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.

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Pardon the mess

I am at a functioning level right now.

When I say functioning, I mean I am able to get out of bed and go about my life in the most minimal ways.

I’m back in graduate school. It’s been a little hectic. With a professor missing in action for two weeks (due to a death in the family), it’s now a rush to get three weeks of work done in the next week. I was a little overwhelmed at first, having never used SPSS analytical software at all before, but I am getting the hang of it.

I’ve also been co-authoring a book on DID. The rough draft will be finished in just a couple of weeks, so it’s crunch time to make sure everything I want to say is included. Some of the chapters are intense. While writing about my abuse and struggles is tolerable in small doses, writing with deadlines on specific topics that I can’t avoid has sucked some of the energy right out of me. I’m well passed the halfway point now, so I’m not giving up.

I am going through some physical health issues. I should be used to it by now, but I am not. It’s anxiety-provoking. I have been fortunate enough to find a primary doctor that understands my PTSD and anxieties. Even though it takes me hours in travel just to get back and forth to her, no other doctor was willing to work with me, so I endure the trouble. I’ve got a lot of specialist appointments in my near future, and that scares me. We are taking it one step at a time, but even that one step seems like a leap across two mountains.

My mental health is shit. I’ve been managing to stay out of the hospital, but it’s been difficult. The only thing keeping me in check is all of the other shit I have going on that I won’t be able to complete if I’m in the hospital. That’s probably not the best motivator, but it’s working for the moment.

I have a lot to write about, a lot that’s on my mind. I just wish I had the energy right now to do it.

Fall down, get up. Drop out, get in.

I still remember the day I got the call that I was accepted into grad school. It was such a happy day. I had such high hopes for my future. I was so excited to finally interact with people who were understanding and shared the same interests as me.

And then six months later, I dropped out of grad school because someone (or multiple someones) reported my DID and my blog and all of a sudden, my abilities came into question.

I didn’t just lose my place in grad school that day, I lost my dream. My wish of becoming  a counselor was ripped away from me, trampled on, shit on, and set on fire. All because I struggle with a mental illness.

From talking with others, I knew that going into the counseling field would be difficult for me. I could not be open about my DID, but that is impossible, considering my name is forever tied to DID through my professional writing. I didn’t feel like I should have to hide who I am, and unfortunately, many in the mental health field are not accepting of people with mental health issues themselves.

So instead of putting myself out there to be hurt again, I took a different route. I applied to different programs, still connected to psychology, but not focused on the counseling aspect. Quantitative psychology, neuropsychology, and experimental psychology – all programs that got my interest, and all programs that so many in the counseling field would never, ever consider because they find the science of psychology too difficult.

I have been stressing out for the last couple of months, worrying that I would not get into a program, and if I did, that I would not be able to start until next year. I found an experimental psychology program I really liked, contacted the head of the department and asked if he would still consider me for the fall semester (the deadline was already up months before). I scurried to get everything I needed in, rushed to take the GRE as soon as I could, wrote a different essay for each program I applied to, and waited the last few weeks with a tremendous amount of anxiety.

I got my acceptance letter just a few days ago, my first choice school and program. I’m starting in the Fall semester. I will even be working with my first choice mentor, conducting research in the area of affective neuroscience and environmental impact on emotional development. Basically, I will be focusing on the biological and environmental bases of emotion, and what causes emotions to “go wrong”.

Hopefully, no one will feel the need to use my diagnosis against me this time around.

 

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.

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.

CPCE

I got the results of my CPCE Monday night.

For those that don’t know, the CPCE is the Counselor Preparation Comprehensive Examination. It is a vital part of graduating your masters program and earning your counseling credentials. At my school, they have you take it in your first semester just as a measurement of progress when you take it again before graduation.

So when I took it back in February, it really wasn’t going to count for anything. Students fail it, and that’s expected and okay, because students are just entering the program and know absolute zero shit about counseling. The average score of entering graduate students is somewhere in the 50s.

The minimum score required to pass the exam and graduate is a 70. It’s 160 multiple choice questions divided into eight categories, all focused on foundations of counseling that you would learn throughout your masters program. It’s a lot of knowledge packed into one exam. Like an SAT of counseling. Students legit stress over passing this exam. And there are some that don’t pass.

Even though it didn’t really matter what my score was, I e-mailed the professor and asked if I could find out anyway. Just for shits and giggles. I met with her Monday before my class. Unfortunately for me, I had been mentally dealing with the stress from earlier in the day, so I couldn’t quite take in all of the positive greatness of what I was about to find out in in that moment.


I passed the CPCE. Not only did I pass, but I scored higher than the national average. I scored higher than students who had already been through the graduate program. I was not even one month into the program when I took this exam. Not even one month. I didn’t even try. I didn’t study. I didn’t prepare. This doesn’t happen.

My professor seemed so happy, and I broke down and cried. Partly because of the anxiety I was still experiencing from earlier in the day, and partly because I have continually doubted my ability to ever be a counselor, and this went against that directly. Here was proof, on paper, that I had the brains to be a counselor. So why is it still so hard for me to accept?

I think, no, I know, that other people have more faith and belief in my abilities to be a counselor than I do. And that in itself is a problem, and I recognize that. I also know that there are ways in which my life could be significantly easier than it is right now, and that is putting a damper on my outlook on life.

I have a gift to give. I have a story to tell. I have a heart to share. I have people to help. I have souls to reach. I have a world to change. And instead, I’m sitting here, waiting for my life to end, letting all of these good things waste away to nothing, because I’m too weak to take a stand for myself.