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.

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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.

Asserting myself, Part 1

I have an issue being assertive.

Standing up for myself was never a possibility before. I had to bow down to my mother for 29 years. I had to stand there and take whatever she threw at me. I couldn’t fight back. I couldn’t be assertive, because my mother never viewed me as a person.

I’ve had to learn how to stand up for myself. You would think, at 30 years old, I would have figured it out on my own. But no. I am learning now what I should have been taught as a child: assertiveness.

It feels so wrong. It feels so dangerous. If I had stood up for myself while I was living at home, I would have ended up in pain. Even though I’m not at home anymore, it’s been difficult to get over that gut reaction. But I’ve been working on it.

There was a situation on Wednesday. I was eating my dinner. The cat used the litter box, which didn’t bother me because I couldn’t really smell it (certain smells don’t affect me much, and the smell of shit is one of them). My roommate started spraying air freshener, which then made my food taste like chemical and flowers. I kept eating, because I promised my therapist I would eat dinner every day and I knew I needed it. Someone had commented that the smell was better than smelling poop, and I said not really. It was the truth.

Apparently that warranted name-calling, because she then called me a name. I asked her to please stop. She persisted and called me something else. I felt the noise in my head increasing, so I got up, threw away my food, and went upstairs without saying anything.

This wasn’t the first time it happened. I knew it was going to happen again. I knew that me just saying STOP wasn’t enough. I went outside and grounded myself. I told myself I was not at home anymore, that she was not my mother, that I can stand up for myself and be okay.

So I took a deep breath and came back inside. I was doing to do it. I was going to be assertive.

And I did it. I told her when I say stop, it means stop. I told her when I’m telling her to stop, it’s for a reason. I told her she needs to respect my boundaries. I told her this wasn’t the first time, that it’s not fair and I can’t tolerate it anymore.

She didn’t absorb anything I was saying. She immediately defended herself, saying she didn’t keep calling me names, she used adjectives (as if that was any better — I don’t understand). She made it seem like I was in the wrong, saying that she was offended by my attitude and I should be sorry (as if that warranted being called names and adjectives — again I don’t understand). She told me to move out if I didn’t like it. She didn’t care at all about what I was saying or feeling.

I got frustrated and went to my room. I was angry. I was upset. I was walking the line between present and past. I felt myself slipping. Then I dissociated, and came back to find a disaster on my head.

My head had a lump the size of a softball. There was blood on my desk from the cut on my forehead. My head was scraped down the center, and bruised across the top and the side. I looked like a disaster. I couldn’t feel anything.

There was no way I could hide this. This is it. My therapist is surely going to send me away. I went outside, sat on my steps and smoked the last of my cigarettes. I could have stayed out there all night if I had more.

I may not have felt any pain, but I certainly felt the panic. I broke my therapy contract. And I don’t even remember doing it. All I could think about was how mad my therapist was going to be when I showed up at session looking like I did. I ruined everything. I was going to miss school. I wasn’t going to be able to finish the book. I was going to end up locked away somewhere.

And none of this would have happened if people just listened when I say stop.

Now I’m like him

As I’m dealing with this throbbing headache (caused by my own doing), I keep wondering how my brother felt after his “incident”.

About 15 or so years ago, my brother had what I consider to be an emotional breakdown. He locked himself in the bathroom, crying uncontrollably and bashing his head against the wall for what seemed like hours.

I remember sitting in the living room, and for the first time, really seeing and understanding the pain my brother was in. The pain he could never verbalize, because he was never very good at verbalizing much anyway. The pain we were never allowed to show the world.

I was used to the pain. But up until that point, I assumed my brother just handled our torture in a different way. He never seemed bothered by it, at least not in very outward ways that I could recognize (keep in mind, I was just a young teenager at the time). But here he was, in very obvious pain.

Once he came out of the bathroom, bruised and bloody, life just continued as if the entire incident never happened. Move along now, nothing to see here. Looking back at it now, I see how fucking bizarre it was. Your son just locked himself up in the bathroom and gave himself significant head injuries and a concussion, and you go back to watching television and getting ready for dinner, like it was just a normal day.

I wish I knew how they explained the very obvious injuries to my brother’s face. I’m sure, whatever it was, it wasn’t the truth. That would tarnish my mother’s “mother-of-the-year” image. But how did no one wonder what the fuck was going on?

Of course now, I feel like I channeled that same pain when I continually banged my head yesterday. The only difference was that I chose the table instead of the wall, and I didn’t do it hard enough to bleed. The emotion behind it was surely the same. 

And now I’m telling myself that I’m just like him. Can’t say out loud what’s going on, so just bang the noise away. 

What a fucked up family.

I’m sorry, I’m okay

I managed at the last minute to drag myself to therapy today despite feeling like absolute shit.

Last night was difficult for me. I have had so much going on, and I’ve kept it all inside. Stress about home, about grad school applications, about how I’m going to afford grad school, about how I’m going to afford living. Then add issues about my family, an overall lack of sleep, and the seemingly constant chaos inside of my head, and I wonder how I am not locked up in an institution somewhere.

The pain was just too much for me that my heart was actually hurting. Yet I was completely unable to express any emotion. I was numb and in pain at the same time, and I know that is impossible but that is how I felt. I couldn’t take the pain any more. I ended up hurting myself just so I could feel something real. But that only works in the short-term. I woke up the next morning with the same emotional pain, plus the physical pain from what I had inflicted on myself the night before.

I didn’t really want to be in therapy. I didn’t want to be anywhere. But I knew I couldn’t skip out without causing alarm. So I went, sat in my usual spot on the couch, and looked at the floor. My therapist asked if there was anything I needed to talk about. I told her no, that she could talk. I didn’t really want to get into anything. I just wanted to sit there and pretend like everything was fine and dandy.

My therapist started talking about managing my DID better. It is something I know I need to do, but I’ve been at a point where I just want to ignore it and hope that it goes away. She said if I take time and communicate with my parts, it won’t be so chaotic inside. Right now, my parts are running amok like a child who is being ignored and wanting attention. I know that she’s right, I just don’t have the mindset to deal with all of that right now.

I wasn’t into the conversation, and my therapist could tell. I couldn’t tell her what was wrong, though. I tried to reveal minor things in order to avoid the major, but even that wasn’t working. I had put my walls up, and she was not getting through. She asked if she was the problem. I told her it wasn’t her. And it’s not. The problem is with me. Part of me is still scared to talk. Part of me is still afraid to say how I’m feeling.

Then, in the middle of the weak back-and-forth we were engaging in, my therapist asked if I could try to not apologize whenever I say how I am feeling. It is something she has brought up before; she tells me regularly that I don’t need to apologize, but I still keep doing it. I told her I couldn’t do that. She asked why it was so hard for me to stop. I told her I’m not supposed to have feelings. Feelings get you in trouble. Feelings get you punished. Then my therapist asked how I would be punished, and I managed to nod my head yes when she asked if it was physical.

I started to think about all of the times I had to suppress my feelings, and all the times I accidentally made them known. Whenever I was upset or cried, she’d make it hurt more. Whenever I showed my anger, she’d tell me anger was the devil coming through and I needed to be punished. Then there was the incident that finally broke me. When someone from my high school called my parents and told them I was feeling depressed, my father sat me down that night and told me he’d give me something to be depressed about. I sat there and took the beating and tried to be stoic, but after a few minutes, the tears came and all I could do was apologize and beg for mercy that never came. I never cried during a beating again.

On an intellectual level, I know my therapist isn’t going to hurt me for expressing my feelings. Yet, I still find myself apologizing dozens of times each session. I even apologized for crying after the group workshop the other day. Being sorry is part of my programming. I should be sorry for feeling. I should be sorry for expressing emotion. I should be sorry for breathing. My parents made me feel as if I should be sorry just for existing and taking up space in their lives. I am sorry. I am sorry I was born.

In addition to my apologetic programming, I also have a tendency to tell everyone I’m okay. In therapy, those words tend to follow right after I say I’m sorry. It’s almost as if I’m trying to convince myself that I’m okay as much as I’m trying to convince the other person.

Towards the end of our session today, I felt myself becoming overwhelmed with emotion. As a defense, I must have said “I’m okay” at least five times in succession. Then my therapist told me that I don’t have to say I’m okay when I’m not okay. She said knows I put up a facade and that’s how I’ve made it through life so far, but I don’t have to put that mask on anymore and I don’t have to put it up when I’m with her. She continued to talk about it and I finally just burst out and said “I’m not okay.”

I don’t think I’ve ever said those words out loud before. I don’t think my therapist expected me to say them right then, either. I don’t even think I expected to say them. But I did. And now the truth is out there.

A day with Courage

I had another thrilling 2 hour therapy session.  It started out okay.  We talked about my upcoming job interview (tomorrow – I haven’t had a chance to mention it), about my blogging orientation for HealthyPlace on Wednesday, and about my inability to set up an appointment with the social worker so I can get my medications adjusted and refilled.  Yep.  Mind you, I’ve been back and forth over the phone with the social worker since I got out of the hospital back in the beginning of August and she has yet to set up an appointment with me or get me set up with the psychiatrist.  Now I have two weeks of medication before I am left with nothing.  So, that’s going to be an issue.  Something is always an issue.

Then we started to color and just talk about whatever came to mind.  I started talking about why there were so many mushrooms on children’s coloring pages.  I wanted to know why.  There was a dog and a mushroom.  A mouse hiding under a mushroom.  A frog on a mushroom.  Why so many mushrooms?  I’m not sure I knew what a mushroom even was as a child.  Very strange.

As I finished the picture, I started to hate it.  My therapist asked me what was wrong.  I said it wasn’t perfect.  She came over next to me and looked at it, and like a typical therapist said “nope, I don’t see anything wrong with it.”  Then Charlie started to chime in.  Of course it’s not perfect.  It looks like shit.  Everything is shit.  So then I was having an argument with Charlie in my head while simultaneously trying to listen and interact with my therapist.  For the record, that is just not possible for very long.  Charlie ended up winning that battle.  When I came back to the present, and my therapist began to talk about him (he did not tell her his name – she asked what letter his name started with and he told her a ‘C’), I knew right away who it was because I remembered arguing with him internally right before.  And it was funny because my therapist said how he didn’t say much.  He certainly doesn’t shut up when he talks to me.  Weird.  Boys.

My therapist told me to try to think about what a 15 year-old boy would want.  I…well…I don’t know.  I’m not sure I want to know.  That’s entering a dangerous zone.  I don’t want to know about teenage boys.  How did I end up with a teenage boy part anyway?  The teenage boys I knew in high school were atypical bookworm types.  I doubt that’s who Charlie is.  I don’t know how to be a boy.  Not that I’m a girly girl in any sense either, but…I don’t know.  This is going to be hard work.

My therapist also brought up Charlie’s and Anna’s self-injurious tendencies.  She asked me if I wanted her to stop those behaviors or allow them to continue (within reason).  Shit.  I don’t know.  I mean, is there a right answer?  No one wants to hurt.  She asked me what I thought the reasons behind the self-injury were.  Do I think they are doing it to try to get people to see that they are hurting, or is it something else?  I don’t know.  Why would a seven year-old self-injure?  How does a seven year-old even know how to self-injure?  I don’t think Anna knows what she’s doing is self-injury.  I remember writing down that she told my therapist she was scratching to get the bad out.  I would imagine she developed that somehow from seeing my mother’s techniques of cleansing me from evil.  Charlie is another story, though.  Charlie is angry and wants everyone to know it.  I don’t think I (or my therapist, or anyone for that matter) could approach the two the same, because their motivations are completely different.  I’m too exhausted to think about this more than I already have.

At the end of our session, my therapist asked if I’d be able to carry something home.  Confused, I told her “yeah, I guess.”  Then she took Courage, the stuffed lion, from the other side of the couch and handed him to me.  Courage has been sitting on that couch through many sessions.  He’s seen and heard it all.  He’s helped me come back to the present many times.  I thought at first she wanted me to take him for the day; then I realized she was giving him to me to keep.

“Don’t you need him here for your other clients?” I asked.

“I can always train a new therapy animal if I need to.”

Then I realized I would have to walk around town with a stuffed lion.  He was too big to fit in my bag entirely.  I managed to stuff him in there, but his head and upper body stuck out.  Maybe this was some kind of test.  What is my therapist doing to me?!  I was going to go straight home out of pure embarrassment.  Then as I was sitting at the bus stop, I told myself fuck it, I’m going to the store.  So I took the bus to a nearby retail store to scope out a new bike.  It’s an idea I had been going back and forth with for a while; with the possibility of now having two out-of-the-home jobs, I can’t rely on public transportation all of the time.  So Courage and I went and tried out some bicycles.  I quickly realized, upon sitting upon the first bicycle I tried, that I could not remember how to ride a bike.  I know that I must have ridden in childhood at some point.  But my mind and body did not want to do it.  I couldn’t put both feet on the pedals.  I tried another bike, and another.  My body started to shake and I knew it wasn’t going to work, so I left before I ended up having a full-blown anxiety attack.  I should know how to ride a damn bike.

I was disappointed, but I didn’t feel like going home and wallowing in anger or self-pity.  So Courage and I waited for the bus and then we went to the mall.  By now, it was mid-afternoon and I had yet to eat, so I stopped at Chick-Fil-A because they happen to sell chicken nuggets, the most delicious food on earth.  I had my bag on the table with Courage hanging out lopsided.  I felt kind of bad, so I took him out and stood him up on the table, right next to my bag of food.  I didn’t even care what people thought.  I even snapped a picture and posted it on Facebook, as if this stuffed lion and I were on some kind of adventure.
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We even went for ice cream.
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By this point, I was completely over the weirdness of being an adult and carrying around a stuffed lion.  I realized that I now had a stuffed animal, and my strong part had a stuffed animal, but I didn’t have anything for Charlie or Anna.  So, with time to kill, I ventured to the nearest store that sold stuffed animals – the Disney Store.  I managed to find a variety of dogs – perfect for Anna.  I must have circled the display three to four times trying to find something that screamed teenage boy.  Then, on my last round, I saw Baymax from Big Hero 6 hiding at the bottom of the display.  Robot, super hero, teenage boy…sounds good to me.  So now my parts and I each have something.  And if any new parts make themselves known, they will get one, too.
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Maybe I’m not so terrible at this DID business as I thought I was.

A break

Don’t worry, I’m not taking a break from blogging.

I am, however, taking a bit of a break from trauma therapy.  I’ll still be going to therapy as usual, but my therapist thinks it’s best to stop any trauma-related work for the time being.

I’ve been very off since my appointment on Monday.  It’s been difficult to turn off that “evil child” mentality that was activated as old memories were rehashed and I experienced that flashback during Monday’s session.  I’ve been extremely low and it’s been difficult to bring myself back up.  I also ended up dissociating and injuring myself in the same way my mother injured me as a child.  I re-enacted the same traumatic event.  Why?  I don’t understand it.

I didn’t even want to tell my therapist what happened.  I didn’t even want to go to therapy today.  But I went.  And I was in so much pain just sitting there that my facial expressions started to give my secret away.  She started asking if I was in pain and I tried to shut her out.  But she was (and always is) persistent.  Eventually I told her what I had done, and after a brief discussion, she came to the conclusion that it was best to take a break from the trauma for a while.

I felt like a therapy failure.  I asked her, “doesn’t this mean I’m weak?  I can’t even handle therapy.”  She tried to convince me that it actually took strength to admit what I did and that these things take time.  It’s not worth being re-traumatized.  I lived through this shit for 25 years, I can’t expect to jump into recovery in just two months.  I guess she is right, it was just not something I wanted to hear.

Everyone keeps telling me how strong I am, and how great I am doing.  All I can think is how weak I am and how close I am to failing.  A strong person doesn’t feel like dying on the inside.  A strong person doesn’t hurt themselves because some part of them still feels like they are an evil child that needs to be punished.  A strong person doesn’t need to take a break from trauma therapy.  Where’s this strength people see?  I’m having trouble finding it.  Sometimes I feel like I am so close to drowning.  I’m doing these things that people think are great, and I guess they are – but a part of me is dying, and nothing can stop that.  I can do all the great things in the world, but that won’t change who I am and what happened to me.

My therapist brought up my strong part.  I’ve talked briefly about her in therapy before, but not much.  I believe she is the part that got me through my escape.  My therapist started to ask me questions about that part and I shut down.  I don’t really know enough about her.  She doesn’t come out very often.  My therapist mentioned if I was self-sabotaging myself by not letting that part out more or getting to know that part.  I don’t know.  I feel that Charlie runs the show and doesn’t really let anyone else have a say, so it’s difficult for me to really know any of my other parts.  Maybe Charlie needs an Ativan.  Or a timeout.

I don’t know where therapy will go from here.  I’m just going to have to trust that it’s the right decision.