Open Letter to My Mental Illnesses

To my depression, my social anxiety, and my borderline personality disorder,

I don’t know how exactly to write a letter to you, because I don’t know if there are adequate words to convey just how deeply and totally that I despise you.

In case you haven’t gotten the message sooner,  I hate you. I absolutely detest that you have been present for so much of my life. Over ten years?! It isn’t fair. It isn’t fair that some people are blessed with the ability to let things roll off them while I struggle under the weight of my own emotions. It isn’t fair that some people can be so flexible and adapt to their own imperfections, while I find it impossible live with myself for making the simplest of mistakes. It isn’t fair that relationships come so easily to some people and yet I can go back and forth with myself over whether or not to make a joke or ask someone about their day.

It isn’t fair. I didn’t do anything to even remotely deserve you invading my life as a teenager, overtaking my every corner of my world and growing in severity gradually like a cancer, but yet you did it all the same. I didn’t get a choice, and that sucks.

You are all minions of the same beast, dispatched daily to make my life hell. For many years, I let you do that because I didn’t know that you were the ones driving the car. You made me think that my thoughts and feelings and behaviors were just me. You were happy to let me take all the blame and hide in the shadows, protecting the insidious beast of mental illness of being exposed.

Well, I know now. I know what you are. I know what you do. I know more than I want to about you sometimes.

You can take a simple emotion and let it wash over me, rattling my nerves outwards to my fingertips and toes, an intensity I can hardly describe. You can take one ambiguous gaze from another person and spin a whole tale about how they are going to abandon me. You can fade out all the grey area until all I see is the extreme negative. Bad person. Failure. Loser. 

Why did you come for me? I am a good person who generally has good intentions. I try not to do things with I know will hurt others, I avoid judgement whenever I can, and I am actively looking for ways to be a better person. Even as I write this, I hear the whispers running through my mind: You’re wrong. You are not good. You are just lying to yourself to feel better. I know that this is all of you, planting the seeds of self-doubt in my mind.

Maybe I will never understand. Maybe I don’t get to know. I suppose that’s out of my control.

You might think you have taken all control from me, that you will continue to pervade my life for as long as you please. Sometimes I think that too. I’m sure that’s all your doing, squashing my hope to bits so that I can no longer recognize it.

Try as you might, you cannot squash the evidence that says that I’m trying hard. You cannot erase my nearly two years of exhausting and excruciating and uplifting work in therapy. You cannot take away the nights I wanted to cut but made kinder choices instead. You cannot tear up the lists I’ve made of my good qualities. You cannot stop me from reframing your internal tirade into something more positive.

I am stronger than you. I’m stronger because I’m still here, still fighting in this war, even when it gets hard. I’ve paused the fight, but I’ve never stopped. Sometimes I lose the battle, sometimes you come out victorious. Sometimes you release the emotional flood to stop me in my tracks.

But the war isn’t over yet.

You keep trying to put roadblocks in my path. In fact, you are the roadblocks. You isolate me, make me withdraw from the people around me so that I’m fighting these battles alone. Sometimes, it is so easy to believe your continuous mantra that no one understands the immense pain I can feel and that they will abandon me. Then I go  online to places where I can read the words that mimic verbatim the thoughts running through my mind and I remember. Other people have their own BPD minions too. They have depression minions and anxiety minions. You are wrong: I am not alone. I am in good company, even sitting alone at my computer.

There are other people living my story in various forms. Other people who have cleared their roadblocks and kept going. If they can, I can too.

You’ve succeeded in the past at separating me from the people in my support system. You’ve done a wonderful job of isolating me during a tenuous and rocky period in my life.

It’s another one of the reasons I hate you with a fiery passion.

I’m not sure yet how I’m going to overcome that, the loss you have put me through. Sometimes you convince me that I’ve used up all my options, that I’ve messed up my life beyond repair. You convince me that I deserve punishment in the form of sharp objects.

I don’t know why I listen to you.

Despite what you have done to me, I will keep trying to believe that I can overcome the lost friendships and broken connections. I will keep trying to believe that there is more out there for me, new relationships to cultivate. Because like I have said, I’m not willing to let you win.

I know that you’ll continue to run wild in my head, producing thoughts that could rival my harshest critic and evoking feelings that make me want to die. Go ahead. I may falter here and there, defeated by your persistence, but I always get back on track. I’m learning how to accept that you may be a permanent resident. I’m learning that you may never completely be banished back to whatever hell you came from.

It doesn’t stop me from trying.

Regardless of if you stay or go, I am going to keep working on silencing you. Your voices don’t deserve the weight that I give to them. My voice is in there too, mixed up in this chaos. It is not always easy to hear, but I know I can coax it out more with practice. There are skills to learn. There are lists I can make, strategies to cope and fight back. Your time in power is coming to an end, no matter how long it takes me to get there.

So screw you. I’m fighting you. When I have to, I’ll do it just to spite you, just to counter your messages that tell me I’m not deserving or worthy of the life I want. I am deserving of happiness. Part of me knows that, even when the rest is listening to your nonsense, even when you trick my emotions to play right into your little game.

Every day seems like its own battle, but I am clawing my way through it. Whatever you throw at me, I will keep trying.

I-CAN-I-WILL.jpgNote: Thank you to KD for this great idea and the beautifully written letter that inspired me.

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Self-Love Challenge Day 23: My Support System

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It’s been forever since I made a post in respect to this challenge. In my defense, there has been a lot going on in my non-blog life. However, part of the reason that I haven’t been completing the prompts is because I haven’t felt like loving myself. I’d think about it, and I’d know what I could say, but my words didn’t feel genuine. I don’t want to write something that feels false to me because I can’t believe my own words.

I have promised myself that I will finish this challenge and I know that I will get there, even if it takes until July. No rushing, just letting it happen as it happens.

But in the meantime, I’m actually feeling somewhat optimistic about my ability to be kind to myself in this moment. So here we go, my support system:

  • J. My therapist of nearly two years. I am undeniably attached and perhaps idealize her too much in some moments. After all, I have never had someone make me feel as heard and safe as she does. We have our moments and issues, one of which I am currently sorting out my feelings about. However, J has proved time and time again that she genuinely cares about me and is in it for the long haul. Our working relationship has given me numerous insights and skills to better my life.
  • My parents. As the only child of two people from whom I am very different, my relationship with my parents is complicated. I harbor a lot of resentment towards them for not modeling the appropriate ways to exist in friendships, resolve conflict or deal with negative emotions (anger especially). We still navigate our differences daily, with many missteps. Despite all that, they are my parents. In their own way, they have always tried to support me, even if they don’t quite understand my mental illnesses. Whenever I’ve needed them, they’ve stepped up. There’s no question in my mind that they love me and I know that if the chips are down, I can count on them to be there.
  • My grandfather. He is strong-willed and cranky man who sees things very differently than I do, but I love him with all of my heart. We have spent so many hours together in the last three years since my Nana died and developed a close relationship in that time. While he will never be someone I confide in about the mental health stuff, I find that being in his presence almost always improves my mood.
  • My cousin. My cousin C is more of an older brother than a cousin. And like an older brother, I’ve always vied for his attention. We grew up only a few miles apart and were together for much of that time. He used to tease the hell out of me…and he still does sometimes. That’s what almost-brothers are for, right? But these days, I can also confide in him with things that I’d never tell my parents and know I’ve still got him in my corner. I don’t talk about the deep stuff with him too often, but I know that I can. I’m grateful for the relationship that’s grown between us.
  • Friends from graduate school. These are the five women that I have had nearly every class with since beginning my program. They are good people. They are maybe the first group of people I have had real functional relationships with. Unlike many of my friends from college, there is none of the gossip and drama. I’m sure part of that is a maturity thing, but I also feel like we are well-suited to each other. These are the people that have seen me in some pretty questionable states and have still stuck around. We’ve struggled through grad school together and it has bonded us. Now, they are my support through weekly phone calls and wine nights and after-internship smoothie dates. Although I often wish that there was a reciprocal communication about the more personal things, I confide in them some of the deep stuff when I can and have found that they’re worth the trust.
  • My supervisor, the LDTC, and the social worker. The three members of the intermediate child study team, with whom I work closest. Each has been a mentor for me in their own way and helped me develop my skills. When I’m stuck on a problem at work, they are the ones I go to get perspective. I’ve found that each of them has their own set of strengths for me to learn from, from how to be an effective problem-solver, to collecting data, to working with parents. I really enjoy working with them.
  • H & S: The two little girls I babysit. Although they are not a support system in the traditional sense, they are valuable people in my life because they provide a sense of purpose. I get to be a member of their support system, for which I am repaid with the opportunity to watch them grow and experience some of their contagious magical laughter.
  • All of you. The people that I have met on WP have been far and away some of the most inspirational and insightful I’ve had the privilege to interact with. I’ve learned so much about myself from reading other blogs. And I have been gifted a sense of solidarity with those I follow and who follow me. The value of knowing I can post about something that is deeply personal and receive validation and understanding cannot be overstated. I’m grateful for the support system I have here.

I was actually surprised how many different people I came up with on this list. There are others in my life too. A couple friends from my undergrad, another one of my cousins, members of my cohort.

What I really want to do to strength my support system is to expand it. I’ve spoken before about wanting to make more friends. That’s actually on a list of goals that I just made is to expand my social network. Even if these aren’t friends that I talk to about truly personal things, I think that the support of different people with different perspectives could be really helpful.

I’ve found in the past that different friends provide support in varying ways. Some friends are good at making me laugh, others can see things from a very logical point of view, and others are great for venting. The more people I can add to my support system, the greater the continuum of support.

And I’d like to strengthen the relationship I have with my parents. The issues are complicated there for sure. I think that I can only accept support from them once I learn to stop resenting them for not living up to my expectations and not having the same values I do. I’m not there yet, but I’m trying. Like I said, I love them.

Most of all, what I’m working on in therapy is becoming my own support system. That self-care box I made the other day was one way of trying to help myself and be there for myself. J told me yesterday that I am incredibly good at being harsh or mean to myself. Obviously, this isn’t the goal. The goal is learning kindness and truly believing that the kindness is deserved.

Don’t they always say that you have to love yourself so others can love you? Well, that’s what I am going to try to do.

My Self-Care Box

Ever since one of my favorite bloggers, Ashley, posted about her self-care box, I’ve been thinking about making one of my own. It sounded like a really great idea to me. I have enough experience in therapy now to have developed a list of self-care strategies. It’s somewhat engrained in my head, but it’s also in a notebook somewhere.  When I’m at my lowest points, I typically don’t have the mental energy to search for or act on that list. It just seems like more than I can must. So I’m hoping having the physical items in one spot ready to go might light a fire under me to make a kind choice for myself in the moments where I need it most.

This also reminds me of Cat’s post from Half of a Soul, which I have referenced before. In it, she said:

Step number one is concrete and relatively easy, so I’d recommend giving it a try. Step one involves making a kit – both real and metaphorical, ideally – to satisfy your own expectations.

Picture the times when everything goes to shit. The times when you’re on the edge of (or even in) a BPD frenzy. What do you need? What do you want? Leave other people out of it for the time being. Don’t fall back on the typical BPD “but I’m helpless when I’m upset” answer: i.e. that you want someone to validate you and take care of you. When you refuse to continue the pattern of putting the blame and expectations on someone else, you realize that what you actually want is simply to feel validated and cared for. So: what can you do to make yourself feel validated and cared for?

Cat is absolutely right. In my worst moments, I want to be cared for. I want others to show me that they care. Figuring out how to care for myself isn’t so automatic as it should be, but I guess that’s the source of the problem. Hence, the reason this kit is such a great idea.

In deciding what I would include in my self-care box, I did some googling. Why re-invent the wheel, right? Ashley also had some great ideas that I stole, so she definitely deserves the credit.

Since I tend to get very impulsive with food, I decided to stay away from that.  While a piece of chocolate might be a great way to care for myself, I won’t stop at just one and then I’ll feel guilty. I’m still working on self-control in that area.

The other thing that I was mindful of in making my box is how many of these items are going to need to be replenished. I know myself well enough to know that my perfectionist tendencies would be at play here. I’d want everything to be fully stocked all the time, just in case. If I started to run low on something, I wouldn’t want to use it because then I wouldn’t have it. And if I did use it, then I’d be stressing myself out about replacing it.

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The top of the box, which drew me to it immediately.

After some consideration, here is what I came up with:

  • Candle. During the difficult days, I would say one of the most consistent strategies I will employ to make myself feel better is to light a candle. My favorite scent, the one my therapist uses in her office, is eucalyptus spearmint. Unfortunately, they don’t make that scent for my candle warmer, but I also love anything mildly apple-scented, so this was the perfect backup.
  • Tea. When I feel a cold coming on, the first step I always take is some tea with honey. It’s become something of a comfort. I don’t drink tea as much anymore because of my kidney stones, but I still enjoy it in a time of need.
  • Cozy socks. This one came right from Ashley. I have a few different pairs of fuzzy socks that I practically lived in this past winter. And I love to be warm, it’s such a wonderful feeling.
  • Remember the Titans. My absolute favorite movie. I have seen it at least 25 times and never tire of it. When I need to watch a movie that empowers me, this is the one I will choose.
  • Bath bombs. One of J’s favorite suggestions to me when I leave her office in a bad state is to try taking a bath. My favorite bath bombs are the ones from Lush, but those are expensive, so I settled for a bag of these Lavender bombs that smell awesome.
  • Lotion. It’s a simple thing, but this berry-smelling hand lotion shows that I’m taking care of myself.
  • Fidgets. Part of working in a school means I have a whole ton of fidget toys to use with my kids during counseling. If it works for them, why not try it for me? I included play doh, which is some of their favorite, and a stress ball that I find myself squeezing when I’m annoyed.
  • Microwaveable Heating Pad. This one is one of my favorite things that I included. I got this cute little owl as a Christmas gift a few years back. You pop him in the microwave and heat him up for about 30 seconds to a minute, and are left with a nice smelling and warm comfort object to cling to. If you haven’t noticed, good smells and warmth are the two biggest factors in me feeling cared for.
  • Nail polish. Painting my nails can be a chore sometimes, but I really love what a pop of color can do for my mood.
  • Face mask. I wasn’t sure at first whether or not I liked face masks, but they’ve grown on me. I like that I’m at least trying to treat my skin well.
  • Puzzle book. Through therapy, I’ve learned the skill of mindfulness. When I’m in the car, that means counting mailboxes or playing the alphabet game. For my box, that means sudoku or crossword puzzles.
  • Pictures. Photos of my family and friends. Seemed like the obvious choice.
  • Affirmation Cards. A collection of uplifting phrases that I plucked from different spots all over the internet. Phrases that I hope will become more automatic to me over time. But for now, these are cards I can read to myself when my mind refuses to create those thoughts on its own.
  • Notes from kids, friends. The Christmas card from my grandfather that calls me his special girl. A birthday card from my friend that calls me a sister. The note H wrote me that calls me her best babysitter who always makes her laugh. These make me feel loved.
  • My ‘Ready, Born Ready’ Playlist. On my phone, this playlist earned this name because it’s a mix of some of the most uplifting songs I’ve got downloaded right now. It’s namesake is Daughter, by Sleeping at Last. One day I’d like to post about some of these songs that can boost my mood without my brain’s consent, because I think music can be truly powerful.

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And there we have it, a self-care kit. I must say, the process of creating it actually felt like an act of self-care in itself. I made an active choice to prioritize myself and my happiness, which has not been something I can say has been easy for me to do as of late. This was me saying I may not always believe I am worth it, but I am going to make the caring choice anyway. 

It made me feel good. It made me feel like I was doing the right thing for myself.

I still don’t feel like my box is complete. For example, something that I really want to include is a piece of my grandparents, as it always comforts me to remember how I was/am loved by them. I haven’t decided yet what that thing will be, but I think I will know it when I see it.

Maybe that’s the beauty of it. I can constantly be looking out for new objects that can become a member of the kit. Because in the world of self-care, it’s a marathon, not a sprint.

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Uncertainty

In the last month or so, I’ve been dealing with level of uncertainty about my current career choice. It’s one that crept up on me; I didn’t realize it existed until it was ringing in my ears all the time, impossible to miss. But it’s been there, lingering, growing like an aggressive tumor. Last night, I spoke the thought aloud for the first time to my friend and then again today to J during the first of two sessions I will be having this week.

I’m not still sure that I want to pursue the job that I’ve just spent the last three years being trained to do.

I’ve said before that I am currently in the process of completing an internship in school psychology, with aim to be a member of the Child Study Team as a school psychologist. I graduate from grad school in less than two months and will start applying to jobs pretty much within the next few weeks. So, we’re at the end of the road as far as this career path goes. I’m in a place where I am ready, pretty much, to work independently.

Which is a hell of a time for the realization to pop into my head that I may not want to.

Like I said, this uncertainty felt like it came out of nowhere. At the beginning of the year, I really enjoyed my internship. I felt like I was learning a lot, even though it was stressful, and I was passionate about what I was doing. Maybe that was just an idealization, but I truly enjoyed the challenge and had this belief that I was making a difference.

And then in the last month or so, I’ve found myself having thoughts to the contrary. Upon becoming fully immersed in the politics and structure of the intervention, it became more obvious to me how much things really out of my control. We can make suggestions for interventions, we can teach someone how to implement strategies, but there is no way to control whether a provider intervenes with integrity or just half-asses their job. Worse, there is no way to extend the services to the home if the parent refuses to be a participant in their child’s education.

Plus, we are limited by the system, which can be an arduous, exhausting process to change in an effective way that better supports student need.

Like, for example, involving more social-emotional learning in classrooms with a built-in curriculum to teach our students these skills. We all know this needs to exist, and yet it doesn’t. So we recycle the same interventions that may or may not be working, and are likely just a reaction once the problem has escalated instead of being preventive.

Are we really making anything better, or are we just fooling ourselves so we can sleep at night?

Perhaps words of all, the politics are ridiculous. You have to word everything in such a specific way to avoid stepping on toes when getting your point across. It’s a fine line between between a strong advocate and an insubordinate. I’ve never been very good at politics and the realization that it’s about to dominate my life has been overwhelming to say the least.

There is so much animosity between groups. I witness contention between our team and the teachers and it makes me uneasy. In any situation, it seems the teachers will have one opinion and my supervisor will disagree. He so passionately believes he is right, as do they. I see both sides, and thus I have trouble resolving to my own opinion that I can truly stand by. I know it is not a personal thing. Even with the same shared goal of the child successfully accessing the curriculum, it is a matter of two different agendas.

Do you know what it’s like to go on forums and see that other school psychologists feel burned out only two or three years into their work? Scary. Depressing. It doesn’t bode well for sure.

I don’t always feel this way. Sometimes I remember why I chose this field for my career. Sometimes I have a successful day with a student or I learn something that feels truly impactful. By and large though, the number of I don’t want to do this moments have been bountiful as of late.

I’ve been going to internship day after day as this has flowed through my brain. It does not make for the most productive intern or the most confident. I’ve chosen not to say anything though, until today, because I feel kind of stuck. Whether or not I’m unhappy, whether or not I want to do this, I’m committed now.

J was quick to point out today that I am not as stuck as I perceive myself to be. There’s always the potential for more school and a different path, she says. As if it were so simple.

With equal insistence, I let her know that while I’m aware that I could go back to school for more, it does not feel like the practical or healthy decision right now. We both know that my ultimate goal is to live on my own. Hell, even J was trying to push me to get out of my house last year because of the impact it has on me. But school is not cheap. The only way I made it through grad school was by living at home. To take on a new financial burden now, when I’m so close to being fiscally independent? No way. I want…scratch that, need to get out of my parents house, for my own well-being.

Even more, grad school has been the most physically and mentally taxing three years of my life. I feel as though I’ve barely survived it. I am absolutely against subjecting to myself to late night classes and the overwhelming work load again unless I were being paid nicely for it.

I told J this, and she got quiet very fast. Yeah, that’s what I thought.

What she did do that was helpful was ask me if, knowing myself as a person, I thought I might still be experiencing these feelings if I’d chosen a different career.

Really, there are two situations here, two coins with two sides. There’s the I don’t think I can do this coin in which I alternate between feeling confident about my capability to function independently as a school psychologist and feeling like I will be an utter failure to the students. And there’s the I don’t think I want to do this in which I alternate between feelings inspired and hopeful to feeling defeated and disillusioned.

Considering both of those questions, both the can and the want, I do think that J has a point. I second-guess everything and have a tendency to expect the worst. I don’t doubt that I would feel this way no matter where I was and that this is an issue we need to tackle by keeping that in mind.

And after speaking with my friend and having her tell me she felt the same way , I can also admit that maybe some of this is a normal feeling. Perhaps with time I will adjust and my opinion will change.

I have some hope, some desperate hope, that this is the case. Because like it or not, I have committed to this for at least the foreseeable future. It’s what I need to do to get what I really want, which is my own functional independent life.

We are working on me developing some positive affirmations I can tell myself at externship when I’m feeling the can’t or the don’t want to. It’s a process for sure, but I’m willing to try anything. I miss being excited about going to internship each day.

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Struggling

I am really not in a good place right now.

Perhaps it was triggered by the fact that my grandpa still is not getting better. Perhaps it is the stress of these lingering feelings that I’m not sure I still want to be doing what I just spent three years in school learning how to do. I’m not really sure. I can’t pinpoint when the tides turned and I flipped into this very dark, depressed mode. I’m just kind of hanging out here, waiting.

It feels like a very passive thing to do, but I’m honestly at a loss. Engage in self-care, you say? I’m trying to do that, here and there. I’ve done a little bit of exercise, reached out to friends, found moments to decompress. I’ve tried some mindfulness activities and positive self-talk. And honestly, I just feel worse and worse each day.

So I’ve been overcome with a sort of apathy. Existing may feel very challenging and I may be constantly triggered by various moments in my day or things I see on the internet, but I suppose it doesn’t really matter. Instead of feeling that pain, I’ve just detached from all of it. Each time something comes up, I just shrug internally and wave it away. Oh well. Maybe it will feel better later. Who knows. 

Maybe that’s me just working tirelessly to stay in an adult place. Or is it just that mental illness is entirely at the wheel again, with me tied up in the trunk, unable to get free.

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I’ve reached out to a few friends to try to find my relief from the exhausting sadness I feel about my grandfather. I even asked my friend for a hug the other night, hoping for comfort. That helped a little bit. But I can sense their unease about it. My one friend just keeps repeating that she’s sorry when I tell her I’m upset about him. I don’t even bother anymore. I’ve withdrawn. Best not bother anyone with it.

People ask how I’m doing all the time, but in that casual, conversational way you do when you’re not expecting a real answer. “How are things going today?” “Busy, but good.” I could barely get out of bed because I feel so relentlessly unhappy, but I did and I’ve spent the day feeling insecure and anxious. “How was your weekend?” “Just fine, too short!” I spent most of it feeling utterly alone and wishing I had plans, while simultaneously feeling completely incapable of asking someone to make plans. 

The politics of life are such that no one ever expects you to answer with the truth. If you do, they don’t know how to respond. It just makes things awkward. We’re expected to conceal it, keep all of that behind closed doors.

So that’s what I do now. That feels like the best option.

I’ve certainly burdened my friends enough with my tears and pain and suicidal thinking. They get immediately uncomfortable with all of it; I sense it. They don’t know what to do. That’s fair, I don’t know either. Best save us both the time.

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The truth, the honest truth of it is, I have to be in this for myself. I keep coming back to that very lonely, unpleasant fact. We go through life all alone. Sure, we have people around us, but the ultimate experience of our thoughts and feelings cannot be experienced by anyone else.

I should be the one I rely on to talk myself out of these stormy moments. And I do, sometimes. I try. I have a sense of what I need, I think.

However, through all of this, there’s an endless tirade on loop in my head. My belief that my entire heap of feelings are completely my fault, and the circular logic backing that statement up. It doesn’t matter what the thought is, I can divert it back to an understanding that I am to blame for all of my problems and that my having the ability to make it better may be a far-fetched theory that is actually way out of my control because I am in fact that “less than” person with fundamental flaws that irreparable at this point in my life.

To fix this core belief, whether it is true or not, would require me to have some confidence in myself. It would mean I would have to like myself even a little bit and believe with any amount of certainty that I deserve all the things I want. And I think I am finding that I large part of me does not subscribe to any of those ideas. It is one thing to treat myself with such harshness and critical words, as I know that I do, but I am finding that I truly dislike myself on a whole for all the negative parts of me.

So I can’t fix the internal narrative because I don’t like myself enough to try. And I feel incapable of liking myself because of that the internal narrative telling me I’m not worth it.

That just sounds like an excuse to me.

I’ve just got very little right now that’s keeping me afloat. Until I slip back into some more manageable feelings, I’m just floating aimlessly through each day, surviving. With the debris of my mental illness cluttering my mind. I feel like I’m lying by saying that I’m trying, because if I were truly trying, shouldn’t I feel even slightly better?

There’s so much I feel like I should be doing. There’s a lot I want to do. But the paralysis I feel at the thought of making moves is incapacitating. Sometimes I find myself just laying on my bed staring into space. Other times I sit in a chair, willing myself to move. Telling myself I’ll do what I have to do at a certain time or when a certain episode ends.

I do the bare minimum. Work, babysitting, class, therapy, grandpa. I do those things because the anxiety of not doing them is more than I can bear. Anything even remotely extra feels herculean.

All while I’m in that state of apathy. The tirade of criticisms keeps going on and on and I let it do that, because I don’t know how to shut it up. I go where I’m supposed to be, spacing in and out, noticing those difficult feelings. Eh, maybe they’ll go away. Or maybe not. Who cares. It all doesn’t really matter. 

I still have the automatic intrusion of thoughts that tell me I’ve backed myself into a corner and it only ends one way. Not necessarily because I want to die, but because I can’t live with the fact that I won’t amount to anything, that I’ll just keep vying for things I won’t achieve. That it’s too late to meet new friends, and even if I do, I’ll mess it up. That my issues will interfere with me ever having a relationship and even if I find one, I’ll sabotage it. That the state of our world and all the intense feelings it evokes are beyond what I can continue to stand.

I read other stories about people who wanted to end their lives and didn’t. They talk about all the things they have now that they didn’t then. And all I can think is but what if that doesn’t happen for me. So many people say it gets better, but it doesn’t just ‘get’ better. Life doesn’t work that way. Maybe, if you work hard enough, you find the better.

But maybe not.

I see blog posts from people who deal with the same struggles I do, and I see that they have kids or are in a relationship or are holding down a job, I get immediately envious of them. It just makes me feel so much worse.

That’s not me thinking that they shouldn’t feel the way that they do, not at all. On the contrary, it’s me thinking they have mental illness and were still able to get a boyfriend/find a husband/have a full-time job/raise a family. I’m so messed up that I can barely get someone’s attention. I will never even have any of that. 

That’s pretty ridiculous, I know. I feel embarrassed that I just admitted that.

Just another reason that the little voice tells me to kill myself.

How long? How long will I keep trying? How long can I stand the back and forth between extremes?

I don’t know. I don’t know much of anything at this point, except that I want to get in bed and sleep for the next week.

We’ll see what tomorrow brings.

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Grappling with Reality

I know that I said I’ve been in no place to write…and I don’t even feel much like doing so right now. I wouldn’t expect anything of real substance from me. I’m literally just going to sit here and type whatever comes out. Usually, I’ll put a lot of thinking into making sure that my words and phrases come out a certain way, try to flow correctly.

But guess what? I don’t have it in me for that. I’m feeling awfully sad. Lingering feelings of fear and sadness and helplessness.

My grandfather is not doing well. If you are new to my blog, or if you don’t remember, he had a heart attack about 2.5 months ago, right at the beginning of January. It was a pretty bad one and he was in the hospital for about 2 weeks at the time. Then he was home and things seemed better. Even though I still worried all the time, I also relaxed. It was a new normal, I told myself, but he would be okay.

He had to be okay.

Well, then at the end of last month (almost a month ago already, though I can’t believe it), he had to go back to the hospital because he had a terrible cough and couldn’t breathe. There was fluid in his lungs. He was there for a bit, just about a week, and he seemed to improve. They sent him to rehab for what I thought was going to be 3-5 days.

It’s been three weeks and he’s still there.

He’s had this mystery fever the last few days that they don’t know where it came from. His cough is back with a vengeance and it sounds terrible. Yesterday, when I went to visit him, he was so tired he was literally falling asleep mid-sentence.

I hate it. I can’t tell you how frustrated I am with not knowing what’s going on with him. Because I’m so scared. I’m so scared that this is it. All his fight is gone. He feels rotten and I think that he really is just at a point where he’s given up.

I try to call him every day, except on Friday I didn’t because I just didn’t think I could handle the emotions I’d feel when I heard him. Lately, whenever I get off the phone I just want to cry. How come this had to happen now? I thought that we had so much more time. I thought he’d have years. And to hear him reduced to this?

Let me be clear. No one has told me he is dying. Not the doctors or his nurses. And yet he is exhibiting all the signs of just deteriorating day by day. He doesn’t seem to be doing better anymore. So I wonder…how much time is on the clock here?

And to make it worse, I don’t feel like I have anyone to talk to about this. I am not close with this side of my family. My aunts and uncles are…well…for lack of a better word, annoying. I know that sounds horrible, but if you knew them you’d understand. My parents and I talk about it sometimes, but I don’t find myself able to be emotional around them.

Really, I just want someone to put their arms around me and tell me it’s going to be okay.

I tried to reach out and text my friend. She was sympathetic, but it also felt so shallow. It’s nice to hear that she’s thinking of me and that she knows what I’m going through is tough, but it felt like she was cutting me off. Like she didn’t want to really hear what I had to say, just offer me some meaningless platitude and move on. So I didn’t really get what I needed from her.

And I don’t feel like I have anyone else I can really reach out to. Maybe one of my other friends, but I don’t know. I find it so hard to show genuine emotion with any of them anymore. I’m much more comfortable pouring my heart out on this forum to a bunch of random strangers, many of whom feel more like friends than like strangers to me anymore, than to my non-virtual friends. What does that say about me? Or what does that say about them? I don’t know.

But yeah. I’m here writing this, literally stream of consciousness, because you guys are the ones I feel safe saying it to. Maybe because it’s anonymous, but also because I know I will be heard here.

Even in therapy last week, I didn’t feel like talking about this helped me. I told J that I was feeling scared and sad, but I told her that I was just trying to deal with it because there’s nothing I can do. It’s out of my control. She agreed.

Maybe that’s what makes me so mad…that there’s nothing anyone can say. It’s that stupid radical acceptance again. That’s the right answer. Sit here and try to cope, because I can’t change it. That’s the logical, adult thing.

But the adult isn’t active right now. You know who is? That little girl who loves her Papa. The little girl who plays out in the yard with him and spends hours counting coins with him and goes down into the basement and swings on the swing which is so cool because who else’s Papa has a swing in his basement for them? Nobody, that’s who! And she feels so lucky because her Nana and Papa make her the center of her world when she’s there.

And Nana is gone now, but Papa is still here. She never wants there to be a world without him. That sounds like the worst thing ever.

That little girl is sad and scared. Her world is a series of confusion and unpredictableness. Is that even a word? WordPress says no, but I don’t care.

I can’t be the adult, because I have all those childhood years present within me. I have that love for my grandfather that is fueled by a very young instinct.

There is so much more that’s going on right now. It has to do with internship, but I can’t even go there. I’m too busy worrying. I’m too busy dreading the next phone call because I have to hear the weakness in his voice, while simultaneously hanging onto his every word, memorizing the sound of his voice.

Why do I have to feel these feelings? J says it is important to just let them happen, but this is such an awful feeling. I don’t want to feel it.

I want him to get better. I want to hear the life in his voice again. I don’t want to hear him telling me how miserable he feels and how it’s exhausting just to walk to the bathroom.

It’s good to want things, isn’t it? That’s what my supervisor always says. It doesn’t mean I’m going to get that. In fact, it’s looking very likely that things are heading downhill.

If you met my grandfather, you’d like him. I don’t care who you are, you would. Because everyone does. Every single person I know who talks to him is charmed by his quick wit and lovable demeanor. Even when he is saying things that are so very not appropriate for the times, you can’t help but love him. It’s that old guy charm. He is the biggest pain in the world, but he has a heart of gold and wants the best for his family. He worries about all of us the way we worry for him.

Ugh. I could go on, but I think I’ll end this here.

Please pray for him. If you are a person that prays, please send all the prayers his way. I just want him to come home and start doing a little bit better. I know we won’t get him forever, but I never could have imagined that we might be facing the end so soon. This isn’t a reality I feel ready to accept.

Pressure is Paralyzing

Each afternoon, as I come home from work, I jump into the WordPress and peruse through the posts of others. I click, scroll, read, hit the like button. Often, I want to provide more. I want to leave a comment, say something enlightening to contribute to the discussion or just offer words of support. And yet I can’t.

Sometimes, I can’t find the words.

Writing is almost a chore at the moment to me. I think that I have a lot that I want to say, but it’s locked up in my head. I can get past the lock and pull some of them loose, but it takes a lot of effort. It’s a trial and error method, like taking a large ring of keys trying each one until something finally fits.

I feel pressure about that, because I want to express how I’m feeling but it requires more energy than I sometimes have on a given day.

I’m a perfectionist in the worst way. If I’m going to write about something, I want to write about it in a way that truly honors what I’m thinking and feeling. I want to cover that topic totally, not put together an incomplete, slipshod account that mischaracterizes what I’m thinking and may upset someone else. I’m working on giving myself permission for my flaws, but it’s still hard for me to post something that I don’t mentally feel is ‘complete’ or that I have sense of satisfaction about.

So I haven’t been writing as much as I want to. I keep thinking about it, thinking about what I might say, but those thoughts stay behind lock and key.

That pressure that I have on myself right now just seems insurmountable. I’m taking everything day by day, tackling things as they come. Yet I still feel stuck in a rut. All of my energy is going into working on using these little skills to keep from imploding. With that, WordPress is falling to the side a bit, even though I don’t want it to.

Maybe that will change tomorrow, maybe it will be another week before I find the words flowing again. Part of it is waiting for my feelings and thoughts to realign in a way that feels manageable. I can’t predict when that will come.

I’m still here, still reading about your journeys, still cheering you on silently. I just may not be as vocal as I like to be. I don’t have it in me at the moment.