Three Years of Freedom

My three year freedom anniversary was three days ago. I wish I could say that I celebrated it in some way, but I didn’t.

And that is not the normal for me. Ever since I ran away, I have celebrated every milestone — one year, 500 days, two years, 1,000 days. I’ve always done something symbolic, something meaningful to celebrate the day. The celebrations helped remind me of where I was, and where I came from. I know some people thought it was a bit much, but you never really understand just how important these days are unless you’ve escaped from hell. And I know many of you, unfortunately, can understand that.

But as my three year anniversary rolled around, I didn’t feel like there was anything to celebrate. Over the last few months, my life has fallen apart. I found myself homeless. And even though I found a bed in a shelter, that stay ended up damaging me even more. I wandered the streets. I slept on friends’ couches. And out of desperation, with no options left, I found myself on a bus traveling west to stay with someone I never actually met other than through online conversation.

How did I end up here? Why did I end up here? I still don’t understand what happened. I still don’t understand how, despite everything, I am ineligible for any type of assistance. If I was an alcoholic, or a drug addict, I could get help right away. In the midst of my desperation, I actually considered breaking my sobriety because I knew it was the only way I could get help. But why should I have to? It makes no sense.

I’m angry. And not just because I am homeless. Not just because my only option was to leave the state where I had everything, including my medical care, in place. I’m angry because I’m sick.

It’s not like being sick is anything new to me. I’ve been sick for awhile. But I think, in that time, there was a part of me that didn’t think it was a really big deal. Until I started getting really sick. Until that hospital stay back in May when everything took a turn for the serious. Pulmonologists, infectious disease specialists, doctors in and out of my hospital room telling me that I was very sick. This wasn’t just a cold. This wasn’t something that was going to go away. I must have answered a hundred questions as the doctors tried to figure out just how I ended up this way. It doesn’t make any sense, they’d say. Little did they know, nothing in my life has ever made much sense.

As much as I hate to admit it, I was (and still am) scared. A part of me wanted to run away from my medical problems. If I just left my doctors, left the hospital, that somehow my issues would just disappear. Until five days into my stay in another state, when I passed out at lunch and found myself at the hospital once again.

The hospital did chest x-rays just to be sure everything was okay and there was no pneumonia (as I had a massive thrush infection — completely unrelated to me passing out). The doctor walked into my room and I could see the confusion and concern on his face. There’s no pneumonia, so that’s the good news, but — before he could finish his sentence, I told him it was okay, that I knew I was sick. I realized I’m going to have to have this conversation every time I end up in the hospital. A consistent reminder that I’m sick, no matter how hard I try to pretend like I’m okay.

How is this fair? How is any of it fair? I fought so hard to get out alive and this is where I end up after three years. My mother is free. She is healthy. She doesn’t struggle.

And I am nowhere, sick and struggling.

All of the things I learned along the way have left me with nothing. The people that said they would support me have turned their backs on me. The system that says it helps those in need has left me stranded.

So what’s left to celebrate?

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 need to go

It was just supposed to be a regular doctor’s appointment.

I wanted to see if my doctor would change some of my inhalers, since my recent hospital visits indicate that something isn’t working right.

I was still sick on Monday, but I didn’t think anything of it. I took the train ride down and walked a mile to my doctor’s office. No problem. I made it just fine. I was still standing.

After a few minutes of waiting in the waiting room, the nurse called me back to the room. She took my vitals, and asked if I was okay. Of course I’m okay. I’m just here to change my meds.

The nurse practitioner came in, listened to my lungs, then left the room. Well, then.

A minute later, the nurse came back with an oxygen tank. Then the nurse practitioner came in. You need to go to the hospital.

I sat there, completely shocked. I just came for a followup. This was not in my planning. I had work in a few hours. I needed to get out of here so I could catch the train back home. I don’t have time for the hospital. I don’t have time for this.

But I didn’t have a choice. There was no air exchange in my lower lungs. I wasn’t getting enough oxygen. I ended up being taken by ambulance to the emergency room, in a hospital I had never been to, 40 minutes away from my home.

I couldn’t focus on anything but the time. If I could just get this over with, I can still make it to work. I didn’t understand what the big deal was. I haven’t passed out. These people are just overreacting. I am fine. I can walk. I can talk. I am fine.

But I wasn’t fine. The breathing treatments hadn’t helped. The IV steroids weren’t helping enough. My oxygen was still too low, and they had to admit me. It was then that the panic started to set in. Once they wheeled me to my room upstairs, I started to lose it. The emergency room I could handle, but not this. I started crying.

I could feel myself starting to slip away. I tried to tell the nurse what was going on. I told her I had PTSD, that something bad happened to me in a hospital and that this was extremely difficult for me and that I would rather leave. I kept saying I need to go.

What did my honesty get me? A psych hold. As if I didn’t have enough going on, their response was to put me on a safety 1 on 1. I wasn’t suicidal. I was in a panic state.

I was humiliated. They forced me to take off all of my clothes, including my underwear. I explained to them that I was a survivor of sexual abuse and that I needed my clothing to help me feel protected. They gave exactly zero fucks. I asked if I could speak to someone about this to explain the situation, and they told me no. I asked again to speak to someone higher up, and was told there was no one to speak to. Once they put you on a psych hold, you have no rights. I asked for water for over an hour and couldn’t even get that.

I should have been at work that night. I shouldn’t have been laying in a hospital bed without my clothes and possessions being treated like I had committed a crime. I couldn’t even pee by myself. The aide had to stand there and watch me pee and wipe, just like my mother used to watch me before she decided she needed to “help”.

I cried off and on that night. I wasn’t even concerned about my lungs anymore. I wanted my protection back. I wanted my dignity. It was stolen away from me. Again. My therapist was trying to help calm me down, but I was so out of it I couldn’t process everything she was saying. I eventually got so tired of crying that I fell asleep.

I called my program therapist early the next morning to tell her what was going on and ask for support. I was concerned about the psych hold more than anything. I didn’t want to end up inpatient, and I wanted her to be able to advocate for me if needed. My experience with the nurses had been so horrible, that I had low expectations for the psychiatrist. I expected to have to fight. But I didn’t have to. I saw the psychiatrist later that morning and after two minutes, he had taken off the psych hold. I told him I  had explained to the nurses that I had previous trauma in a hospital and I had PTSD, and he said my reaction was completely understandable given the circumstances.

It was great that the psychiatrist realized that, but I had been put through 17 hours of unnecessary bullshit, re-traumatization, and cruelty. For nothing. I was punished for being a victim.

By then, I didn’t even care how my lungs were at all. I could have been dying, I didn’t care. I was not staying in that hospital any longer. The pulmonary doctor came to see me. She saw something on the x-rays and told me I needed a CT scan. Nope, sorry. I have things to do. My patience was already too far gone. Am I dying right this second? No? Then I need to go.

I told the pulmonary doctor I would come back for the tests. But I don’t need to go back.

I don’t need any more diagnoses. I don’t need any more problems. I don’t need any more humiliation. I can’t take any more.

Rage

In more ways than one, I am approaching rock bottom. Physically, psychologically, emotionally, financially. I am a disaster.

I left the hospital, but the truth is that I should still be there. And they all told me that. Every doctor I had to see. I don’t even know how many, because they all looked the same to me. Covered by masks and gowns, all I could decipher were voices, all saying the same thing. You are very sick.

I was not prepared. I thought I was just having trouble breathing. I shrugged it off until the coughing got worse, enough that I started coughing up blood on my way home from work. I took a detour to the ER, expecting a breathing treatment and a discharge. Instead I ended up with an admission to isolation with the avian flu, suspected pneumonia, and a COPD exacerbation.

I fought to get out. I left them with little choice; if they didn’t discharge me, I was leaving AMA, and they knew if I left without medication, I could get sicker and die. I still endured their lectures, their voices of concern. You’re very sick, they said. And all I could say to them was I’ve been through a lot worse.

I don’t know how much more my body can take. It’s been through hell, and I just keep making it worse. You would think I’d be doing my best to stay healthy, but I’m just pushing myself closer and closer to pain and death. I walked around aimlessly yesterday, in the cold, smoking cigarette after cigarette, cycling through fits of crying and fits of rage.

I had such an intense urge to die. I ran through the street as cars were turning in, but none of them hit me. Why can’t I just get that one distracted driver to do me in? I tried to cut my wrists, but I couldn’t get my hands to stop shaking. Why can’t I just be strong enough to do it myself?

I think about getting high almost every day. I miss it. I miss not having to think about shit for awhile. I miss the feeling, the feeling that nothing else matters because you can stop giving a fuck about everything for awhile. Poverty is probably the only thing that has been saving me from that right now. I can’t even afford to live, let alone afford coke. But that’s my fault, too. I let people walk all over me, I let them take advantage of me because I’m just so afraid to say no, so worried about hurting people’s feelings at the expense of hurting myself and my own. I paid their bills when I should have just been paying my own. So now they are sitting with their new phones and tablets, and I’m selling mine just so I can afford one more week of therapy and another bag of rice. But it’s my fault. I can’t be mad at anyone else, so I hold it inside, just like I’ve held everything else for so long.

I’ve been thinking about calling my mother. To say what, I don’t know. Maybe to say I’m sorry for being such a horrible daughter. Maybe to hear her voice, to sense her familiar anger. Maybe to ask her why, why she had to do the things she did, the things that have led me where I am today.

Or maybe to let out my rage on her because the rage I’ve been unleashing on myself hasn’t been working. It just keeps building and building and I don’t know what else to do. But I know if I go on like this much longer, the rage will destroy me before anything else does.

Why I Want(ed) to be a Counselor

I have been in and out of the mental health system for the last 15 years.

Let me be totally honest; the system sucks. I could go on and on about just how badly it sucks, but I just don’t have the energy for that right now.

I’ve had quite a number of therapists. Most of them have been horrible. Some of them, I seriously question how they were (and likely still are) allowed to practice counseling.

My first therapist enjoyed talking about herself more than about me.

My second therapist avoided any topic that was mildly serious. You self-injured? Oh. How is school going? 

My fourth or so therapist: Your mother loves you. You’re just overreacting.

The social worker assigned to me after my first hospitalization: I think you have an attachment disorder. You can never leave your family. You should try drinking wine (knowing I had a history of alcohol abuse). Your mother loves you. She’s just overprotective because she cares. I get it, I have problems with my mom, too. All children have problems with their parents. It’s okay to be suicidal.

I could go on about this woman. I had been telling her for weeks that I felt something wasn’t right, maybe it was my medication or what, I don’t know. But I told her that I was suicidal and concerned about ending up in the hospital again (or worse). That’s when she told me it was okay to be suicidal, and basically ignored my concerns. For the record, I ended up hospitalizing myself shortly after that, and my medications were changed.

Unfortunately, they sent me right back to this woman. I used to refer to her as SSW (shitty social worker). It had gotten so bad by that point, that I sought out a therapist just to help me cope with SSW (I didn’t want to risk missing my appointments with SSW and being re-hospitalized). I dealt with her for a few more months.

During what would turn out to be our last session, I told SSW of my plans to run away and leave my family behind. She immediately shot me down, telling me I could never leave my family. You can’t abandon your family. They are your family. What? How could you tell me this, knowing my history? I was so angry, so filled with rage. I knew I couldn’t go back to her. It was not healthy. She should not be a counselor in any capacity. She is dangerous.

That was my final push. I told myself I needed to become a counselor because people in need should not be subjected to people like her. Victims should not be invalidated by therapists. Clients should not be put in danger. Clients should not be ignored. I wanted to be everything my previous counselors were not. I wanted to change the profession. I wanted counselors to know that mothers abuse their children, and that they need to acknowledge that it happens instead of telling the person they are just misunderstanding their reality.

I wanted to be a counselor to make a difference in others’ lives. I wanted to go on that journey with them. I wanted to witness their growth and transformation. But I also wanted to initiate change and make a difference with a larger impact. I wanted to change the way counselors were being educated. Why aren’t they being educated about female-perpetrated abuse? Why are they not being educated or trained in dissociative disorders? Why is the system continually dropping the ball when we are perfectly capable of being better?

That is why I wanted to be a counselor.

But things change.

Why Feeling Suicidal Isn’t Being Suicidal

I want to share an article I came across a short time ago:

When You’re in the Gray Area of Being Suicidal

The author (Taylor Jones) does an excellent job of putting into words what so many of us experience on a regular basis: feeling suicidal but not wanting to die.

You can’t fault someone for having suicidal feelings. But there is a key difference between feeling suicidal and being suicidal. When you are suicidal and want to die, you make a plan, and may even go so far as to put that plan into action.

When you are feeling suicidal, it remains a feeling. You don’t act on it. You may even forget that it’s there for a while before it creeps up again. You go about living your life because you really don’t want to die, but you can’t help what you’re feeling.

If I wanted to die, I would be dead. I would not be sitting at my computer right now, typing up this blog post. I could have overdosed on something. I could have jumped in front of a train or a bus. But I have not. Because I don’t want to die.

If I wanted to die, I would have just stayed in home prison. My mother would have killed me soon enough. Instead, I knew that there was life outside of those walls, a life that was probably worth living.

If I wanted to die, I wouldn’t be dragging my ass to work every day to earn a paycheck. I wouldn’t even be getting out of bed. What would be the point?

If I wanted to die, I wouldn’t be spending the majority of the money I earn paying for my therapy sessions each week. In fact, I wouldn’t even bother going to therapy. There would be no point. Instead, I have continued to go to therapy every few days for the last 10 months.

And if I was in danger, I know how to get help. I admitted myself to the hospital all of those times, and even though I probably didn’t need to be in the hospital, I knew in my heart it was better for me to be there (especially while I was still living with my abusers).

So yes, I often feel suicidal, but no, I’m not suicidal. It’s not the same thing.