11 weeks

I am 11 weeks free today.

I wish my mind could embrace that concept. Freedom. But there is still a huge disparity between what intellectually I know to be true and what my mind believes is going to happen.  I still jump at every noise: every creak of the kitchen table, every knock at the door, every honk of a horn. It doesn’t matter where I am or what I’m doing; when it happens, I go into panic mode. My heart races, the nausea kicks in, the crying starts, and the intrusive thoughts flood my mind. It’s an exhausting way to live.

I also wish the people close to me would understand me better. It doesn’t matter where I am.  I could be five miles away or five thousand miles away from my mother, but my brain will always be on constant alert.  I’ll continue to have that fear, even when intellectually I know that it’s not possible that she’s here with me. I also wish some of my friends would stop being so critical. I had enough criticism in my old life. I don’t need criticism in my new life. It bothers me when people ignore every positive step I’ve taken and only point that time I took a sip of alcohol. Just because you don’t agree with a decision I’ve made, doesn’t mean it’s a bad decision. I find myself torn between keeping these people in my circle because my circle is already so small as it is, or ridding myself of them and becoming even more alone.

I’m physically and emotionally exhausted. Sometimes I feel like I’m running on autopilot, and I don’t know how I make it through the day. Something in me has gotten me out of bed each morning, allowed me to take a shower, gotten me dressed, and pushed me to get to work every morning. But I’m tired. As weird as it sounds, living in my old life wasn’t nearly as exhausting as this. I dealt with the abuse, but I always expected it. Now, even though I’m in a safe place, I am constantly on alert. It’s draining. The human body is not built to handle being under stress 24/7. I’m not superhuman. I can’t be expected to do this much longer. I’ve already been through enough. Sometimes I wonder if this life is really better, because in many ways, it feels worse.

But I’ll keep pushing forward. I don’t really have any other choice. I won’t get to finish telling my story. The world won’t know who my mother really is. I won’t be able to help others fight the good fight. So far, I’ve managed to have just over 450 people read at least part of my story. That’s more than I could have ever imagined. Four-hundred and fifty people now know part of my truth. That’s a powerful thing.

If I give up, my mother wins. I can’t have that. Not now.

Seven weeks

I’ve made it seven weeks now.

I’m bruised.  I’m broken.  This time, though, it wasn’t at the hands of my mother; it was caused by the hard cement of the sidewalk I fell into Wednesday morning.  I refuse to let another person ever break me like that again.  The sidewalk and I will need to have a discussion, too, because this can’t happen again.

Despite my fractured foot, I’ve been going to work.  I wake up 40 minutes earlier  because it takes me 40 minutes to walk to the bus stop.  I leave my house in the night and end up getting to the bus stop at dawn.  But it’s what I have to do.  Broken bones don’t pay the bills.  I leave my crutches in the break room at work and shuffle around and get my job done – a little slower, for sure, but the work still gets done.  I can’t not work.  I don’t have time to be disabled.  I’m exhausted by the end of the day, but maybe that’s a good thing.  That means there’s less energy available to screw other shit up.  Most nights, I just want to lay in bed and cry; but that doesn’t make the pain go away.  It just gives me horrible cry face.

I got my first paycheck today.  It wasn’t much, but it just feels a little better getting some sort of income in.  I still need another job or two.  Or a rich a husband.  I’m okay with either scenario.

I’ve been socializing so much more than what is normal for me.  It’s still difficult for me.  I still find myself struggling to respond.  But I am trying.  For some reason, people are naturally drawn to me.  That is the worst for someone who is socially anxious.  It’s a process.  It is also difficult for me to understand why someone would want to like me enough to talk to me (I know, a lot of childhood brainwashing there).  It’s something I’m slowly overcoming.  The other day, I exchanged jokes with a bus driver, which turned into a short, but polite conversation.  Yesterday, I engaged in a conversation over broken bones with an older gentleman who had more metal in him than bone.  And today, another bus driver and I talked about which place had the best cappuccino.  I still let the other side do most of the talking, but for me, it’s progress.  I’m doing a lot better considering where I was before.  It’s almost as if the simple lack of my mother’s presence has been enough to lift some of the fears and anxieties I had in speaking with other people.

On another good note, I finally received feedback for my thesis.  My grade: 99.  I have been obsessively checking all week, as if I were afraid I was going to fail the paper.  I didn’t expect to get a 99.  One grammatical error.  One point away from perfection.  In a way, it relates so much to my life.  As much as I strive to be perfect, my life will never be perfect.  But if I work hard enough, it can be damn near close enough to perfect.

Meeting people

In general, I have a hard time meeting new people.  A lot of that comes from growing up and being conditioned not to speak to anyone outside of our inner family circle.  Some of it is this underlying fear that people can see right through me and know all of the disgusting truths that lie within.  And then a small part of it is just lack of social skills, which sort of ties back to my shitty upbringing.

Even though I’ve been down here now almost six weeks, I have, for the most part, actively avoided meeting people.  I haven’t really had the energy to expend on others because I have been so preoccupied trying to keep myself together.  Luckily, I haven’t been approached by anyone, so it hasn’t been an issue.  Until yesterday.

I clocked out of work at one o’clock and went to the lounge to grab my things.  I sat down at the table to make sure I had everything before I left to catch the bus, when a man’s head popped out from the couch in front of me to say hello.  I recognized him from having briefly been introduced the first day I started.  He immediately struck up a conversation and I found myself sitting there, listening intently.  Then he said “I don’t even know why I’m telling you so much, I just feel really comfortable talking to you.”  I get that a lot.  Which is weird to me, because I also have been told by a few that I am completely unapproachable due to my permanent resting bitch face.  Even so, most people have felt that same inexplicable comfort in coming to me with their problems; I’ve been “counseling” people since I was in high school.  I always found it ironic because my greatest desire was for someone, anyone to help me, and here I was helping everyone else.

Back to work guy, he started asking me questions. Not in a pushy way, just general curiosity.  He knew I just moved here (I had mentioned it in our brief introduction), and he asked me where I moved, if I had a roommate, etc.  I explained I had a roommate I just met.  He was a little shocked, so I explained that I moved here on a whim.  He seemed naturally curious and asked why someone would do that (which I should have expected, I didn’t think that through).  At this point, I’m playing out all of the scenarios in my head.  What do I tell him?  Do I make up a story?  Shit, I should have come up with a cover story beforehand.  I don’t have enough time now.  I can’t tell him the truth, these people won’t understand.  That’s way too much to throw on someone I just met.  My head was spinning.  I just went with what came out.  “Have you ever just been around toxic people?  I was, and I just got to a point where I knew I needed to make a change, so I did. And I left.”  I’m pretty sure I panicked the ten seconds between my last word and his response.  But he didn’t freak out.  He said “I understand toxic people.  That was a big risk you took.  I don’t think I could ever do that.”  Whew.  Crisis averted.

Here we are, now 35 minutes into a conversation, still going well, still not needing an Ativan to keep it together.  Then he asked about my duck.  The duck I carry around to help keep me grounded.  The duck I held close to me that day like it was worth a million dollars because I was still so unstable from the day before.  Why did he have to ask about the duck?  I turned my head away from him and said “It’s stupid.  I’ll tell you another day.”  But he persisted.  “I won’t make fun of you or judge you,” he said, “I really want to know.”  There went my head again.  Cue hurricane of scenarios spinning in my mind.  I couldn’t be rude.  This guy seemed really nice and genuine.  But there’s only so much people can understand.  I know for sure he wouldn’t know about DID.  PTSD?  Maybe.  Let’s go with that.  So I told him I have PTSD, and I carry it around to keep me grounded in case I start having flashbacks.  His head dropped and he apologized, but he had nothing to be sorry for.  He knew what PTSD was; he knew a few people who had it.  He asked me what caused mine.  I said I had a really traumatic past.  At this point, I didn’t even hesitate or overthink on what to say.  My response just came out.  Then he opened up about his childhood and how he has dealt with his stress.

We talked about Superman (he noticed my bag), the movies (we both like going), about people who drink and smoke too much, and then about crazy customers.  Before I knew it, an hour had passed.  He was about to go punch in for work and asked if I was on any social media.  Fuck.  Everyone is on social media.  Unless you are in hiding from your abusive family.  FUCK.  The reality of my situation really set in at that point.  I realized that even though for the last hour I felt almost normal, I was still living the life of a person in hiding, because I very much am a person in hiding.  I said “Well, I did.  I do, but it’s under a fake name.”  I looked to the floor like I was ashamed.  He said “That’s alright.  I don’t know much about you, but from what I do know I’m sure you have your reasons for it.”  What is wrong with this person?  Why is he still talking to me?  And then…THEN…he asked for my number!  Even worse, I gave it to him.  I don’t know what is wrong with me.  Fuck this human connection shit.

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.