When Reality Hits

For as long as I’ve spent in therapy (thousands of hours at this point), I can count on my fingers the number of difficult sessions I’ve had.

It’s not that my sessions don’t involve difficult topics. While most of my early therapy experiences focused on tackling surface issues unrelated to trauma, the last nearly three years have been all about my trauma. Even then, I found myself able to detach from emotions a lot of the time.

Just a week before this latest session, I told my therapist about an incident from my teenage years. I was triggered a few days prior when the dog had split her nail and bled on the carpet. It almost instantaneously led to a flashback from when I was stabbed in the abdomen and left the same marks. When it happened, I was lost in all the same emotions. I felt like it was happening all over again. But when I told my therapist about it, I was void of emotion. I didn’t cry. I didn’t feel anything.

I thought I could do the same thing in our next session. Don’t cry. Don’t feel. Just get it all over with. Instead I cried, and I felt more than I ever wanted to feel. I was unprepared for that.

My therapist was concerned. And I knew it wasn’t just her concern. It was the treatment team’s concern. And as much I tried to deny it, it was my concern, too. My symptoms were getting worse. Not only in the last week, but in the last few months. I had been getting increasingly lethargic. No matter how well I sleep, I’m exhausted. Some days, I can barely climb the stairs without feeling like my heart is going to explode. My legs and feet swell, the right side worse than the left. Some days, it feels like I’m dragging 100-pound weights on each leg. Just moving around puts my heart into overdrive. Several times I found myself leaving group because of chest pains.

It was other things, too. Signs of heart failure. I knew it all too well. I watched my father go through it. I didn’t want to watch myself go through it.

I couldn’t avoid it any longer. If you don’t make an appointment with your cardiologist by tomorrow morning, you cannot return to program. An ultimatum with no option for negotiation. A crisis I could no longer avoid.

This session was different. My therapist wasn’t softening reality at all. She wasn’t letting me get away with avoiding the pertinent shit in my life. Not this time.

You know what, yes, you likely do have heart failure. Not going to the doctor isn’t going to change that. She was right. But there’s a difference to me, in suspecting something to be true and then actually having it confirmed. The latter is unchangeable. At least with not knowing for sure, there is just enough room for a small possibility of change, a small chance of it not being true.

Yes, you’re going to be sick for the rest of your life. And I will never understand how that feels, how you feel. It’s frustrating. It makes me angry, for many reasons. I’ll never know what it’s like to feel normal, to not be sick, for just one day. But my mother knows that. She’s not suffering. She’s living longer than I will likely live, more healthy than I have ever been and will ever be. Where is the fairness in that? I lost the genetic lottery big time.

But it can be treated. Yes. Just like my emphysema is treated. Treated, but not cured. Another diagnosis to be added to the list. Another health issue I didn’t need in my 30s. Another illness I don’t deserve.

Is it just about not wanting the diagnosis, or is it more than that? Is it another indirect way to be suicidal? It’s like she knows me. The same reasons why I still smoke with emphysema. It kills me faster, and no one really sees it as a slow suicide; they just see it as being stupid. The longer my heart goes untreated, the sooner I’ll die. Why prolong a life that’s destined to be minimal?

I didn’t tell her that, of course. I told her it was just about the diagnosis. I thought that would put a stop to the difficult conversation, but she just shifted to something even more difficult: the purpose of my life.

You may very well never be able to work again. You may not be able to get through all the schooling you want to. She was direct, in a way she had never been before. We’ve always thrown around the idea that I could eventually start working again, that my heart condition would get better and I could be normal again. But that didn’t seem like a realistic option anymore, at least not in the sense that I wanted to be normal. As far as school goes, I missed the deadline for my doctorate application because I was inpatient when the application was due. So any plans I had for getting my doctorate next year went out the window. And maybe that was meant to be, since I can barely get through the last few courses I have for my masters. Not for lack of knowledge, but for lack of energy.

But maybe you were meant for something different. Maybe you can’t be a therapist, or go into research. But maybe you can help others in a different way. She read the letter I wrote to the hospital. Another example of my never-ending drive to correct wrongs. I told her about the director’s response, how they were going to look into how they can change. See, think about the people you’ve helped just by doing this. You may likely cause this hospital system to change their ways.

I knew she was right, but it still didn’t seem like enough. I needed more. Maybe you can start an organization. I told her I already did. I told her what my dream was for PAFPAC, what I wanted to do when I first started it. But then my health (mental and physical) took a turn and I haven’t had the energy to make it what I wanted it to be. You’re still helping people.

But not as many as I wanted. I admitted to her that my life goal was an impossible one, and that’s where I’ve gone wrong. I wanted to stop mothers from abusing their children; I wanted to prevent people from hurting. And I know, logically, that will never happen.

You can still affect change. You’ve already started. Your actions help people. Your writing helps people. You give a voice to those who can’t speak. You’re going to have really bad days. That’s inevitable. But some days, some days are going to be okay. And it’s those days that you can really be you.

The dreams I had when I first ran away are now gone. My hopes of being a professional, of living a long life, of helping the world, are just not possible. The universe has given me this life of constant struggles. It has taken away too much from me. I’m just not sure if what I am left with is enough for me.

My Words Were Heard

For a long time, I’ve been wanting to address something with the hospital I was admitted to several times in the year before I ran away.

I was admitted to the voluntary psychiatric unit three times, and each time, the hospital provided my mother with information and direct access to me. I felt extremely frustrated about it, but didn’t have the strength or the energy to fight back at that time.

I know it’s too late for me, but I’ve continually thought about how this needs to change, how victims of abuse and domestic violence need extra protection, how they need to feel safe in a place where they should be able to feel safe.

I finally sat down last night and wrote what was on my mind for awhile now. I sent it in an email to the hospital.

I didn’t expect an answer back. I was sitting on the couch an hour ago, and heard my phone ring. It was a number from my old town. My immediate reaction was one of fear; I wanted to deny the call, fearing it was someone from my family. I wasn’t even thinking about the letter I had just sent.

Hesitantly, I answered the phone. It was the director of patient services. He wanted to let me know that he received my letter and was taking it seriously. He is launching an investigation into my particular experience and forwarding the matter to the board. He will be contacting me again, and wanted me to know that I was heard.

I couldn’t believe it. I can only hope something comes from this. Even if nothing happens, I know that I was able to speak, and for a brief moment, I was heard.

To Whom It May Concern,

My name is Crystalie. I was a patient at * many times throughout my life. I am writing today to share my experience with several of my last hospitalizations there, in hopes that changes will be made to protect future patients.

In November 2014, December 2014, and February 2015, I was a patient in your voluntary psychiatric unit at *. The first stay, I was sent by my doctor after I revealed abuse that was going on that contributed to my suicidal thoughts. My doctor thought it best to send me to the hospital to keep me safe — not only from myself, but from my abuser. Despite multiple attempts by my abuser, the doctor refused to give out any of my information about where I was. Somehow, my abuser contacted * and had it confirmed not only that I was admitted to the hospital, but what unit and floor I was on. This allowed my abuser to contact me countless times via phone throughout my stay. My abuser also requested information via the MHAs and was provided updates about my care. I never gave approval for this person to receive any information about me. This person was not listed as an emergency contact. This person had no right to any of my information, yet she was given all of the information she needed to keep me under her watch.

I was discharged a few weeks later, back to the home of my abuser, who believed that I informed people of what she had done. I had indeed informed the treatment team, including my social worker, about the abuse that happened, but because I was an adult, not much could be done. I found myself in an unsafe situation at home, so I checked myself into the hospital just a couple weeks later to keep myself safe from her. I wasn’t suicidal as much as I needed somewhere to hide and be safe. As I waited in the emergency room for a bed to be open, I saw my abuser walking down the ER hall, right towards me. The front desk had confirmed I was there, and told her what room I could be found in. Once again, I had not revealed any of this information to her. She found me, most likely by chance, because * was the hospital most local to me at that time. She was not listed as my emergency contact. I did not okay anyone to visit me or to contact me. At this point, the hospital had it on record from my prior stay that this person was abusive. Yet she was allowed to have access to me once again. I was too afraid to tell the aide to ask my abuser to leave, for fear of what my abuser would then do to me. There was no safe way to go about it. I suffered once again, and received retributive punishment after I was discharged back into my abuser’s home.

There are multiple points where the system failed me. The system allowed a known abuser to contact me, to physically find me in a place that should have protected me, should have been a safe spot for me. My health information is supposed to be private; that information should include my general status as a patient, and should not be disclosed to anyone without my approval. It’s a violation of HIPAA. I realize it’s difficult to monitor who comes in to visit. But there needs to be some procedures in place to keep victims safe. I am not the only one. And while it’s too late to change what happened to me, it’s not too late for other victims of abuse and domestic violence. Victims of abuse rarely confront their abusers in public because of the fear. I know that was why I was unable to tell hospital staff once my abuser was there. What if there was a safe way to go about this?

My abuser was my mother. I think that’s what made it so easy for the hospital to share my information. Most people don’t expect family members to be abusive. But the truth is, they are. Mothers, fathers, grandparents, siblings, aunts, uncles, husbands, wives, partners — no one is immune. I know for me, it was difficult to tell people that I was in hiding from my mother; I had faced a lot of disbelief when I did. I know, in speaking to other victims of similar abuse, that there was a similar hesitance. But that fear and difficulty doesn’t mean we don’t deserve privacy and protection. I need to know that the hospital has changed how it shares information. I need to know that there’s a way victims of violence can protect themselves from their abusers while in medical settings. I couldn’t fight the wrongs that were done to me back then; I wasn’t safe enough to do so. I realize it’s late for me now, but I need to take a stand for others. What can we do to keep this from happening again?

Please contact me. I have provided my phone number and e-mail address.

Thank you for your time.

Rock Bottom, Part 2

Being hospitalized brings up such mixed emotions. In a way, it’s a relief; you get a break from life for a while. But then you realize that when you get out, life is going to be the same, if not worse. Missed school, missed exams, late bill payments. Whatever anxiety was reduced quickly comes back tenfold.

As I rode in the back of the ambulance for an hour and a half, my mind kept coming back to two things. The first, why the fuck do these people care about me? I didn’t get it. Why did my friend care enough to take time out of her day to bring me what I needed? Why did she care enough to comfort me when was scared to go? Why did the therapist care enough to wipe my tears away? Why did my therapist care enough to not give up on me? Why did my psychiatrist care enough to save me? Why won’t they just let me be? Why is it so wrong to die? What good am I to these people, to the world?

The second thing stemmed from a conversation I had with the nurse while I was waiting for transport a couple of hours prior. In our conversation, I told her about my writing work with HealthyPlace, my articles on DID. I’m normally very hesitant to share my professional work with anyone on the outside ever since it was used against me. But I trusted her, so I told her about my diagnosis and my writing.

She read through a few of my articles.  Then she stopped and asked if she could ask me a question. I told her it was okay. Then she asked me “why don’t you take your own advice?”

It took me a minute to process. I understood her point. I’ve spent the last two plus years writing about DID, sharing ways to improve communication, work with your system, ask for help. I gave people with DID hope that life could be doable. Yet I had done very little of what I had written. I was giving others hope when I myself was hopeless, telling others to do things I gave up on doing. Why? Because I was different. Because I didn’t think I was worth it. I wasn’t being realistic with myself or with anyone else, and that bothered me.

I held on to both of those thoughts throughout my entire hospital stay. People care. I matter. It probably helped me get through the hospital stay more than anything else did.

I realized early on that the hospital wasn’t the place for me. The first night when the psychiatrist did my intake, she not only made me feel guilty for leaving my brother, but she also didn’t know what DID was. Instead of explaining it, I told her to forget about it. I didn’t have to energy to fight her on anything, or to educate her on things she should have already known. I told her about my heart condition, and my need for sodium-laden fluids. She told me they didn’t do special diets there, and I’d have to deal. At that point, I was done.

The only positive of hospitalization, aside from the friends I made, was being weaned off of my heart medication. The psychiatrist I spoke to the following day agreed that the  medication can have severe side effects in rare instances, and can cause increased suicideality and worsening depression. While I had that before the medication, I certainly didn’t need anything making it more apparent. I appreciated that this psychiatrist listened to me instead of brushing me off as knowing nothing.

I did feel a little bit better once I weaned off of the medication. I was still suicidal, and still very much depressed, but I knew that staying inpatient wasn’t going to help that in any way. I had already been there a week, and it was hell. I wasn’t allowed to leave the floor because I was considered a fall risk. I couldn’t go to outside groups or go to the cafeteria for meals. It was isolating. I called my friend every night. That helped me get through. I knew she couldn’t visit because I was sent somewhere considerably far away; it hurt, but I understood it. I cried the first two nights I was there, but after that, it got easier. I learned of her son’s plan to come in an armored truck and help me break out; I halfway wished that plan was possible.

I was placed as a dual diagnosis patient — which I had to explain several times that I was there for PTSD, not for substance abuse (which, unfortunately, I just discovered they have added DD to my medical record). Most patients there were dual diagnosis — a telling sign of the opioid crisis and its aftereffects. Psychiatric facilities here now have more patients with drug or alcohol abuse than they do general psych. It definitely changes the experience, and the needs of DD patients become priority, at the expense of other patients.

They wanted me to stay longer. I knew I wouldn’t be able to do it. I was starting to get stir crazy. One of the patients had become indirectly threatening towards me. It started to feel more unsafe as the days went on. I did everything I was supposed to, so they discharged me, with an appointment the next day for intake at the program I was in before I was hospitalized.

It wasn’t as easy to come back to life as I thought it would be. I felt like a failure. I had to restart program. A program I had been in since August. I saw so many people come and go, and I was still there. And now to be there again, starting all over. Why can’t I just get over everything already? Why can’t I just be cured?

I wish I could say I climbed out of rock bottom, but I’m not sure I have.

Rock Bottom, Part 1

I had managed for months to (very narrowly) avoid hospitalization. Despite the increasing suicideality, the treatment team trusted me enough to not put any of my plans into action. And I hadn’t, for those couple of months. I was honest with them, because as much as part of me wanted to die, there was another part of me that wanted even more to live.

But I wasn’t getting better. I was still an emotional clusterfuck from the abortion. My heart issues were adding to my hopelessness, and my heart medications were adding to my impulsiveness. I had no energy. I was coasting through the days on autopilot because that’s all I had it in me to do. I had no money to pay my bills. I had been living off cash advances from credit cards that were now maxed out. I reached out and asked for help — a last-ditch effort — and was turned down. It wasn’t being turned down that hurt me, but the reasons why, the denial. I should have expected it; I got the same response when I asked for help to get away from my mother. But I was desperate.

I had given up. What use was I to the world? Broke, unstable, unable to work, to contribute to the world. I was a burden. Living in my former boss’s house, eating her food, drinking her water. She had no obligation to me, yet there I was, being a burden, taking away from her family.

I was a burden to my therapist. Four months into an 8-week program and I was still in crisis. As much as she tried, she couldn’t help me. She couldn’t get through. And I couldn’t receive.

I sat in my desk that night, scribbling down on paper what I needed to say. I couldn’t quite get it all out. Everything I wrote down didn’t seem like enough. It needed to be enough. Because it was going to be the last thing I ever said.

I went into program the next day like nothing had happened. But I was withdrawn. My therapist knew something wasn’t right. I shut her down and told her everything was okay, but she still felt something was off. I couldn’t tell her she was right.

I couldn’t keep it inside very long. The next day, after some prodding, I disclosed what I had done. I knew I wasn’t going to promise my way out of it. My hopelessness had gone too far. It was too dangerous now. I was too much of a risk. I had to contract for safety that night, but I knew when I went back the next day, that there wasn’t going to be a contract.

An hour and a half into the day, and I saw my therapist come to the door. I knew it was for me. I knew what was coming.

I sat in the office, my therapist sitting at my side, my psychiatrist sitting across at his desk. I looked down and twiddled my thumbs, trying to avoid eye contact, trying not to see the look of concern on both of their faces. As soon as my psychiatrist uttered the word inpatient, I started to cry. I hated the hospital, just as much as I hated my life.

Maybe we need to consider ECT. Great. Electric shocks to your brain. That’s where my life has ended up. We had tried all the medications. We sat through all the therapy. And we ended up at ECT. A last resort.

My mind was all over the place. I had managed to stop crying long enough to look up and see that my psychiatrist had been crying as well. A man normally seemingly void of emotion. I’ve never cried for a patient before. I knew his feelings were real. I knew his concern was genuine. He wasn’t looking to punish me. He was trying to save me.

As my therapist was making calls and arranging for my medical transport, I waited with the nurse. I begged just to smoke one cigarette. I needed to calm down. I had to promise her I wouldn’t run away; and I didn’t. I had finally stopped crying. I felt okay, or at least as okay as I could be in the moment. I talked with the nurse. I told her about my DID diagnosis, and about some of my trauma history. She asked questions, and I answered honestly. I saw her facial expression change; I saw her sadness. My immediate urge was to apologize to her, yet here she was apologizing to me. You didn’t get to have a childhood. An unfortunate truth. A reality that may not have been had someone just helped me.

I sent a text to my friend to ask her if she could bring me clothes. She packed a bag with everything I needed. My favorite hoodie. My favorite pajamas. The softest t-shirts she could find. I cried when I told her what was going on. I was ashamed. I didn’t want her to be mad at me. I didn’t want to lose my home or my family. I didn’t want her to have to worry about me. I didn’t want anyone to worry.

A few hours later, the ambulance came to transport me. I hugged the therapist goodbye. Through tears, I told her I was sorry. She wiped my tears away, and assured me I had nothing to be sorry for. I hugged her again. She handed me a piece of my favorite chocolate for the road. I hugged my therapist. I saw the emotion in her face — I couldn’t tell if it was sadness or concern — but I was sorry for it. One last hug to the nurse and I was on my way, strapped to a transport bed, just like a sick person.

I Am Not My Brother’s Keeper

I sat in the chair right  next to the doctor’s desk. Head down, fidgeting with my nails as I waited for the doctor to start her evaluation.

She pulled up my file on her computer. She talked out loud, as if I wasn’t sitting right next to her desk, able to hear her.

Patient’s mother is a sociopath.

That was the first time I heard it out loud. I always knew it, and I knew other people knew it, too. But to hear it spoken like that shook me in a kind of way I can’t explain.

My mother, a sociopath. The leading sentence in my file, the history of me. It was in my record now. There was something about the permanence of that statement that was relieving to me. Someone finally got it. Someone finally saw my mother for who she was. Someone finally acknowledged how she has affected me.

The doctor continued to read out loud, reading each sentence and feeling the need to confirm everything it said before moving on. I didn’t really understand why I had to talk about things that were already included in my record. You were physically and sexually abused by your mother? She would burn you? Why did she do that? Were you sexually abused by your father?

Why does it matter? This information is already available. Just stop. Don’t ask me to go there. Don’t make me relive it all again. How am I supposed to know why my mother was the way she was? How am I supposed to know why she hurt me? It was like she was looking for some kind of reason, for something I must have done to cause it all.

But that wasn’t what pushed me over the edge.

The mother is currently in a relationship with her son.

I didn’t realize that was in my history. A bit shocking, but I dealt with it. Until the doctor started asking questions.

Are you in contact with your brother?

No. I haven’t spoken to him or my family since I ran away.

Why aren’t you speaking to him?

Because he lives with my mother. You know, the woman I ran away from.

I still don’t understand why you haven’t contacted him.

Because I’m not sacrificing my safety for him.

Her persistence in questioning aggravated me. She was making me feel bad for not reaching out to my brother, as if she thought I had some obligation to save him from my mother, to protect him from her. What a horrible person I must be to know that she’s still hurting him and to do nothing to help him.

My choices in life are mine. I chose to run away. By myself.  I live with that decision every day. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t think about helping him before I ran. I wanted to save them all. My father, my brother, and I. But I couldn’t do it. I knew if either of them found out what I was planning, they would tell her and I would be punished in the worst way.

My brother lived in denial for too long. He was too complacent with the life she made him live. I’m not sure he saw her for who she really was. I’m not sure he fully understood what she had been doing was wrong.

He had his brief moments of clarity. I remember sitting next to him one day, myself an outwardly angry teenager, himself an inwardly angry 20-something. He saw the cuts on my arms. He turned to me, lifted his sleeve, and said to me I’m hurting, too.

In that brief moment, there was a connection between us. A mutual understanding of the pain we both endured. Yet neither of us were able to put words to it. It was never spoken about again. He went on like nothing was wrong. I went on believing that both of us were hopeless. That was the one and only time I felt connected to him.

After I ran away, I heard bits and pieces of what happened to my family after I left. I know my brother struggled. He barely left the house. People tried to get through to him. At times, he wanted to leave her, but he felt trapped, both physically and financially.

I knew that feeling. The feeling of being trapped. It’s what I felt up until the day I finally ran away. I wanted him to know the feeling of freedom. I wanted him to experience life without our mother. But I couldn’t help him. I could barely help myself.

It took me a long time to forgive myself for not saving him, yet those guilty feelings still come back every October, around the time of his birthday. I think about what he must be going through. I worry about him giving up on his life. I wonder what his life would be like if I had just saved both of us instead of just me.

But I am not my brother’s keeper. It wasn’t and still isn’t my responsibility to save him. He’s an adult. He has choices. While it’s not his choice to get hurt, it is his choice to stay. I can’t make him see reality. I can’t pull him by the leg and drag him away. I can’t protect him from my mother.

I hope my brother finds peace one day. But I cannot be his savior.

865

I still remember the day. November 21, 2016. The day I celebrated 500 days of freedom. The day I planned to celebrate my successes. The day I went to the beach to release the stones I had lost into the ocean. The day I carried with me the stones of all I had gained. Stones I still have to this day, laid out right by my desk, reminding me of my new truths.

It was also the day I let go of the stones it was time to give away. Guilt. Shame. Fault. Blame. They were no longer weighing me down. I was free from them. I was free from my trauma. I was free from my mother.

I remember how I felt that day. Like I accomplished something. Like I had started a new life. Like I had finally realized what it felt like to be free. I felt a sense of happiness amidst the grief. I finally knew what it was like to feel safe, I knew what it was like not to worry. It took 500 days for me to get there, but I got there none the less.

But those feelings were soon ripped away from me, because November 21, 2016 wasn’t just my 500th day of freedom. It was also the day my mother found me.

Just days after I celebrated my new-found freedom and safety, I received her first letter in the mail. A business envelope with no return address. A catalog sheet of gravestones, ready for my choosing. They were the stones my mother believed I deserved. The ultimate punishment for going against her.

I ran away. I escaped prison. And I told my story. Because I knew upon my leaving, that people were still in danger. Telling was the only way to help them. And it did help. Some people were able to see through her manipulation and get out before it was too late. But others are still being hurt by her. And in many ways, I am still being hurt by her.

She took away my freedom. She took away my sense of safety. With each piece of mail she sent, she took it all away from me. That accomplishment I felt, that glimpse of happiness I got to experience, it all faded away.

My life was no longer one of freedom, no longer one of safety. Even in distance, my mother was no longer so far away. She made her presence known. She took away all of the things I worked so hard for since running away, with just a few pages of words, with just a sheet of gravestones.

Why? Why couldn’t she let me experience that freedom just a little bit longer? Why couldn’t she just let me feel safe? Why did she have to take that all away from me?

I haven’t been the same since then. As much as I’ve moved around, I am still afraid of being found. As much as I try to be invisible, I can still be traced. As much as I try to live my life, I am still in fear of her. Is she watching me from afar? Is she behind me? Is she waiting outside my door? Are her words sitting in my mailbox? Is she sitting there, reading my thoughts? Is she planning to hurt me? Will she be picking my gravestone?

I haven’t felt safe since then. I’m not sure I ever will. Because I know as long as she is here on earth, I am in danger. It’s something I cannot change. I chose to be on my own while leaving her to hurt others. I chose to run away instead of putting her in jail. I chose to hide instead of bringing her to justice. I chose this life, and I set myself up for these consequences.

I should have known better, but I was drawn away by the illusion of a free life. A life I now know cannot exist.

I just want to feel safe.

Heartsick

I sat in the cardiologist’s office Tuesday afternoon, hoping for answers. I needed something better. I needed to hear him tell me that it was all wrong.

A couple of months ago, I stopped taking my heart medication. I didn’t tell anyone, because I knew they wouldn’t agree with my decision. But I had reached my limit. Not only had I gained over 30 pounds in less than a month, but I had become severely depressed, to the point of suicide. Admittedly, I am depressed without the medication — but this was profoundly different. After a week of stopping the medication, I lost half of the weight and felt considerably better.

I told the nurse at my program that I had stopped. I thought my evidence would be enough that she would agree with my decision. Except it wasn’t that easy. Because both she and I knew that without taking the medication, my cardiac symptoms would be worse — and they were.

I didn’t want to start the medication again. I called my cardiologist. I left a message with the doctor. Two weeks went by with no response. I called again. I told the assistant that my side effects were severe, and that I needed another option. My cardiologist got back to me later that day. You need that medication. There are no other options.

No other options. What kind of choice is that? Take the pill and find your fat(ter) self running into traffic, or don’t take the pill and feel dizzy all the time, but alive. I’m sure that is a lose/lose situation.

There was no room for discussion. I called back offering names of medications I had researched, but received no responses. I couldn’t even get an appointment until two months later. After three cancellations, I was fed up. And so were my supports.

I needed more answers. I skipped my last group therapy session to call as many cardiologists as I could, until I could find one that would take me on — and have an appointment available that was still in 2017.  I must have called at least a dozen numbers before I found one that was taking new patients. I made an appointment for a few weeks later.

It’s been so hard to treat my PTSD because most of the medications affect the heart. But my psychiatrist has been willing to work cautiously with medications. He wants to be able to work with my cardiologist so I can be treated the most effectively for both issues. And my cardiologist has been consistently unavailable, making it really difficult to move forward with anything.

As much as I wanted answers, I didn’t want to go to that appointment. I wanted to cancel. I wanted to pretend everything was okay, and that I didn’t need any heart doctor. But it wasn’t just me that was waiting on this appointment. It was my therapist, my psychiatrist, the nurse, and my supports. Because they wanted answers, too.

And they were concerned. My last few x-rays showed cardiomegaly. I had avoided dealing with it, but when the nurse at my program found out, she said I needed to tell the doctor. I knew what cardiomegaly was. I knew it all too well. My father had it. It led to his congestive heart failure, which led to his death. I knew it wasn’t something I should brush off. I knew I also had other symptoms that fit under CHF. They knew I had those symptoms, too, which is why they told me I needed to tell the new cardiologist as soon as I saw him.

But I was so afraid. Afraid of having something else to deal with. Afraid of another diagnosis. Afraid that this somehow meant that I was just like my father, that I had his heart. And if I had his heart, I must be like him in every way. And that’s not who I wanted to be. That’s not how I wanted to live or die.

I never had the records sent to the cardiologist. I didn’t want to deal with it. I really wanted to start fresh. I thought maybe I would I tell him. Maybe. We’ll see how it goes. Let me just deal with the medication issue first.

I didn’t tell him. I couldn’t. I found the words to tell him about my POTS and about the medication. I told him what my doctor said about my inability to work. And it took everything in me not to break down and cry on the floor when he told me the words I never wanted to hear. Your doctor is right. There really are no other options. It isn’t safe for you to work.

Once I heard those words, I knew I was done. I couldn’t handle anything more than I had already been handed. He explained why there was no other medication. He said he could tell me all of these other treatments that people came up with, but none of them work, none of them do what this medication does. I could drink all of the fluids and salt everything I eat and it still wouldn’t be enough. Yes, it will cause me to gain weight. And I think, over time, I could probably learn to deal with that. But I can’t learn to deal with wanting to die every day. That’s not a side effect I can tolerate for the rest of my life.

I wish there was an easy answer. I wish I didn’t have to take this medication. I wish I could go back to the way things were before all of this happened. But that’s not reality.