huge thank you for taking the time to read here. An enormous bucket of gratitude for your support. It means the world. Just feeling heard can make the difference between treading water and drowning.

Thank you for helping me tread water. XO

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The Tyranny of Endless Repeats

It’s bad enough that when you have PTSD, your mind wants to revisit awful things in the past without your consent, just intruding upon whatever it is you happen to be doing or thinking about and saying HEY YOU REMEMBER LIFE IS FUCKING DANGEROUS RIGHT? REMEMBER THIS BAD THING HERE? LOOK AT IT! LOOK AT IT!

I mean, that’s kind of a bummer, right?

So why does that happen? Sometimes it just happens for no reason, actually. But other times, it happens because there is some sort of trigger.

“Trigger” is a very loaded word these days. And while my life has been full of them, and they are not very pleasant, you will not be finding any posts on my blog that say “Trigger Warning”. Why is that? I feel that triggers are a very personal matter. I mean, I’ve been raped a few times, but if you say “rape”, it does not trigger me.  I am not threatened nor am I offended by conversations involving sexual assault.  One thing that HAS triggered me, in the past, which I am now telling you about because it does not bother me anymore, is music by The Who.  In fact, music does this to me a lot. And so does a lot of television and other media. And while I know some things for certain will definitely trigger me, sometimes I have no idea a trigger is coming. And sometimes it is not even a direct trigger, but rather something that (to overuse the word) triggers a thought which goes to another thought and may even go a thought or five past that until finally, there it is.

So you don’t always know where these triggers come from.  I think that, because of this, I have alienated myself from a very large and diverse amount of media, in an attempt to shield myself from FEELING and THINKING.

I came upon this insight in a brief chat with my roommate, where I was telling him, you know, I watch the same stuff over and over and I really need to knock this off because it’s making me intellectually lazy. And he mentioned that his brother, who also has a form of mental illness, does the same thing – watches the same movies and shows over and over again, eschewing the new for the well-worn and familiar. And it occurred to me that what I am doing, and what my roomie’s brother may be doing, is trying to protect ourselves from the violent intrusion of these bad thoughts.

So the shows I watch over and over are like a visually stimulating security blanket, in a way. And the security blanket is wet and heavy and I’m ready to be free of it. I have to face these thoughts. Avoiding them does not make them go away. And, as I have often heard, the way out is through.

And also, I’m fucking bored. My brain is kicking my ass because it wants quality input. As a sound engineer I once worked with was fond of saying, “Garbage in, garbage out”. And to quote Lisa Simpson, “I’m losing my perspicacity!”

If you are like me, which would be highly unusual but I allow that it’s possible, and you have hemmed yourself in, information- and arts-wise, this might be something upon which to reflect. This condition is not only limiting, but it is neurotoxic. Your brain engages in neurogenesis, the creation of new brain cells and connections and so forth, in a big way when exposed to novelty. NEW STUFF.  Further: if you don’t want dementia, keeping your mind active and engaged in the world around you is important. If you don’t want to “grow” an old mindset, then too, you need to get the new stuff in there.

It can be overwhelming, trying to catch up. Completely catching up is impossible because of the amount of data that is available to us. But every little thing counts, and the effort is worth it even if a perfect end result is not achievable. Action is better than non-action in this instance.

I don’t have any pithy insights on this. I’m just highlighting it because this is something I have noticed in my condition, and in observing it, I hope to change it.

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