I am a mess

These past two weeks have been difficult. So difficult that I could barely speak about the shitstorm that was inside my head, let alone write about it. I became emotionally constipated. My words, my emotions, they continued to build up — but none could find their way out. After awhile, it started to hurt.

It’s scary for me when that happens. It leaves me unable to communicate my needs. It prevents me from asking anyone for help.

And I desperately needed help. I was trying to be strong, but I could no longer hold myself up underneath everything that was piling on top of me. One thing, I could handle. But it was everything all at once. The unwanted correspondence with my mother, her finding out where I live, the holidays, my upcoming appointment with the doctor. The flashbacks, the memories. It was just too much at once, and I started to drown.

I was tired of the fear and the pain. I was tired of living. Tired enough that I ran out in front of a car in the middle of a busy highway one morning, hoping it would hit me and end my suffering. But the car didn’t hit me; it slowed down just in time. I walked back to the curb like nothing had happened. I went in to work like nothing had happened.

I could have died in that moment. The car could have not slowed down and I would have been struck and killed. But I couldn’t process that reality. Instead, I just pushed it away, as if it were some minor inconvenience like missing the bus or being late for work.

I didn’t tell anyone about it. I couldn’t understand what was going on inside my own mind, let alone try to explain that chaos to another person. But deep down, it scared me. It scared me that I got to the point of trying to die without any forethought at all. There was no warning. There were no red flags. I just got off the bus one morning and thought it would be better if I could just get hit by a car and end my life. There was no planning, no chance for intervention.

It scared me because even in my darkest moments, in the times that I want to die, there is something inside of me that wants to continue on, that wants to live. But that didn’t happen this time. There was no pull to live; only an impulse to die.

I became my own biggest enemy. Greater than the fear of my mother was the fear of myself. Because no matter how badly my mother wants to kill me, it will never be as much as I want to kill myself.

I finally broke down and told my therapist what happened. I wanted her to save me. I wanted her to say something that would flip the switch in my brain from death back to life. I was desperate, but even my desperation was full of false hope. I knew she couldn’t save me. No one could save me but me.

I told her I would be okay. I told her I could be safe. But I didn’t believe it.

I found other ways to cope. I started smoking again. I stopped eating. Because even though cigarettes and starvation won’t kill me today, I know that each puff of smoke I inhale, and each meal I skip brings me a little closer to the death I still believe I deserve. It’s a more acceptable form of self-induced pain; a discrete, prolonged suicide. And no one’s the wiser.

I’m still alive. I still go to work. I still go to therapy. I still do my schoolwork and write my articles like everything is okay. But it’s not really okay. I’m not okay. I am a mess. And it’s difficult for me to admit that. It’s difficult for me to write that down. I am a mess.

I want to be strong. I want to be able to say that shit doesn’t bother me. But I would be lying. So instead I say nothing at all. And I write nothing at all, I think in part because I don’t want my mother to see how much she affects me. I don’t want her to know that even from far away, she still causes me pain and heartache. I don’t want her to know my struggle, my fear, my pain, my misery. I don’t want her to feel like she’s won the battle, the battle that I never set out to fight in.

But in my silence, she is still winning, because silence is what she wanted all along. Silence is why I suffered as a child. Silence is why I still suffer today. I don’t want to be silent. I want to be able to say how I feel inside, through my voice and through my writing. I want to be able to ask for help when I need it. I want to be able to say that I am not okay when I am not okay. I want to be able to speak without fear.

I can’t do any of that if I’m silent. I have a lot to say. I won’t let her stop me.

My name is KJ. I am a mess. And that’s okay.

Failure to communicate

I struggle to get my words out of my mouth. People assume it’s easy for me. I’m decently intelligent, I can write well. But I can’t always speak. It’s hard for me to communicate.

I didn’t have the best resources growing up. My parents didn’t communicate anything to anybody, even within their own extended family. Little socialization gave me little opportunity to learn from others. I didn’t have very many options, and I ended up being socially stunted. Then there was the regular threats not to speak to outsiders, which after a while just made me fearful of speaking to anyone.

My brother was nonverbal for a few years. He had extra help in school to catch up. He eventually did catch up, but it really set him back quite a bit (and I think that, in many ways, it allowed him to be manipulated to the severe degree that he was). Even so, everyone sort of just accepted that he wasn’t the best or the brightest. He had that rough start. Whatever he tried, he would get coddled and encouraged.

But me, no, it was different for me. I was the smart kid. No excuses. Whenever I couldn’t get words out, I was called dumb and stupid. You think you’re so smart, but you can’t even speak. I’d freeze in school, not because I didn’t know the answer; the answer was in my head the whole time. But I couldn’t get the answer from my head and out through my mouth. It would get muddled up in something — I don’t know what exactly — and wouldn’t come out right.

People didn’t understand. They just made it worse because their words hurt so much and only made it harder to speak. I’d say things only to have people confused about what I was saying. Then I’d get frustrated and give up. I felt like I was speaking a language no one else spoke. I felt alone. I’d tell myself that my mother was right; no one understands me.

It’s no different now that I’m an adult. I can hold conversations sometimes, but other times, I am quiet and don’t respond. I’m not being rude, but unfortunately that’s how most people take it. I want to respond, I so badly want to respond. But I can’t get the words out and I don’t want people to think that I’m dumb. And seeming rude doesn’t hurt nearly as much as being dumb.

It’s a problem. Because no one wants to deal with my verbal vomit.

It’s a problem. Because I have so much to say and don’t know how to say it.

It’s a problem. Because I can’t ask for help when I need it, so I suffer in silence.

My therapist and I have been working on communication for some time now. There are many times I don’t speak in session because I don’t know how to say what’s inside of my head. My therapist knows that I’m thinking (apparently it shows on my face), and gently pushes me to speak about it. I tell her no, I can’t, it doesn’t make sense. She always assures me that it doesn’t always have to make sense.

Eventually I muster up the courage to talk out loud, but even still, I apologize profusely at the end of every sentence. My therapist sits and listens, and encourages me to keep going. But it’s dumb, I tell her. I’m not good at talking. She reminds me not to judge myself. She reminds me that there’s no such thing as being good at talking.

I’ve reached a minimal level of comfort with my therapist, a level at which I don’t always feel so afraid to speak out loud. She never judges me. She never calls me dumb. Sometimes it takes a while for us to translate what I’m saying, but other times she understands what I mean right away.

But how can I take that out in the real world? How can I get people to understand how hard it is for me to communicate my thoughts, to communicate my needs?

I need patience and understanding. Society doesn’t have time for that.

I choose crutches

I’ve been struggling in therapy the last few weeks. Topics come up that I don’t want to talk about, things that I know will make me dissociate. I don’t want to go there, so I shut down. Then my therapist gets frustrated, and brings up intensive outpatient, because that is what is in the contract I agreed to in July in order to avoid hospitalization. Then I get frustrated because it seems like she just wants to send me off to IOP.  It makes me feel like she just wants to give up on me. It makes me feel like I’m not good at therapy.

It happened again during Thursday’s session. Her mentioning IOP just made me shut down more. I was hurt. I was angry. But I couldn’t voice any of that.

I ended up writing my therapist an e-mail early Sunday morning.

Sometimes I get frustrated whenever you bring up IOP. I know that’s what we agreed on, but I didn’t know that any time anything goes wrong, IOP was going to be brought up. It just further solidifies my belief that I’m not good at therapy. And I know you said not to judge myself, but that is how it translates for me. That I’m not doing this right. That this is just another of many failed attempts at therapy. And then the others think the same, and then it becomes a battle just to go to therapy. It doesn’t help me. It just makes me shut down more.

I know I can be frustrating. I know you have to repeat things a bunch of times because they don’t get through to me. There are times I really don’t understand what’s going on. There are times I don’t feel like my brain is working. There are times when I am sitting there, but I am not there. I’m sorry for that. I am trying, but I’m not perfect.

Sometimes I don’t want to talk about certain things because someone is telling me not to, or because I know I won’t be able to stay present, or because I am afraid to feel. It’s not that I don’t want to. It’s that I can’t.

I’ve made progress. Maybe you don’t think it’s enough, and maybe it’s not enough on paper, but I think it is. Because I live it. I could be so much worse than I am right now. I struggle, but we figure out how to work through it. I don’t know what else I’m supposed to do.

I’m sorry if this didn’t make sense. I just had a lot on my mind that I’d never be able to say out loud.

She didn’t reply back. I actually told her not to. We were having a session the next day, anyway, and I just wanted to get it out there because I knew I wouldn’t be able to say it out loud.
When I walked in her office this morning, she told me was that she got my e-mail. I immediately apologized. I regretted sending it, because I was afraid it was mean, and that she was going to be mad at me. She assured me that she wasn’t angry, that it wasn’t mean, and that I didn’t need to apologize.
My therapist asked why I couldn’t say the things I wrote in the e-mail to her in person. I told her it wasn’t because of her. I am just so afraid of people sometimes, so scared to communicate. I still feel that talking is wrong. I still feel unable to speak the thoughts in my head. Sometimes I can, and sometimes I can’t. I can’t explain it.
She told me IOP isn’t a punishment. She’s not sending me off to Shady Pines. She doesn’t want to pass me off, she wants to help me. She thinks the program will help with some of the basic things I still struggle with, like eating, daily triggers, and handling my emotions. I know how hard it is for you to get through each day. I know how hard it is for you just to get up in the morning. I see it in you every time you’re here.
Then she started with one of her metaphors.
“Let’s say you broke your leg. Luckily, your insurance covers everything and you have to choose between a wheelchair and crutches. Which do you choose?”
“I choose crutches.”
“But why? Choosing the wheelchair will help you recover faster and easier. With crutches, you’ll still be struggling, and you’ll risk falling and making your leg worse.”
I understood her analogy, but I still insisted on the crutches. I can’t do as much in a wheelchair. Sure, I may recover faster, but at what cost? I won’t be able to do my job in a wheelchair. I won’t be able to get around everywhere I could if I were walking. Half of my ability will be gone.
But with crutches, I can still walk. I can still get around. Sure, I will struggle to keep myself upright. And yes, knowing me, I’ll probably fall over quite a few times. But I’ll still be functioning. I can still hobble around and do what I need to do. Even if it takes me longer to heal, I’d pick the crutches.
In a deeper way, crutches are a less obvious sign that something is wrong. When someone sees someone in a wheelchair, they know it’s serious. No one uses a wheelchair for minor things. When someone sees someone using crutches, they assume well, at least they’re still walking. They’ll be fine. Maybe it’s just a sprain. Maybe you just need a crutch for a little stability. Nothing too serious.
Let me stumble through life on my crutches.
I don’t want to admit that I’m too broken to need a wheelchair.