Withdraw

At 6 o’clock this morning, I submitted my official withdrawal from university.

I knew it was the right thing to do, but I still cried. And I cried again when I got the e-mail at 8 AM that my withdrawal was accepted.

It has been over a month and I still haven’t received an answer, and I just can’t wait around for a committee of people who don’t even know me to judge me based on a diagnosis and a few sentences out of my blog.

You know what? I’m hurt. I’m angry. I feel betrayed. I feel judged.

This wasn’t done out of concern for me. With the exception of one person (who I know did not write any anonymous reports), no one approached me about any concerns. Shit, no one even asked me if I was okay. A person who is genuinely concerned about someone will ASK that person, or at least make some attempt to talk to her. Genuinely concerned people don’t create fake e-mail addresses and send anonymous reports to the school, with links to my blog posts. That is not genuine concern. That, in simplest terms, is being an asshole.

You write extensively about your diagnosis of Dissociative Identity Disorder. Your blog documents serious struggles with mental health issues that have raised significant concerns…

Yes. I have DID. And? I don’t have it written on my forehead. You wouldn’t know I had it from looking at me. I have chosen to be open about it because of the shame and stigma attached to the diagnosis, shame and stigma that I have been trying to fight against. And yes, I  struggle with mental health issues. Any person who has been through similar experiences has them, too. But I manage them as best I can. I work just to pay for therapy.

In the blog you write that you are “consistently suicidal”, and that you are “in school for something that I’m not even sure I can handle.”

Gosh, a person with DID who struggles with suicidal thoughts. Considering that more than 70% of people with DID have attempted suicide, this should not be a huge surprise. As I have explained in this post, there is a difference between feeling suicidal and being suicidal. No matter how I was feeling, I continued to go to work, I went to class, and I did what needed to be done because I knew they were just feelings.

And what student hasn’t had doubts? My whole life, I’ve excelled academically. I’ve never really failed at anything. But I would be lying if I said I never doubted my abilities. I am sure some level of self-doubt is completely normal. I would be more concerned about someone who had absolutely no self-doubt.

Due to the severity of this situation and the perceived threat to yourself and others, I am making a referral…to evaluate whether or not your circumstances impair your ability to safely continue in the program…

Perceived threat to yourself and others.  Wow. Okay. I am not a threat to myself. If I wanted to kill myself, I would have either stayed in home prison or I would have jumped in front of a train by now. I wouldn’t have gotten a job, enrolled in graduate school, started an organization, and I wouldn’t be going to therapy a few times a week to make myself better.

A threat to others? In what way? Because I have DID? A diagnosis does not make me a violent lunatic. What have I ever done to show that I have ever been a threat to others? I don’t hurt other people. I didn’t even hurt my abusers. I avoided all conflict and confrontation and ran away. I let them get away with everything, when other people would have hurt them for what they did. If I didn’t hurt the very people who caused me so much pain, who the hell would I hurt? Who am I a threat to? No one. The answer is no one.

So, despite getting As, having a 4.0 GPA, scoring higher than average on the CPCE before I even started the program, giving an outstanding presentation on the psychological effects of continued child abuse, and handing in consistently professional, high-quality work, I have had to drop out of graduate school.

I’d like to think this wasn’t because of fear, viciousness, or misunderstanding, but my heart tells me that it was.

To whoever reported me, I hope you are never put in a situation where your life is scrutinized.

I haven’t done anything wrong. I will continue to write. I will continue to fight. I should not have to prove my worth any more than I already do.

Eight Weeks

It’s been eight weeks now.  I’m still free.  I’m still alive.

I have bad days.  I have okay days.  I never really have good days, but that’s okay; there’s still time for those.

Physically, I could be better.  I’ve lost over 30 pounds.  I know it’s from a combination of not eating enough and being sick.  It’s not that I can’t afford to lose it, because I can, but that’s a lot to lose in a short period of time.  I’m trying to make a conscious effort to eat, but it’s difficult.  My roommate does her best to try to get me to eat.  She’s even tried to memorize the foods I eat and the foods I absolutely will not touch.  The other night, my roommate’s boyfriend asked if I wanted a garlic knot.  I reluctantly obliged.  He was so genuinely happy that I wanted to eat something that he shouted out in celebration.  Small steps.  I also made a promise to my therapist that I would at least start taking vitamins.  She actually found a vitamin for me that was chewable and non-fruit-flavored, so I have no excuses not to take it.

My foot is feeling a little better.  I’ve been upgraded to a space boot that goes up to my calf.  I’m supposed to wear the boot for at least two more weeks until I go back to the orthopedist again.  I’m also supposed to use crutches, but I was a little rebellious today and decided at the last second to go without.  I did fine.  I walked a lot slower than I would have if I used the crutches, but that’s okay.  But I didn’t fall.  I’m still standing.  The orthopedist mentioned I had quite a few old fractures show on x-ray.  All I could think was yea, I’m sure there are old fractures all over my body.  It’s probably why I have so many issues with bone pain now, and why I have random bone spurs throughout my body.  I guess my body wants to remind me of that pain again.

I had a bit of a meltdown last night.  I had this weekend off of work (which never happens, and will likely never happen again for a long time), so I was planning to go back and visit my very good friends back home (Is it really home?  I don’t know what to call it.).  I had mentioned it to my therapist in yesterday’s session and told her that I worked out all the possible scenarios in my head and it still seemed like it would be more of a positive thing for me.  I miss them more than anything.  Aside from my therapist and my roommate, I am alone here.  I told my friend and he seemed happy.  Then I text my other friend about it.  She said that was great, then she said “so are you visiting your parents?”  My heart sank and I became overwhelmed with emotions.  Why would I visit the very people I ran away from?  It’s not like my friend is not aware of the situation; she knows, though not in detail, what my mother has done to me.  Is that not enough of a reason for me to leave?  Does she not believe me?  I don’t understand it.  I shouldn’t have to justify why I want nothing to do with them.  I feel like she is on their side and not on mine.  I also felt, at that point, that by visiting her, I could be risking my own safety if she told my mother I was coming.

I had so much running through my head last night and couldn’t get myself together, so I e-mailed my therapist.  That in itself is a big step for me, because I rarely if ever reach out when I need it.  She e-mailed me back in the middle of the night.  I checked my e-mail around 3 AM and read her thorough response, and I knew that going back wasn’t the right thing to do.  Ultimately, she said if I had any doubt in my mind about my ability to trust these friends, that it is most important to protect myself and my new life here.  Unfortunately, when I hear/read comments like I did from my friend, my ability to trust that friend becomes damaged.  There is a disconnect somewhere and I don’t know how to fix it.  I can’t make someone understand something they are choosing not to accept.  My therapist told me I need to advocate for myself if this friend continues to play devil’s advocate; if that doesn’t work, the relationship may just not be worth the effort.  I have to put energy into my new life.  I don’t want to have to waste energy in unnecessarily deflecting dangers from my past when they can just as easily be avoided.  It’s sad.  It makes me cry just thinking about it (I’m crying as I type this damn sentence).  But I have to do what’s best for me for once.  It just bothers me that in the end, I’m once again going to look like the shitty person.

It just sucks because I feel alone as it is.  I can’t afford to lose more people.  While I have made a couple new friends, it takes a lot of time and effort to build strong relationships.  I turned down spending time with a friend today because I thought I was going to visit back home, and instead I ended up by myself.  Maybe I needed it.  Who knows.  I’m not really sure what I need.

I’m still having trouble coming to terms with my diagnosis.  I mean, I’m getting there…slowly…reluctantly.  My therapist told me that my prognosis is good.  She could have just been trying to make me feel better.  Who knows.  She said I’m intelligent and functioning; I guess that plays in my favor.  It’d just be so much easier if I didn’t dissociate.  Most ‘normal’ people don’t even understand dissociation.  How are they going to understand me?

Why am I so unstable?

I accomplished something today.

Then it all went downhill from there.

I was sitting in a coffee shop before my therapy appointment.  I looked up from the table and noticed a vehicle parked right outside.  The vehicle was the exact same make and model of my family’s vehicle, the same color, everything.  I immediately went into panic mode, put my head down and hid behind my bag.  I closed my eyes, as if that would protect me from anyone seeing who I really was.  I started talking to myself, trying to rationalize with my logical half that the likelihood that this was in fact my family was just too small.  But my panic wouldn’t have it.

I sat there for five minutes struggling to breathe, wanting to crawl inside myself and hide.  Continuing the conversation with myself, I eventually arrived at the logical conclusion to look at the license plate.  I peeked out from my self-made protective cocoon to make out the last half of the plate, and realized that it was not the same vehicle.  Then I started to calm myself down.  I brought myself back from an episode of panic.  It may have taken some time, but I did it.

Then I went to therapy.  I was still a little shaken up from the prior incident and I told her that, but I also told her how I managed to overcome what could have turned into a disaster.  Then I talked about my incident on the bus the other day.  Then I’m not sure where the conversation went because I don’t remember much after that.

Apparently I dissociated.  I really wish I could know when the hell it’s going to happen.  I really wish I could know what happens.  I came back to my therapist sitting next to me, holding my hands and asking if I was me.  Of course I was me, who else would I be?  Then I asked her what happened.  She asked me if I remembered anything.  I didn’t.  My memory sucks in general.  I don’t even remember what I typed at the beginning of this post.  Then she told me what happened.  How the tone in my voice changed.  How she had to hold my hands down because I kept trying to hurt myself.  How I resisted her holding me.  There was clearly an angry part of me that decided to show up today.  I wish it didn’t.  Now all I feel is embarrassment over how I acted.  Part of me doesn’t even want to go back to therapy.  Then part of me is wondering what else I have done to people and I don’t even remember doing it.

There’s no more room for doubts now.  My therapist began asking about how I viewed my parts, if I had named them, etc.  I turned my head away and tried to hold back tears.  She asked me what was going through my head, and all I could say was “I don’t want to be crazy.”  I think she may forbid me from using that “c” word from now on.  I use it a lot.  She said a lot of reassuring things, but it was difficult for me to take.  She told these parts are what helped me survive. They helped keep me alive. I don’t know. This whole diagnosis is hard for me to accept.  I need time.

Five Weeks

As I typed in the title of this post, I wondered when (and if) I would ever stop labeling the weeks of my life based off of the time I escaped my ‘old’ life.  I’m sure there may come a point in the future when I will be so occupied with my new life that I will no longer need to base it off of the old.  For now, I feel that each week that goes by is an accomplishment.  I came here expecting very little of myself.   I’m not even sure I expected to make it one week.  Now I’ve made it five weeks.  So what’s stopping me from making it six, seven, eight weeks?

I probably shouldn’t even be writing this blog post right now.  I have a thesis that is not writing itself.  Chapter 5 was due last Sunday while I was hospitalized and I have yet to hand it in.  Honestly, I haven’t even started it.  I’ve been so preoccupied with work, so exhausted with adjusting to a new schedule, and so many things on my mind that I just haven’t been able to sit down and focus.  It will get done today, I promise..right after I finish this post.

I can’t believe I have one more week of school left.  One. More. Week.  I have to give myself credit.  In five weeks, I have moved/escaped, got a new job, started therapy, gotten hospitalized, and still managed to write 60 pages of a thesis on a topic that I unfortunately live with every day.  And in one more week, I’ll have my 120 credits (121 actually) for my BA in Psychology.  I don’t know that many others would have been able to do what I’ve done.  I have fallen, but I’ve also gotten right back up.

In my previous post, I briefly mentioned the possibility of a DID diagnosis.  For me, it was hard to swallow.  That whole experience was hard to swallow.  I was dissociating so badly, it was out of control.  I could have been hospitalized again.  The other therapist brought up the possibility of putting me in IOP and my heart sank.  For me, I see that as a failure.  I am in no way saying those that go to IOP are failures, I am saying for me personally, it is a failure.  I want to be as normal as possible.  I want to be able to go to work every day.  I want to function.  I feel like IOP takes that away from me.

At the same time I understood where she was coming from.  I can’t put them in a position where I am a danger and it comes back on them.  They are only equipped to do so much.  I told them I didn’t want to do IOP.  I’ll do whatever it takes not to do IOP.  But to do that, I need to accept that I have a dissociative disorder and focus my treatment on that, instead of trying to cover up my symptoms and having it blow up in my face like it did in therapy on Thursday.

I think hearing those words hurt more because I knew deep down that I had a problem with dissociation.  I was familiar with DID from my courses in psychology and through meeting people with DID through trauma support groups.  I always felt that so many of the symptoms rang true for me.  But I didn’t want them to.  No one wants DID.  No one wants a lifetime of therapy, a lifetime of misunderstanding from others (although I sort of have that already).  There’s no cure.  DID won’t go away with a pill.  A lot of therapists won’t even acknowledge its existence and therefore won’t treat it.  It’s a complicated diagnosis.  It’s a complicated disorder.  I don’t need any more complications.  Why can’t life be simple?

Maybe I am just overwhelmed right now.  I’ve always wanted answers, and now that I have them, I am pushing them away because they are not the answers I want.  Why is it that now that I have escaped the horrible abuses my mother had been committing against me for so so long, that I am still being affected?  Why couldn’t everything just become normal once I left?  Why do I still have to suffer? She should be the one in the hospital (or better yet, in prison).  She should be the one in therapy trying to figure out why she does the fucked up shit she does.  She should be hurting.

Instead she’s living her life day in and day out like it’s nothing, like everything is okay.   Yet here I am, physically and emotionally in pain.  Here I am paying for therapy instead of groceries because my mind is going to kill me before hunger does.  And here I am struggling day in and day out trying to keep it together, not only for myself, but for those out there (my friends, my readers, my therapists) who are pulling for me.  This shit is backwards.

There is a part of me that is strong, that knows I can overcome anything and do great things.  Unfortunately, a lot of times, that part goes into hiding and I am left with my fearful, anxious self.  The self that doesn’t want to get out of bed.  The self that is so scared just to take a shower.  The self that fears mother is coming to hurt me.  I almost enjoy when I’m not myself because it gives me a break from living in fear for a while.  Or maybe it’s not even myself.  Maybe it’s another part of me entirely.  How do I even know?

Maybe I understand myself a little more than I like to acknowledge.

Giving crazy a name

I’m a very analytical person.  I like when things have names and definitions and concepts I can understand.  One of the reasons I went into psychology was so I could put a name on my mother’s type of crazy.  I wanted to know why.  I wanted to know what exactly was wrong with her.  There has to be something.  People don’t just act like that for no reason.  I needed an explanation.

I have since realized that my mother’s crazy is not diagnosable, or should I say, not limited to a single diagnosis.  My mother exhibits the signs of narcissistic, histrionic, and borderline personality disorders.  She’s also paranoid and likely has a mood disorder of some sort.  But you know what?  Knowing that doesn’t make me feel any better.  Having a mental illness doesn’t excuse you from being an abuser.  Hell, it doesn’t even excuse you from being asshole (that’s you, Dad).  In my early 20s, I struggled a lot with placing blame.  I so badly wanted to hate my mother for what she did, but then part of me thought, “what if she’s mentally ill?”  I was just trying to find an excuse for all the shit she did and was still doing.  Eventually, after several years, I realized all of that didn’t matter.  My mother did what she did because of who she is as a person, not because of some illness.  She had a choice.

Despite not caring about my mother’s diagnosis, I still so badly want to know what’s wrong with me.  Will it make a difference?  I don’t know.  I would like to think that it would.  A diagnosis provides a sense of direction, a method of treatment, an explanation of symptoms.  I have yet to have that.  It’s quite possible that my desire for a diagnosis, a name for my crazy, has been strengthened by my years of experience with different diagnoses.  I never really had a concrete answer.

My first diagnosis was bipolar II at the age of 15.  My first therapist worked with a psychiatrist who officially diagnosed me and started me on a mood stabilizer.  I didn’t really understand the diagnosis, even more so now that I am older.  My mood changes were nothing more than what is typically experienced by a teenager.  My issues were much deeper than that.  After more therapy, my diagnosis was changed to bipolar I with psychotic features.  My therapist believed there were times in which I was out of touch with reality; I did things I didn’t remember doing and acted like a different person, which she attributed to psychosis.  I now believe that those instances were actually times I had dissociated, not psychotic episodes.  Back then, I had no idea what dissociation was, and apparently neither did my therapist.

When I returned to therapy a few years later, my therapist diagnosed me with social anxiety.  I think he mistook my fear of talking with him (and others) as social anxiety when the real reason was because I was conditioned not to speak by my mother.  I don’t blame him for that bad diagnosis; you can’t diagnosis someone accurately if you don’t get the full picture.

Many years later, when I scheduled an appointment to see my primary care physician, I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety.  Generally, I don’t condone primary care physicians diagnosing psychological disorders because their training is just not adequate in most cases.  But I was desperate at the time and could not manage to see a psychiatrist or psychologist, so I did the only thing I could.  I wasn’t looking for a diagnosis; I was just looking for relief.

After my first hospitalization, I was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and depression with suicidal ideation.  The PTSD diagnosis made sense, as I had experienced some debilitating flashbacks as well as other common symptoms (irritability, trouble sleeping, and hypervigilence).  The depression diagnosis I had no strong feelings about; it just seemed like something they labelled on most people.  My diagnoses were relatively similar after  my second hospitalization (which I would hope so, seeing as though it was less than two weeks later).  The only difference was that they added “chronic” to my depression diagnosis.

When I started mandated therapy shortly after my second hospitalization, my therapist was required to make a diagnosis to report to the insurance company.  After two hours of intake and two subsequent one-hour sessions, she completely ignored the PTSD diagnosis and any related anxiety and diagnosed me with depression secondary to asthma.  This diagnosis was laughable.  I was not depressed because of my asthma.  Asthma was the least of my problems.  And it wasn’t like she was unaware of my history.  She was sent all of my information from the hospital.  She was clueless.  So clueless.  She even had the nerve to tell me she didn’t think I had anxiety at all.  Anxiety was probably the only thing I was sure I had in some form or another.  She was such an idiot.

Around the same time, my PCP diagnosed me with ADHD.  I was having trouble keeping attention, focusing on anything…hell, sitting still was difficult.  I always had problems, but they seemed to be magnified in those last few months.  It was never an issue before because I managed to function quite well academically as a child.  It could have very well been all of the medications I was on that made it worse, or even just my ever-increasing stress levels.  Who really knows.

When I was hospitalized for a third time in February, the ADHD diagnosis was dropped by the psychiatric nurse.  Instead, I was diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder, chronic depression, and borderline personality disorder.  The BPD diagnosis was shocking to me.  I had extensive knowledge about the disorder from my psychology studies, and didn’t fit most of the criteria for diagnosis.  I believe they made the diagnosis based on my self-injury. Many professionals automatically associate self-injury with BPD, even though it is also present in order disorders.  I didn’t want that label on me.  I also knew, through my studies, that many professionals did not want to work with someone with BPD.  When I told my therapist about the diagnosis, she seemed to agree with my disapproval of it.  It was comforting to at least know that someone was on my side and I wasn’t completely unaware of my own mental state.

As of right now, I don’t have a diagnosis.  I have chosen to disregard all of my previous diagnoses because I don’t feel confident in any of the people who diagnosed me.  I hope that eventually, in my current therapy work, I can be diagnosed with something…anything.  At least this time, my therapist is taking her time and learning as much as she can about me and my history.  I trust in her knowledge and experience more than anyone else.  I just want to know that I’m not completely crazy.  I need a name for what I’m experiencing.  I need an explanation.