Wednesday, March 30, 2016

I'm not just a cliche- I've got a war in my mind

"Don't leave me now
Don't say good bye
Don't turn around
Leave me high and dry

I hear the birds on the summer breeze, I drive fast
I am alone in the night
Been tryin' hard not to get in trouble, but I
I've got a war in my mind
I just ride
Just ride, I just ride, I just ride

I'm tired of feeling like I'm fucking crazy
I'm tired of driving 'till I see stars in my eyes
I look up to hear myself saying, baby
Too much I strive, I just ride"
Ride - Lana Del Ray

I can remember being around 5 and having horrible, horrendous, murderous thoughts. I thought it was normal, I was angry, isolated, hurting and I wanted it to stop any way I could manage and wishful thinking that others would be harmed seemed justifiable. I soon realized that that wasnt normal nor was it okay, and it didnt take me long to learn some empathy and change that thought pattern. I'm fucked up, but I'm smart and I knew very early that I should and could make those thoughts stop, and so I did, by learning to see everything from everyone else's perspective. It has been the single most valuable tool to me over the years. 

When I was around 11 or so, I had a teacher who searched my desk for drugs, I wasn't on any drugs, I was in 5th grade...but after many years, I can understand how she would worry about the loner kid who didnt give a fuck and wanted everyone to leave her alone, but at the same time was desperate for some sort of connection. I have been called "bullheaded" more times in my life than I can count and I'm guessing that maybe that obstinate, "stand up for myself and never let anyone bull doze over me" spirit I faced everyone head on with may have given her the wrong impression, I guess thats understandable enough. 

It was around this same age that I started having "meltdowns". I very distinctly remember doing something pretty ordinary at my grandparents house, now let me interject that at the time, my grandparents were a beacon in my life. They were the parents I chose for myself in my head and while I lived at home with my mom, I had at some point decided that they were my parents and I respected them and was so intensely afraid of disappointing them. So upon doing whatever it was that I did, I freaked out and hid under a bed, I refused to come out, I lay under there crying with such deep seated shame that I couldnt budge. My grandmother tried in vain to convince me that it was okay and I was loved and she wasnt mad, but I was so embarrassed by my meltdown...but I couldnt stop either. It was at that point that I had my first real suicidal thought. 

I'm intentionally leaving out very large crucial points in my life that were traumatic to me, but lets skip ahead to me as a teen. It was around 13 or so that I started in with my O.C.D tendencies, and my suicidal thoughts escalated to dangerous proportions. I didnt recognize that I was O.C.D. until years later upon talking to a therapist, I just knew I was focusing on one thing, that I was making routines, that I was creating these...compulsions...that gave me some control. My life, my thoughts, scared me because they were spiraling out of control so fast that I couldnt breathe. I wanted so desperately for the spinning and sinking to stop. I was so tired of faking my way through life, then breaking down every night and trying so hard to make it stop. I was tired of praying with no results. I thought if I prayed hard enough that I would be fixed. I thought that if I didnt get fixed, I would go to hell. AT one point I was trying so hard to be okay or end it that I was taking whole handfulls of common medicines like tylenol (because I was only 13 and didnt know that it wouldnt kill me), and I was rearranging my room damn nearly daily. Living in my head was hard. 

Fast forward to being pregnant the first time. I was 19. I had no idea how to handle myself or my life which was...difficult. I didnt know then that something was wrong and that I should have talked to my dr. I was suicidal in secret. I was so disappointed in myself because for years I had succeeded in not being crazy, I had learned how to live and be happy...I had been reckless for a bit, but otherwise I was handling life pretty well. I would venture to even call myself sane during that time. All of a sudden though, I was living with a guy I hardly knew, pregnant with a baby I wasnt sure I wanted, and was just trying to make the best decisions I could....but those never seemed to be the right ones. I need to pause here to say that during this time, I met someone whom loved me through this, someone who helped me know and understand this man I was with, someone who held me together when I was falling apart and who seemed to know what I needed even when I didnt (often just a hug or to drive or to break shit)...but when I was at my craziest, he was there loving me through it. This person was the first person to treat me like I was part of his family because I was growing his nephews baby girl and he wanted me to thrive in life. At one point, I had another major meltdown that consisted of me showing up at our bosses house and going the fuck off...and then the shame hit me and I sat in my car ugly crying until this new strange partner of mine gently pried me from the car and held me and helped me face my wrongdoings with grace. He tried so hard to care for this crazy bitch that I was, when I'm sure all he wanted to do was ditch me. He was turning into someone I could trust and respect. I didnt know it then, but I had ptsd and trusting and respecting a man was not something I did easily, I knew I adored him and hated him simultaneously, but I didn't trust him. I do know that at one point he got mad and got in my face and yelled at me and I lost it, when I told him through tears that he couldnt do that with me, he held me and made me feel safe despite still being angry with me. I think he recognized before I did that I wasnt actually as strong or okay as I thought I was, and thats when I started trusting him. 

Anyway, I had our daughter and immediately realized something was wrong. I called my dad after almost two weeks crying, I didnt feel like she was mine. I was disassociated from her and motherhood. I loved her...but more like a caregiver, not at all like a mother. My dad told me to keep going and that it would come in time. He was right, but before that happened, I failed at, knowing what I do now, I know that there is no such thing as failing at breastfeeding and that I was simply uneducated on how to breastfeed, but at the time, it was the straw that broke the camels back. I was bottoming out again. I felt myself slipping under that familiar blanket of depression and fight as I may, I couldnt stop it. Now I had something to live for though, this tiny human was depending on me. She needed me, and I needed her. So leaving her wasnt an option. I spoke to my midwife and I started my first antidepressant and saw my first therapist. The medicine sucked and it didnt work, but for the first time in my life I felt so goddamn relieved to finally be getting help that I knew I needed. I was diagnosed with postpartum depression, ocd, and manic depression. I didn't really like going to therapy because it caused me to process too much and as a disassociative person, I liked living in my safe bubble of emotional suppression. It wasnt long before my therapy wasnt causing problems in my relationship and thankfully it interfered with work schedules and I had to quit going. My life was chaos for a bit. I fortunately had formed some strong friendships by this point so I was okay not going. I got through that period with just the horrible medicine, and I was surviving well. Not long after I quit taking the meds. I lost them and felt better without them. Life was moving forward and I was grateful for it even when it was a crumbling mess, I didnt want to focus on myself, just the life I was living, the man I had grown to love, the baby who was turning into a person. I still had my highs and lows, but thats how my life had always been so I just rode that rollercoaster and stayed as strong as I could. 

When that little girl was around two and a half I started to realize that she wasnt a typical child. Everyone told me that she was special and different, but I only saw the craziness that she was turning into. She was magic, a true indigo child...but there was something else too and I didnt want to face whatever it was so I told myself that it was all a stage. She was a brilliant disaster....and she was turning me into one in the process. The "worse" she got, the worse my reactions were. My tolerance was so limited. I was so afraid of raising her, I was scared that I would hurt her like I had been hurt, but I also wanted her to be raised to be the person I felt she should be...we have a tendency to do that as parents. We decide we are going to raise empathetic, responsible, honest, hard working, etc kids come hell or high water. Here I was pregnant again, already with a kid who was out of control and in a relationship that despite how much I loved him, I have never felt secure in...I'm never going to feel is steady no matter what, so stop asking if we are getting married please, I dont expect it anytime soon if ever, I'm not sure I want anything more than what we have. I'm not the kind of girl you marry okay? okay. So anyway... one day she pushed me too far and I hit her upside the head. Not hard, but I did it. Now I grew up in an abusive home, and knew I had to break that cycle. I immediately called a therapist and booked an appointment. That evening, I opened the doors to years and years of suppressed emotions and memories and I let him in. It remains one of the hardest, most terrifying nights of my life. Trusting someone with your demons is hard, its an incredible risk, you could lose everything and everyone you love, I had to though. I knew that not only did I need support, I knew that I could no longer trust myself and I needed someone to keep me in check, so I handed this man my soul and trusted or hoped that I wasnt handing over my rights to my children in the process. I am not going to fill you in on what I told him, but I will tell you that I am a stronger person for the life I have lived and I am not angry about the things I've faced, because I know that most of the people were doing the best they could with me, and the others have been forgiven because theres no sense in me dragging that shit around like a ball and chain, I've got enough weight on my shoulders. I entered therapy soon after that and we worked on how I reacted to Natalies moments. I took webinars, read books, followed blogs, started practicing meditation, etc. I loved my therapist...but again, she was ripping me wide open. I don't like that. I don't like feeling such strong emotions. I particularly dont like feeling weak and like I need insurmountable amounts of support, being a burden is not what I've ever strived for. I take pride in handling my emotional shit alone. I dont want help, even when I need it. She diagnosed me with P.T.S.D. because I was completely disassociative...its a survival technique I picked up as a child. I had more important people to focus on than shit that happened. I focus more on those people and protecting them and empathizing with them than I focus on how it affects me....and a certain amount of that is good, but to completely shut yourself out so as to not feel at all, and then to have that surge of overwhelming emotion like a dam breaking, thats not good. Its not good, but its what I do and what I will probably always do when it gets too be too much. I am working on trying to find a balance between taking care of myself and others simultaneously...but thats a hard balance to find and sometimes I resort to my fail-safe of shutting myself down, and other times I become a runaway train headed for derailment without the capability to slow myself before I destroy myself and others. I wish I had more control over this, because I can feel how out of control I am, but its like watching yourself through a lens and you can't stop it. The shame that encompasses that, its catastrophic in and of itself. It didnt take me long to quit going to therapy, it requires more of me than I can give right now. One day when my kids are grown and I can break down, I will, but I cant yet. 

I decided not to be medicated that time either. I was so afraid that it would be like it was before and I dont want to live like that. Fast forward to a few months ago. Something happened, a conversation, and I felt myself flip, like a light switch to a state of overwhelming worthlessness and depression. I wasnt sad, I wanted to run, I wanted to run so far and never come back. I've felt this many many times, but this time it was immobilizing. I broke. My train derailed in the shower and I became numb and shattered like busted glass. I felt like I was beyond repair this time. I hate being a victim, so I refused to be a victim, but I knew that I was drowning and couldnt breathe, the depths were pulling me down and I just couldnt fight it. I faked smiles, I laughed out loud, I lived like normal, but behind that, in my gut, I was a pit of...agony. One night, in the wee hours of the morning, laying wrapped in my bf's arms, I broke down and he was there for me. He helped me understand that I didnt have to do any of this on my own like I had been doing for so long. For the first time...maybe ever...I felt hope. Real hope, it was piercing, and it flipped the switch back. I gasped for breath from the depths of that stormy abyss that had dragged me down. I started to rise and swim.

I always compared these feelings, these highs and lows to drowning. When you are low its like something from the abyss has ahold of you around the waist and it is pulling you under and you are fighting so fucking hard to stay above water, you can feel yourself drowning, the pain enters your lungs and it is killing you and while you may catch a quick breath, you are undoubtedly under the water more than you are above. When you are high, you managed to fight it off, you are floating on the now calm waters, you are looking at that beautiful blue sky above you, the sun is kissing your skin, the water tickling you as it laps softly at you. Your whole body is rocking gently on the top of the water and it feels so good, you know if you could get just a little higher, you could float on up into that sky and it would be be bliss....but you cant get higher, because you know that at any second that monster in the abyss is going to grab you around the waist again. 

I live under a constant strain of stress, for a myriad of reasons that I dont feel like disclosing, but I do. Some of it is self inflicted, but all of it is often too much for me to handle. I am a pretty strong, and obviously resilient person, and I refuse to be a victim, but sometimes its just too much. I, like many, suffer from anxiety that is often completely irrational, but its consuming at times. One morning, Natalie was particularly hard, and everything was going to shit and I had a million things to do. I sat down in my dining room and suddenly was paralyzed with fear. I sat there for hours, trying to convince myself that I was being ridiculous and I just needed to get up and keep going... I was afraid to get in the car. I dont know if I was afraid of the driving (something I love to do but often have anxiety about) or if I was afraid that I wouldnt come back. I just sat there. Natalie had triggered my ptsd, which had triggered my depression and anxiety, which had in turn escalated my ptsd into an epic mind numbing, paralyzing anxiety attack. I knew at that point that I couldnt keep "functioning" like this, because I was no longer functioning. I am a big fan of that liz taylor quote...hold on...let me find it...

“You just do it. You force yourself to get up. You force yourself to put one foot before the other, and God damn it, you refuse to let it get to you. You fight. You cry. You curse. Then you go about the business of living. That’s how I’ve done it. There’s no other way.”

Thats basically how I have lived my whole life, so when I couldnt do that, it was a sign that I needed to do something. I scheduled at apt with my Dr (whom I had cried in front of a few times, she knew I was struggling, but I felt like I could manage it up until this point). When I went in we talked at length and she prescribed me something I had been on years and years ago for migranes, but this time it was supposed to be an antidepressant/medicine for anxiety, insomnia, and migranes. It worked...but it made it so that I was basically drugged at night, I couldnt even wake up to take care of Natalie one night as she was sick, leaning over a bucket next to me, I simply couldnt wake up enough to move. So I went back and told her I needed something else. I talked to a different Dr in the office this time and she dropped the bomb on me. The whole reason for this whole post....
I have bipolar disorder. I am type 1.

Now, I'm not entirely shocked by this, but it is greatly upsetting. I have fought for so fucking long to be okay. I thought that if I just fought hard enough, if I just stopped being a victim, that I could be okay and could function like a normal person. Its heartbreaking to know that its out of my control...I have ocd, I like control like a whoooooole lot!!!  I need control to be okay. to know that I'm neither in control and even if I were that I still wouldnt be okay...thats a hard pill to swallow. 
So we have changed up my meds. I am now on an antidepressant each morning and a mood stabilizer at night. I still have breakthrough episodes and I have emergency meds on hand for if that happens, but I generally love my new meds, I've never felt sane before and they really help me. This last month has been one tragedy after another so the meds arent helping currently, but I dont expect them to, and I need to grieve, so I dont want them to help me but just enough to keep me functional as a mom. I dont want to be dependant on medicines in any facility, but particularly medicines such as these. I take the lowest dose that I can, they have been doubled, but thats the lowest I can go and still be okay. 

So I'm writing this to help you. I want to help fight the stigma that makes me ashamed to admit all of this, but I dont want to do it for me, I dont give two shits what you think about me, I work hard to be who I am and I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that despite being a monster at times, I am a genuinely good person...what I do want, is for you, the reader to have some insight for others who are fighting this...other warriors. I want you to know what to do. 

Try to be empathetic. 

Love us a little louder, dont avoid us or the topic of our mental health for fear of upsetting us, we need you to acknowledge that you see our faults but you love us more for them...or at least in spite of them. 

When we push you away, know that its almost always because we are afraid to lose you and we feel like if we control when you go, it'll hurt less. So back off if you need to for your own sanity, but dont leave us entirely. Let us know that you arent leaving us. 

Be honest, when we hurt you, tell us, give us a chance to fix it, chances are that we did so without any abandon and when we realize it, we are beating ourselves up because we really do love and value you, we don't hurt on purpose. We often have the biggest hearts and would never intentionally hurt those we love. 

When we get ourselves out of a situation, or if we ignore you when you talk, or if we intentionally block out all the chaos and retreat into our own worlds, back away slowly. We often have very short tempers and its like pissing off a rattle snake...just dont do it. We can often handle quite a bit, but if we get to the point of walking away to go try to controll ourselves, you need to let us. Just give us a few minutes to process and recenter may take longer than a few minutes, it could take days, weeks, months, a year or two....give us space, you can send us a message saying you miss us, but do not push. 

offer to go with us to talk to someone if you notice we are manic or depressed, sometimes we dont know we are either of those. 

Support, but dont enable.

Remind us gently that perception isnt always reality and help us see things from others perspective IF we are open to hearing it...sometimes we arent yet, that doesnt mean we never will be, it just means we arent yet. Do NOT patronize us! That is the epitome of disrespect, be honest. You can do that without being a dick.

Ask us not to self harm. Help us by holding us accountable, sometimes we need someone close to us who we trust, to stop us. 

If you notice we are isolating ourselves, show up and be there, bring a funny movie or whatever. Make plans to do something out of the house and show up early to help hold us accountable... depending on our moods or overall personality, do this caution. Personally I am social so this would always be helpful and rarely upset me, but I know for others, being forced is not going to go over well lol.

Understand that we need to vent, that doesnt mean we truly harbor ill feelings about whomever we are venting about, it just means we need to get it out or we will actually internally combust. 

Be patient.

Take care of yourself. Dealing with us can be draining, we know that, we dont begrudge you self care. 

Help us reduce the stress if you can. Is their house a mess? Sit with them while they clean (only help if they ask, its degrading to have someone have to clean up after your failures). Are their kids overwhelming them? Offer to come over or babysit. Is their morning routine overwhelming them? Help them simplify it. Help them pick out planners or journals, adult coloring books, meditation aps, etc. Sometimes just a night out with you...or a movie night in, can help them relieve stress. We want to be normal, help us do normal things like normal people because while we often can do this on our own, sometimes we get stuck and cant...and we wont tell you, so uhhhh good luck figuring that out...sorry. 

Don't tell us "thats normal" when we try to explain something to you. We are well aware that the world doesnt revolve around us and we arent the only ones with problems, but trivializing our very real feelings is just fucking insulting, because maybe you can handle shit better than we can and its not that bad to you...congratufuckinglations! You can tell us how you relate to our emotions, but don't downplay what we are saying to you, the fact that we are telling you anything to begin with is something, but you throw away that relationship when you demean us like that.

Learn about our illness, and other mental illnesses. 

Okay...I think thats all, if you have any questions, I am an open book so ask away. 

1 comment:

  1. I commend you Brittany for your strength and courage to write this. I know you had to dig deep within yourself and find some bonafide strength to put yourself out there and lay it on the table and bare your soul as you have. To do that in hopes to educate others and shed light to a very serious thing that is commonly brushed under the rug or overlooked is absolutely phenomenal! I feel anyone who reads this will have their eyes opened and will be emotionally moved and have a better understanding of this disorder and many other mental illnesses. I feel your message will be heard and as a person who suffers from Bipolar disorder type 2 I thank you from the bottom of my heart for writing this because I now have something I can show to others to help them as well. Your writing is so raw and insightful and easy to understand and is absolutely captivating. You truly have a gift and thank you for sharing it with the world!