Compassion / Pay It Forward

TW: mention of suicidal ideation

Ron had two really bad days in a row, and didn’t sleep in between. Ze told me ze was suicidal. On the first day I took time from my visit with Banji to have an extended phone conversation with Ron, anything to keep zir connected. On the second day I drove for five hours, successfully chaired a 90-minute meeting, reconnected with Fox after 5 days apart, then welcomed Ron into our home at 10:30pm. We decided to hang out in the back yard.

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No, seriously, become ethereal.

TW: suicidal thoughts

In Skyrim you learn Dragon Shouts that let you do awesome things like breathe fire, cross a distance in the blink of an eye, and even force a flying dragon to the ground. The Become Ethereal shout temporarily suspends you between the physical and spiritual worlds. You cannot harm anyone, and more importantly, you cannot be harmed.

Combine that with invisibility, and you basically have the only way I feel I can safely exist right now.

One of my classes is about group therapy, intended to train students to be good group therapists. We’re reading The Theory and Practice of Group Therapy by Irvin Yalom. Before today I would have said that the more I read it, the more I want(ed) to participate in group therapy as a client. I think I need to have that experience for my own healing and before I can responsibly become a therapist.

The feeling was coming up as I read before class today, so I decided to call and see about joining the psych counseling group I mentioned in my previous post. The receptionist asked if I’d ever worked with campus psych services before. I said I’d tried but been unsuccessful. Then she said she didn’t know if the group was still open and transferred me to the person in charge of it. No answer, so I left a voicemail. No response (yet).

I tried joining a group by this organization once before. The person I’d spoken with had said she didn’t think short-term therapy would be good for me given my psych issues. Even though she offered to refer me elsewhere, I felt rejected. My experience today brought up the expectation that this is likely to happen again; they probably don’t want to deal with anyone who has severe – or even moderate – mental health issues.

The clinic Fox and I have been going to doesn’t offer groups that would be appropriate and won’t give me a referral. Even Wakana hasn’t been helpful in this department. I doubt I could find an appropriate group covered by my insurance, and Mom already seems to resent paying for my individual music therapy. I feel like there is no place for me.

I kept reading and what I read confirmed my fears. The very issues driving me to pursue group therapy would probably make me incompatible with the group they’ve created (to address a separate issue that’s just as important to me as any of the members they’ve deemed worthy of it). If I’m not a good fit, then I won’t benefit and may be harmful to the group.

And even if I were granted the privilege of joining a group, the early stages might be toxic for me. They consist of people measuring each other up and jockeying for position in the group. Initial attempts at unity and mutual support degrade as members become very critical of each other. I fear that in such an environment I would at best be ignored and at worst become a scapegoat… or just be outright rejected!

I wondered if this might be happening in class and felt unsafe with it. I thought that if it’s already bringing up all these issues, maybe I should drop the class. But if I do that, it will definitely take me much, much longer than the allowed time to graduate. I already need to request an additional year – that still might not give me enough time.

Then I read Yalom’s thoughts about tardiness and absenteeism and started to feel guilty about all the (non-therapeutic) groups I’ve left. I’d be running late for some reason, then embarrassed about being late so I wouldn’t go, and finally feeling weird about missing meetings so I’d drop out. I’ve done this more times than I can count. Any group leader would be wise to exclude me. The more I read about how harmful this behavior is, the worse I felt.

All the while the clock was ticking. I couldn’t even finish the chapter before it was time to go to class. I took too long in the bathroom. I felt anxious about my inevitable tardiness, but resolved to go to class because there’s a very strict attendance policy.

I arrived almost half an hour late. I looked through the window in the closed door to the classroom, but didn’t see a seat I could slip into easily. I hid in the bathroom to sort out my thoughts. Maybe I could join my small group when the class split up for the hands-on component? But my fellow group members are very nice and likely to ask friendly questions that are my worst nightmare – and even if they didn’t I’d have to explain myself at some point. (Maybe in front of the whole class! – they’d definitely be wondering…)

If I made up an excuse for being late I’d probably end up caught in a lie. When I’m feeling so vulnerable that I want to hide under a rock is not the time (I want) to come out as mentally ill (by admitting that the reading triggered me). I’d feel so much safer doing it so I could share things I’ve learned about therapy by experiencing it as a client. (How very academic of me!)

I looked at the time and realized that even though I was quite late, there was still the majority of the scheduled class time. I could still get quite a bit out of it. I tried to muster up the courage and looked in the room again… but still didn’t see any easily-accessible open seats. Anxiety got the best of me and I left, feeling defeated. I’m not sure how I got home in one piece. I crept back into my apartment and hid.

My own thoughts are my worst enemy. They have been battering me this entire fucking time: I’m worthless. I’ll never be able to support myself financially. I’m a burden and I’ll always be a burden. I should kill myself…

But the worst and most painful thought was this:
(I should contact [name] about this!)
No. Everyone who could help is probably busy, unavailable, or has more important things to do. They would be upset. You shouldn’t bother them.

I’m alone. I feel like my voice is gone. I thought about going to the ER but I don’t think they could help me. I think I’d be mistreated and that would make it worse. I feel like there’s nothing I can do… except maybe play Skyrim. It’s better than cutting myself…

Right?

Burn, Baby, Burn(s depression checklist)

I’ve been tracking my symptoms on the Burns Depression Checklist for another month; so far so good. (view July-August & August-September) Scores have remained in the teens on half the days, a phenomenon that was previously unheard of. My average score for the month was a 22, which is 10 points lower than last month!

A graph showing Ziya's scores on the Burns Depression Checklist from September 16, 2014 to October 16, 2014.

Ziya’s scores on the Burns Depression Checklist from September 16 to October 16, 2014.

There are several factors I believe have contributed to my improved mood. Reading The Drama of the Gifted Child inspired some profound healing in the last full week of September. The most conventionally “sane” way to word it is probably that the emotional and presenting-myself-to-the-world aspects of my psyche became more integrated, so I can acknowledge, express, and act upon my emotions more easily. This helps me to feel more alive; all the energy that went into suppressing my emotions is now available for, well, whatever I want to do. It’s wonderful and amazing and just… Wow!

I started taking the Lamictal my APN prescribed on Monday, September 29th. This is represented visually on the graph above by a vertical purple line. I’ve been taking the Lamictal consistently at about the same time every day for over two weeks. I hesitate to say it’s working just yet, but so far I’m feeling very positive about it. In addition to the Lamictal, I started taking Omega 3 and Vitamin D supplements on October 8th.

Additionally, Fox was offered a job that he’s really excited about, and not just because he finally has income! His energy levels have skyrocketed since he started working; that’s been a huge inspiration for me. I get the time to myself that I’d been craving, and when he’s home I’m thrilled to spend quality time with him. We actually have things to talk about because we’ve been having different experiences all day! There are adjustments, as always, but overall it’s been a real boon to our relationship. I wasn’t kidding when I said the sexiest thing he could do was get a job…

Finally, the dates that have a blue horizontal line under them in the graph above are days I spent with Banji. This past weekend was particularly wonderful; we got away from the stress of our respective lives and got to spend a few days talking, making art, playing music together, and enjoying the fall foliage. I went about 24 hours without using a computer or smart phone and it was amazing! I had all this time; I didn’t know what to do with myself! So I colored in my sketchpad, took a walk outside, tried to sneak around like my Skyrim character, and interacted with living breathing 3-dimensional people using spoken words, vocal inflections, and facial expressions. And laughed, oh, the laughter! I even cooked and cleaned up afterward!

By the time I got home I was a bit tired of socializing and just wanted some time to myself. I tried to play The Sims 3 – not the best or healthiest choice, I know – and ran into all sorts of crazy glitches. I got very frustrated because people kept interrupting me, especially my mother. I try so hard and I think she does too but I still find our conversations to be emotionally draining – especially when she’s hounding me about the things I still need to do for the wedding. That just makes me want to shut down and block everything out even more!

Considering the abrupt change from vacationing with Banji to feeling emotionally drained at home without her and not coping all that well, I’m optimistic to see my scores gradually climbing from 13 on Monday to 30 yesterday. It’s less disruptive than the wild oscillations I’ve experienced in the past; I expect that I can bring the score back down (representing a reduction in depressive symptoms) by practicing some of the things I enjoyed so much while on vacation: less time in front of the computer, more time engaged in creative pursuits. Another way to reduce my symptoms is to actually do the things Mom’s been hounding me about, because then she won’t feel so anxious anymore, so she’ll have less emotional garbage to heap on me. This solution has the added benefit of completing the steps necessary to successfully prepare for my wedding. Win-win!

In addition to the overall lower scores, I had a truly amazing thing happen last week. For the first time since I’ve been tracking, and otherwise for I have no idea how long, I had 8 consecutive days without suicidal thoughts or urges. It was wonderful! (My “relapse” yesterday was triggered by a very specific situation that has been dealt with and is easily avoidable; if I choose to write about it in this blog I’ll do so in another post.)

A graph showing Ziya's (standardized) scores on the subcategories of the Burns Depression Checklist from September 16 to October 16, 2014.

Ziya’s (standardized) scores on the subcategories of the Burns Depression Checklist from September 16 to October 16, 2014. There are multiple instances when the purple line drops to 0 and disappears, indicating multiple consecutive days with no suicidal urges!

Considering the presence of other, shorter periods of time with no suicidal thoughts or urges earlier in the month, I’m optimistic that this has the potential to become my new norm. And that, oh wow! It’s not just about wanting to live. It’s wanting and being able to live while also being true to oneself. It’s having multiple options; seeing the full complexity of a difficult situation instead of just the discouraging parts. It’s knowing where my toolbox is, seeing the tools when I open it, having the confidence to use them, and making creative use of duct tape.

Great, Ziya can express zir emotions spontaneously again … well, most of the time. Unfortunately, Ziya’s mom still can’t tolerate that. You know, one of the people – to an infant, practically gods – whose behavior required Ziya to create and hide all zir emotions behind the Censor in the first place… Yeah. Now Mom is no longer a god, but rather a person with a lot of her own psychological issues on whom I’m financially and sometimes somewhat emotionally dependent, who sometimes tries to help and understand me/my depression and sometimes …

We spent 2 days with her. 2 days. Not even the whole day. Late lunch on Wednesday, an appointment with the florist yesterday, that’s it. Explosions. She can’t deal with my emotions. While were at lunch Fox received a phone call, during which he was offered the job he’d just applied for! We were all thrilled; Mom offered her congratulations. Oh no! Ziya dared to smile, use inflection in zir voice, and hug zir spouse!!! In public!!! This could not be tolerated. “Okay, you two, quit it. C’mon!” *sigh*

Talking to the florist went well, just a ton of information. Later in the evening, we wanted to use Mom’s credit card to acquire an item for the ceremony – she’s supplying about half our budget, so instead of putting it on my card and having to pay interest and get reimbursed, we thought it would be a lot simpler to put it on her card.

Well, Ziya was still recovering from interacting with Mom and Fox earlier in the day, and getting very frustrated with logging in and out of sites, forgetting passwords, having to enter and re-enter card information, etc. Ze kind of had a bit of a nervous breakdown, not quite crying with tears but sobbing and … you get the idea.

Again, Mom couldn’t handle it. She actually yelled at me to “Stop it!”

Not good. Suicidal thoughts triggered by concern over our financial situation and difficulty communicating with Fox about it. I hate having to make joint decisions because I feel like I can’t act on what’s worrying me; I feel helpless and trapped and hopeless and if I can’t do anything about this horrible situation I’d rather just die so I don’t have to feel the pain! Later I was reading and enjoying a webcomic and Fox reminded me about my paper and it reminded me so much of my mother pushing me to do my homework (at the expense of my emotional well-being) that I broke down completely. Internalized voice of Mom: “Stop being so melodramatic!”

I’d almost rather have the Censor back. Almost.

I don’t think she’s really gone. I think that aspect of myself has been integrated. I still have some control, though maybe not as much as I would like especially given my current circumstances. I can still do things like edit my writing and empathize with people and look beyond my own wants and needs when considering how to respond to a situation and be polite. I’m just more likely to feel and express my emotions … even when it means getting into arguments with Fox and getting yelled at by my mother.

I’m an adult. She has no right to yell at me like I’m a disobedient child. Parents shouldn’t yell at their disobedient children, anyway. All it does is teach them to be mean to people, especially themselves. She was very mean to me.

We have a marriage counseling session we should leave for now and I still have a blanket over my head. Literally. I need family therapy with my mom and/or my mom to go for therapy. I don’t want to work on my relationship with Fox right now, even though it could certainly use some work. I just want to rest, alone, without anyone to see me.

In my mother’s words, I’ve “trashed” the place again. The clutter has returned. It’s not enough.