Thursday, 17 December 2015
When will my nightmare end? When will I feel good again? Happy? Joyful? Hopeful?
My illness awoke 5 months ago after being bullied by my boss at work. I had been stable for over 8 years after nearly 4 years of hell. I foolishly thought I had beaten it. But my BPD and Bipolar has erupted with a vengeance and I don't know what to do. It started with the bullying that manifested in extreme anxiety and then was triggered into full effect after being involved in a minor car accident that resulted in a severe panic attack. I have since left my job after a period of leave of absence as I was unable to return to work. The anxiety then threw me into a frenzy of mania which lasted a couple months. But now I'm in the throws of rapid cycling and splitting. I am in a severe depression with spikes of fits of rage. I am unbearable to live with and just want to disappear from the world. This all consuming bleakness has left me empty inside and completely broken. I keep trying to fill the hole in my soul with things that should bring me joy. But like water through a sieve, nothing sticks. It all is wasted on me. The joy, contentment, and appreciation I once felt for life for those 8 years is completely gone.
I have a wonderful husband that is doing his absolute best to support, love, and care for me, but my illness is pushing him away. Between my intense sense of doom and frantic fear of abandonment, I am unconsciously (and sometimes consciously) pushing him and all those that love me away. I have lost all hope. I feel as if I am in quicksand trying desperately to keep my head out, but the harder I try to escape, the deeper I sink. I am in so much pain all the time, every day. I try to grasp onto moments of levity, but they are fleeting, and as soon as they end I feel more empty than before. So I have pretty much just given up. The fight is too much for me to take anymore.
This fear abandonment and dread of hurting those around me came to an explosive head a couple nights ago. My husband took me away for a break to a city I have been wanting to visit. It should have been wonderful and would have been if weren't for how ill I am right now. I couldn't find any pleasure in the sights and sounds of the magical place we were at. I let the alcohol flow and drag me into what culminated into a hateful fit of rage directed at my husband. I verbally pushed him and pushed him until he couldn't take it anymore and said something hateful back. That was all I needed to unleash my pent up physical rage on him. I punched him in the face. In reaction he hit me back. I turned into a flurry of fists flying at him wanting to make him hurt and feel my pain. I wanted him to experience and understand where my illness has taken me. I wanted to scare him away. I wanted him give up on me so I could let go and walk away.
He feverishly grabbed at my flailing hands, trying to get me under control. I tried desperately to get away and when I finally broke free, I ran. I ran and I ran, trying to find somewhere where I could jump into the icy waters of the city river. I wanted the cold water to extinguish the burning pain that was eating me alive. My husband managed to chase me down and drag me away from the edge of the dock and drag me back to our hotel. He had to hold me down to keep me from escaping and I eventually drained my energy and fell asleep.
When we awoke the next morning, I felt an overwhelming sense of deflation. I wanted so much for him to let me go. Let me escape the world that is killing me. He said he will never let me go and never give up on me. I know that should be comforting. It's not. I feel horrible. I am a cancer devouring his beautiful soul. I hate myself for this. I hate what I am.
When will my nightmare end?
Monday, 5 October 2015
As it is October, and I have been thinking about what I shall be for Halloween, I found myself pondering what is it about Halloween that I love so much? I've always loved the excitement of choosing a character to play. My birthday happens to be one week before Halloween so I've often been able to incorporate the hallowed night into my parties. But why do I love it so much? For starters, the lack of expectation. With Christmas there is always the air of obligation to family. And as someone who has never had a stable family unit in terms of mother and father, most holidays are filled with anxiety and dread. But Halloween was always mine.
I loved figuring out what I wanted to be and how to create this character out of things I already had and using items creatively. But why have I always loved it so much? I started thinking about it in relation to my illness. It suddenly became very clear and then I wondered if other
Borderlines, as well as others with personality disorders, liked Halloween as much as I do. I realised the reason I loved becoming a character is because I didn't have to try and be something I wasn't.
Let me explain. Those of us with Borderline Personality Disorder create personas to fit whatever situation we are in whether it be for work, a social gathering, particular circles of friends, etc. We learn to adapt and conform. BPD's are all actors in this thing we call life. We never develop our own personality. We are the chameleons of the human world. It enables us to survive in a world we don't understand. And we are very good at it. Sadly our souls remain hollow since we never are able to develop and maintain true relationships. (Footnote: of course years of therapy and support can help us overcome our identity crisis, but even if we do, we still find it very easy and necessary to revert to our chameleon state if needed.)
But there's Halloween. The one day of the year we don't have to pretend to be something we aren't. We get to choose our character. I realised there is an amazing freedom in that. Not HAVING to be someone but rather CHOOSING who we are for one night. We don't have to think about the emptiness inside and struggle to be something we aren't. We get to drop the charade and easily blend in without the exhausting effort, because everyone is something they aren't. It's our one true night of freedom.
I then expanded this line of thinking to actual professional actors. There were times in my life when I thought how easy and fun it would be to be an actor. To get paid to do something I found so easy. Hmmm... How many actors out there are like me? How many have Borderline or similar personality disorders which make them easily slide in and out of fictional roles? I can easily think of a few off the top of my head that surely do based on things I've read about regarding their personal lives: manic episodes, drug abuse, cleptomania, sudden desire to shave one's head, etc. It does make me wonder, how many are like me? And is that the reason they chose acting? Because it comes so naturally.
Just my random thoughts of the day. And for those wondering about what I will be this year for Halloween, you'll just have to wait. But here's last years character... Who am I?
I have had so many thoughts and feelings flying through my head lately. Mostly dark scary things. I've been using every coping mechanism I know to keep the demons at bay, but the fight is getting so hard. My days are getting darker, my soul blacker. I'm being ripped apart from the inside and the pain is unbearable. I'm taking more meds to sedate me, but that only calms the physical symptoms, the emotional and mental anguish flourishes in my haze. I've been trying to stay positive, was going to write an upbeat post about Halloween, but I've shelved it for this post, because I feel like there is no better outlet.
My poor husband is at the end of his tether. He loves me so much and just wants to squeeze the love into me and push out the bad. If it were only that easy. As I've mentioned in recent posts, I am struggling with the fact I've been hiding my illness from my new UK family and friends. I am in the process of "coming out" slowly and tried to take a big step Saturday night. My husband invited his sister and her fiancé over for a session of drinks and catching up. I specifically, as he knew, and as I thought he had conveyed to his sister, thought that the idea was to talk about what they've been up to and how my illness has awakened. I wanted to try and explain my illness a bit better to them (they know about it, but don't understand and clearly haven't taken the initiative to learn) and to let them know I need their support because I feel like they have been avoiding me (whether avoidance is real or my paranoia is irrelevant). Things didn't go as I planned.
I was really anxious waiting for them to arrive, pacing, chain smoking, trying to sip my beer and not chug it (don't judge, you've been there). They were some 40 minutes later than expected, which isn't unusual for them, but when you are in a rapid-cycling state, time tables are important to you as I'm sure some of you know. Anyway, they arrived with typical greetings, beer sorted into the fridge, and chatting began. I started with my sister-in-law asking how her work has been. I used to work for her, so I was eager to hear the latest and hear how she has been doing in her new role as a "mini" manager. She asked how I was doing because she knew I had been struggling to say the least. I was trying to explain how I've been and what I've been doing: therapy, meds, exercise, hobbies, doctors, vicars, meditation, etc. I know she knows I have an illness. I know she doesn't understand, because unless you have spent a lot of time and watched someone go through the nightmare that is a rapidly declining psychological breakdown, you can't understand. I will admit it bothers me that I don't think she's even tried to do any research to understand at least the basics. But I started the conversation.
I had her come inside and I grabbed my iPad and gave her my blog to read. I specifically gave her my "Open Letter to my Mother and Father" to read to just jump in with both feet so she could feel the pain I've lived with my entire life. If you have read that blog, you know what I mean. As she sat and started reading, my husband and her fiancé had joined us at the table. I mentioned what she was reading, and her fiancé immediately started making jokes and was asking when we were going to start playing cards. I tried to steer him away by asking about what's been going on with him, because I knew he had some issues he had been dealing with and I didn't want them to think I wanted some big pity party. I honestly was hoping to have a catch up, share some thoughts and feelings about our struggles, give them a bit more understanding about what I was going through, and convey how I needed their support. He quickly glossed over his issue and once again started making jokes. Okay, he's uncomfortable. But I'm the one with the serious mental illness on the verge of collapse, so could we take a few minutes to have a serious discussion before we lightened the mood?
As she was finishing reading, I explained to her fiancé what it was and that it was a depiction of the severe emotional abuse I endured at my mother's hand. I whipped out my list of characteristics of emotional abusers and started reading them. My soon to be brother-in-law could not interrupt fast enough or make more jokes about the situation. I'm trying to explain what caused my illness and convey the horror that was my childhood, and he's cracking jokes! I had no intention of making the evening a completely miserable downer, but did he honestly think I just wanted them to come over and get smashed knowing what a bad place I'm in? Or did he not know? Or was he so uncomfortable he just had to end all conversation and get straight to drinking and cards? My sister-in-law did little to stop this chain of events, nor did my husband. So I did what a Borderline always does. I conformed to the situation. I buried my emotions under a flood of alcohol and smiled and laughed. But the demons inside were now in their element, feeding on the dark turmoil that was now stirring just below the surface. The rage inside begging to come out. I somehow kept it all at bay. But...
The next morning I woke up in a shambles. All the emotion I had to repress the night before was coming out. The anxiety and pain coursed through my veins as if a damn had broken and the flood was destroying everything in its wake. I sat shaking and sobbing. I could feel the demons just below the surface begging for release. I was clawing at my own flesh trying to release them. I desperately wanted an instrument, knife, glass, anything I could use to release the pain. I resisted. I stared helplessly at the beautiful garden I had just spent months making perfect, and I all I wanted to do was destroy it. Destroy everything. I wanted my surroundings to reflect my soul. Complete devastation. My husband found me in this state in the garden and asked what could he do? I had him get my medication, specifically my sedatives (diazepam) to dull the rage. I hate the haze, but I knew I was teetering on the edge of collapse. I told him I wasn't safe. I wasn't safe within myself. I was frantically holding onto reality. I was inches away. But I managed to hold my ground.
The sedation finally started kicking in and a haze lasting hours subdued the demons. I laid in and out of a semiconscious state staring blankly at the TV. I calmed but the pain and frustration weren't gone. I spoke to my husband of my upset regarding the prior evenings events. I expressed my outrage at how my illness was swept under the rug, a dirty little secret. These are supposed to be people who love me and are there to support me. Clearly that is not the case. So what to do? They aren't bad people and I do love them and I know they love me. They just don't understand. And they obviously don't want to understand. I suppose that is their choice. Unfortunately it breaks my heart. I don't have a choice about my illness. It's there. It's never going away. So now I must learn to accept that my closest family apart from my husband in this country will not be available for support. I do understand some people just aren't capable of understanding or dealing with mental illness. I know this. I was just hoping that they were.
Wednesday, 30 September 2015
Those of you who follow me know that in my past life in the US I was very open and honest about my mental illness. But since moving to the UK, I've kind of kept it under wraps except for my husband obviously and a few select people. I think I did this partially because of the general anxiety of getting to know people in a new country and my perceived belief that there is more of a stigma in the UK than in the US. Right or wrong, I kept quiet and just smiled through the pain. But it has been eating at me since day one. Getting to know new people was great, but keeping my true self hidden was hell. It didn't usually feel like a big deal. But listening to people whine about petty bullshit on Facebook (which I wouldn't even be on if weren't to keep up with friends and families lives in America), would grind my gears to a halt.
Now let me get one thing straight. I know I do not know the struggles of every single person I'm friends with on Facebook. People have shit they have to deal with: illness, death, divorce, financial difficulties, etc. And I commend the people that don't throw their dirty laundry out on the Facebook line for the world to see. However, of the 245 "friends" I have, I'm pretty sure most of the whining is just that, whining. For someone who literally has to fight through every day, because yes even good days are exhausting, it wears you down. If you have a mental illness, you understand what I'm saying. If you don't and you are reading this, then you may want to take a step back and think about your daily life and whether you are one of these people who speaks without thinking. Think about the old adage of "walking a mile in another's shoes". So in other words, don't be a whiner.
But enough about Facebook and all the pettiness that it entails. I'm here to talk about mental illness. Specifically my mental illness because that's what I know. I cannot speak of other's experiences with mental illness, because I haven't walked a mile in their shoes. I have, however, done quite a bit of research on my illness and read a lot of different blogs about it. We all have pretty much the same things to say: first and foremost it sucks cause it's a life sentence, getting help is a pain in the ass because frankly it's treated differently than other chronic illnesses, the stigma still exists, and the world is horribly undereducated.
Let me throw out an example... Robin Williams... When he committed suicide a little over a year ago, there was shock and dismay across the world. How could someone so talented and wonderful be so sad that they decided they only had one way out? While I personally was just as shocked and saddened by the news, I understood how he felt at the moment just before, because I've been there. I've been at that precipice in time. I tried three times to end my life. And for those of you who don't know statistics, men are more likely to finish the act because they choose things like guns or hanging, while women choose pills or slitting their wrists which are more likely to have life saving possibilities. I used pills every time. One time, I came frightenly close. But back to Robin, the outpouring of public sympathy led me to believe people would start the conversation about mental illness. It didn't. People simply reminisced about his films or more shockingly called him selfish. Suicide is not selfish. If you haven't lived in a hell that has led you there, don't judge. You know nothing of the pain that gets you there. But the conversation seemed to stop there. And that's where the problem lies. Communication.
I haven't talked about my illness openly in years because of fear. I'm not ashamed, I was just scared of how people would react. I was scared about how I would be able to get a job if I was honest. Truth be told, I have found that there are times I have needed to or should have lied about my illness but didn't to my misfortune. I was honest on a life insurance application about my illness and was denied coverage because of it. That's unacceptable. Everytime I fill out an employment application regarding medical info there is always a tick box for "do you or have you suffered from depression". I always hesitate. I mean sure depression is a part of Borderline Personality Disorder and Bipolar, but it's just the tip of the iceberg. Honestly it's a damned if you do damned if you don't thing. If I say no and get ill while working, I lied on my application. If I say yes, I might not get the job. And that's not fair.
I shouldn't have to hide or feel ashamed of my illness. Sadly I do sometimes. I liken it to when AIDS was first making headlines. People didn't, and still don't, want to announce it to the world because of the recoil reaction people have. You won't "catch" my mental illness anymore than you will "catch" AIDS by speaking to me. I'm not contagious. But people don't understand and people fear what they don't understand. So I want and need to educate people. If I save one person from stepping off that ledge, I've done my job.
If you know someone who has a mental illness, gently ask them about it. You may just find they are willing to speak if you are truly willing to listen. But heed my words, be willing to commit. Be willing to listen, understand, educate yourself, read about it, and comfort. Don't just nod and hear without listening. That is exactly the kind of reaction that will push us away. We have so much uncertainty in our lives, friends and family can not be one of them. I don't want or need sympathy. I'm okay, really. I will be okay. Just realise that my days at best are still a fight. And at worst a nightmare you never want to experience, and I pray you never do. I'm not really religious but I'm spiritual, and I pray for all my family, friends, and acquaintances daily. I pray for them to have happy lives. I pray for them to understand the things they don't understand. I pray for them to appreciate the little things that are taken for granted. Because I take nothing for granted. I've seen and lived through horrors I wouldn't wish upon my worst enemy. Life is precious. We all are precious. Listen and care. Educate yourself. About all things foreign to you. If we all did... What a wonderful world it could be.
Thursday, 24 September 2015
Why? Why do I exist? This is the question that has been haunting me my entire life. You had a job as parents. You were meant to love me, nurture me, protect me, encourage me, guide me, etc. So why did you fail so miserably at this?
Where to start... Father, you were never there. You were an alcoholic. I can count on my hands how many days of my life you were sober. I don't blame you too much. Mom is a bitch and I would've stayed drunk too. You attempted to love me and care for me the best you could. Perhaps a bit too much with regards to the memories I feverishly repress. I needed you dad. I needed you to protect me from her. And when my illness started to awaken, you didn't understand, you didn't even try. I was just some rebellious teen that needed to get her shit together. You never saw that even as a small child I was withering away without the tender nurturing a young child needs and craves. I have no happy childhood memories. Fleeting glimpses of moments of levity. That's it. But let's move on to the root.
Mother. Should I even call you that? Do you deserve it? You may have given birth to me, but you are not a mother. No mother I will ever claim. You are the woman my siblings and I refer to as "her" or sometimes "your mother". Bet you didn't know that. Even my older brother and sister that you didn't even raise know what you are. And let's take a moment to reflect upon that. My brother and sister were from your first marriage. You were such a poor example of a parent that you lost custody of my young siblings to their father in the 60's! The 60's! What mother lost custody of her children in court in the 60's? Doesn't that say something? You failed them and you failed me. Perhaps actually they were saved. They were better off without you and thrived with their loving father. I'm sure he wasn't perfect. You spent decades telling me stories of his atrocities as a husband. But he was a good father and you will never take that away from him. I even remember the first time I met George. I was very young. I remember asking you if he was my second dad. I may not remember your words, but I clearly remember your reaction. I was young, I didn't understand. But as an an adult I now understand that you lack grace in character. He is a kind gentle man that has always treated me with a love and respect I never got from you. How does that make you feel? It makes me feel like shit that my own mother couldn't love me or respect me when a man who owed me nothing did. And here's the best part about George; while he never sang your praises to the heavens, he was always respectful with regards to you. His words were not always kind regarding his relationship with you, but he showed so much respect for me, kindness, tenderness, that even when I spoke ill of you, he turned the other cheek. How does that sit with you?
Let's get back to my childhood. To Mother and Father. So dad drank. A lot. We've established that. And why not? You are a miserable controlling bitch. The irony is that this relationship worked for you both. Forget me. You both got what you needed. My father needed someone to take care of him. Someone to feed him, dress him, put his passed out ass to bed, to pick up his drunk ass up from the bar. And you served his every need. You loved it. Loved the control. Craved it like a junky craves heroin. My sister cited at his funeral "we don't know if Carolyn bitched because Ole drank, or if Ole drank because Carolyn bitched." Sadly poignant. I'm not blaming you mother for his alcoholism, but you were the perfect, textbook example of an enabler. And you loved it. What is really laughable is your imagined control of him. Hiding bottles, locking liquor cabinets, watering down drinks, all in the name of control. But on the weekends, as you and I sat watching the beginning of the football games, we could here him cracking open a bottle of whatever was accessible and quietly pouring it into his freshly rinsed out coffee mug. I knew. You knew. But like all dirty little secrets, we both pretended we didn't know what was going on. And then the parties... birthdays, Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve... Oh how you played the part of the shocked but understanding wife when dad was escorted stumbling to the car. They all knew. They were your best friends. And they played their parts as well. And I have a few words for them as well, but later. Such a charade.
Oh childhood. What an absolutely horrendous time for me. If I only knew what impending doom was coming my way, I might of appreciated those moments of fleeting happiness more, held on a little tighter hoping they stuck. Dad drank. You bitched. Actually as I recall very clearly as a small child, you fought, loudly and somewhat violently. I cried myself to sleep every night praying to a God I knew nothing of because you never introduced me to any sort of religion or spirituality. I prayed for it all to stop. I prayed for your happiness together. Then, one night, you heard me, and came to check on me. I clearly remember telling you I wanted you and dad to get a divorce so you would stop fighting and be happy. One of the quirks of my warped, twisted brain is that to protect itself it has completely blocked some memories and others replay as if they just occurred. That night I clearly recall as if yesterday. You actually consoled me to the best of your ability and promised it wouldn't ever happen again. It didn't. Not because the problem was solved, but because you chose to bury the secret deeper. But did that solve anything? Did things get better? No. I learned from you that when things were not pretty, you hid them. You buried your dirty little secrets so no one could see them. You didn't speak of them. Because if you pretend it doesn't exist, then it doesn't, right?
Let's move on to my teens shall we. This is where your facade, my facade, started to truly show signs of fracture. I did everything I could my entire life to please you. Impress you. I never could. I was your project. Your way of showing the world you could raise a perfect child. So I had to be perfect. I tried so very hard in every way. I always tried to impress you with my knowledge only for you to illustrate that you were smarter. Well of course you were. I was a child. But you never gave me a chance. And then there was the benchmark. My brother and sister. And what a benchmark they were. They flourished throughout school, became thriving adults starting their own families, everything I strived to be, just to make you happy. But I wasn't happy. I never learned to be happy with who I was. I played a role. I was an actor in your play and I always played second fiddle. Nothing every impressed you. You never showed pride in my accomplishments unless you could claim the praise. So I was nothing. I was a shell of a human. I never developed as a person. I only ever mimicked what I thought you wanted me to be in my never ending quest to make you happy. A fruitless effort to be sure.
I didn't know at the time, even with my early hospitalisation as a teen, nor did the doctors recognise what was wrong with me. I was young, only sixteen. I had a complete mental break from reality. I only remember bits then waking in the hospital in a daze how many hours or even days later. Not understanding where I was or what had happened. My first complete mental breakdown. I'm pretty sure the only reason I got help at all was because I was suicidal and in a severe depression. However the doctors didn't know what it was or what to call it. They went on your information. I was smart. I was successful in school. I played the role you created. I don't even think the doctors knew then what I was or what to call it. I was a Borderline. I subjugated every instinct I had as an individual to please you. I had no identity. I became whoever and whatever I needed to be to survive the situation. It wasn't until some twenty odd years later I was properly diagnosed.
I have some clear memories of this time. Us sitting in the psychiatrists office discussing my issues. Me attempting to bring up my problems with you and dad. You quickly nipped that in the bud. I was a bad seed. No child of yours would have these thoughts or feelings. The doctors didn't help. I was once again treated like a naughty teen in need of a spanking, and that was it. So I once again, I repressed and conformed. Did what I was told and what was expected. I became no better.
Let's speak of my relationships with men. So I was sixteen and fresh out of the psych ward that helped none whatsoever (just a waste of my time and as you always like to point out, my college tuition). Was it any surprise at this point I latched onto Jamie? He filled a void you never did and also offered the numbing substances available to ease my inner turmoil. What's interesting is that though he was the bad influence (much older and supplying me with drugs and alcohol at 16) but I was the one in control! I'm sure in some way he loved me. I played a role then, your role. I controlled him and used sex as my weapon. That's how I learned a relationship should work. You find an easy target and then use, abuse, manipulate, whatever it took to make them yours. I woke up one day and realised how boring he was and walked away. But all my boyfriends after were similar in the respect that I picked men I could manipulate. I quickly learned what kind of woman they wanted and became the character. I made men fall in love with me over night. Of course they all fell in love with fiction. Because I didn't exist. I had no soul, no identity. In reflection, I feel sorry for my actions, but they weren't really my actions. I was nothing. Nobody. I was what you created. An atrocity.
I'm an adult now and have been through years of therapy, on every psych med known to man it seems, abused a lot of drugs, screwed a lot of men, attempted suicide, and have studied my illnesss at length to better understand myself. To know why I am the way I am. After coming out of my "dark period" (three years of hell I barely survived), I somehow managed to crawl out of my swirling cesspool and clawed my way back to something resembling a normal life. People ask me how I did it, and I honestly have no idea. The devil himself told me I didn't have the intestinal fortitude to survive the world I had been lured into, but he was wrong. I survived. And to some extent I've thrived.
Here's the thing though mom, even though I seem to have a picture perfect life now, behind my smile my illness still stirs. And it has recently been awakened and is pulling me towards the darkness. I'm using every tool I know to fight it. But it's there, lurking in the shadows, haunting my nights and days. And I am now feeling something I never fully experienced before... RAGE. I have so much rage towards you it literally feels like my insides are being ripped apart. I hate what you created. And I will never be able to get rid of it. When you die, I will still live with the nightmare. And when you die, I will not care. In fact, I will be happy that I no longer have to dread the anxiety of speaking to you. People who don't understand my illness will say to just "let you go" and "get over it". But those who know, who understand, know that will never happen. I wish it were that simple. It's not.
Mother, you will never read this and Father is already dead. Perhaps I'll put a copy in your casket so you can rot and burn with my words for eternity. Maybe then I'll find peace.
Saturday, 19 September 2015
Secrets. We all have them. Some we share with the closest of friends. Some we take to the grave. So what happens when you have a mental illness and have a secret you're keeping from a loved one? That's been my latest anxiety trigger.
As a Borderline/Bipolar in the midst of what can only be described as the manic of all manic phases, I have been pulling out every trick in the book to manage my mania in productive ways. Gardening, DIY, walking, etc. But I was craving a crutch. A chemical and tactile release to help calm me in between the chaos. I had no intentions. But one day I found myself at the shop and asked for a packet of cigarettes. In the grand scheme of things, not a big deal. Not drugs. Not scouring the back alleys for some crack or heroine. Just cigarettes. A habit I've never been able to fully commit to. Frankly I've picked them up and dropped them just as easily throughout my life. And now older, and much wiser, if not saner, I realise they are a knee jerk anxiety release. When I'm swimming, swimming, swimming...smoothly through this world, I have no need. Furthest thing from my mind. But a few weeks ago, mania hit me like a tidal wave. Massive turrents crashing down on my head while the rip tides swept my feet out from under me. And I needed something.
Now I don't sit around chain smoking everyday. Well sometimes. Depends on the day. Here's the issue: my wonderful loving husband is and always will be 100% against smoking. So what was I to do. I hid it. My dirty little secret. He'd shuffle off to work all tidy in his suit and tie, me itching and pushing him out the door, just waiting and practically drooling for that early morning fag with my coffee. I nearly chain the first two. And then, depending on the day and what state I'm in, they would come quite regularly or I wouldn't even think about it for hours into the afternoon. I would say no rhyme or reason, but let's face it, when you're in a manic state, there's usually a reason whether you see it or not.
But I'm not here to speak of the reasons for picking up those nasty little treats. I'm here to speak of how I went to great lengths to hide my, which I can honestly say will only be a temporary, dirty stinky nasty habit. I kept my stinky hoodie tucked away in the shed he never visits. I would wear a bandana on my head to protect my hair. I would go through bottle after bottle of body mist. Hand lotions, hand washing, teeth brushing, mouth washing, clouds of perfume... This was my camouflage. And as soon as I knew he was on his way home, quickly chaining a couple for last of the day, and then it was shower time. Feverishly scrubbing and washing away my sins. Febrezing my pile of dirty clothes of the day in a bag of "dirty laundry" waiting to be washed. He never knew. No clue. But the guilt. The shame. It slowing started eating at me. Like a rat gnawing on a carcass. The anxiety grew and grew. And the fact that I was trying to manage the anxiety of my illness made this added anxiety worse. So I did what I finally knew I had to do for my sanity. For better or worse, I had to tell him.
When the day came, just a few short days ago, I skipped my usual cleansing routine. I sat in my little studio waiting for his arrival. Replaying over and over again the coming conversation. He got home and instead of a hug, I made him sit down. "Honey I have something to tell you. I need you to not get mad. I need you to understand. I need you to realise it is only temporary. I have a secret I've been keeping. And I can't lie and deceive you anymore. It's eating me alive. I've started smoking."
What happened next I didn't expect. As my words poured out, his anxiety grew. He immediately jumped to the conclusion that I was cheating on him. I suppose I did build the suspense as he sat there. I laughed. I have never since we've been together even had the slightest inkling of cheating or desire to do so or any interaction with any man that made the idea even flit through my mind for a split second. So relief. I was relieved to have ended the secret. And he was more than relieved to be assured his worst fear was fiction.
It's been a few days now. My anxiety of my secret had decreased (only wish my other anxieties would do the same). I can now freely go hide in my secret garden and engage in my filthy habit. I don't enjoy it really. But for now, temporarily, I'm using this crutch. I hope to replace it with some other healthier habit soon. But for now, it is what it is. And now that I've unveiled my truth, there is a little less anxiety in my life.
Moral of this story... If you are keeping a secret that you feel the need to desperately hide from your loved one, you are slowly breaking down the foundation that holds you up. And that is never a good idea. Honesty. Loyalty. Trust. These things are what hold love together. Without them, the cracks will appear and the foundation will crumble. You won't even see it coming.
Sunday, 30 August 2015
Manic doesn't even begin to describe my state right now. Technically speaking I'm in a "hypo mania" state. Nearly all the way to the edge, but with help of some lovely medication, I haven't crossed over that great divide that would classify me as truly manic. And anyone who has read my posts understands that when I say " lovely medication", I am really saying I have fallen down the rabbit hole and my sad little mad mind has gone trotting along with Alice to the Hatter's tea party and I'm taking every tablet and drinking every potion to try and make sense of the endless tide of thoughts and emotions rushing through my mind. Nothing makes sense. Everything blurs from one fleeting thought to the next.
So how have I been managing to keep the Avalanche that is trying to bury me at bay? I've been busy. Very very busy. I am doing anything and everything I can to burn off this energy before it has a chance to take hold and consume me.
First of all, I'm walking. A lot. I'm blessed enough to have a lovely nature reserve literally outside my front door that leads to open fields and farm paths. I usually take two 2-4 mile walks a day. I change it up by taking harder climbing paths some days and leisurely winding paths others. It helps. Some.
But how am I really burning off this diesel in my veins? Let's just say my husband is a very patient man. I have DIY'd and gardened to the nth degree. We have a converted garage at the back of the house that has gone through many transformations in the past: gym, art studio, shabby chic furniture project storage, camping gear dumping ground, general junk storage, etc. My manic phase started about the same time my husband got a promotion, that meant he was working from home some. As a result, our dining table turned into a make-shift office. His clutter, my clutter, the dust bunnies were taking over. He started talking about converting that back room into an office. Well my "I can't wait, I gotta do it now" brain took over. We cleared out the room in preparation, but I know my husband didn't see what was coming next.
I woke up one day and couldn't contain the manic energy anymore. Our discussions of paint colours and what to do went out the window. I pulled out all the old paint left over from other rooms. I mixed to part tins of shades of white and boom, ceiling done. I then mixed 6,yes 6, different paints to come up with enough to paint the room. Ended up with a quite nice taupe/beige colour. But now what? Still had that fire burning inside me. The bathroom never saw it coming! Boom! Went from a shocking bright tourquoise blue (probably a result of some manic phase a couple years ago) to a soothing misty grey.
In the midst of all this painting, my frustration over not being able to find the tools I needed to do these jobs, led to a complete clean out and overhaul of two sheds. I think we were close to divorce court when I insisted he sort through two old tool boxes crammed with 25 years worth of crap because I had a meltdown when I couldn't find a screw.
So great, I'm getting shit done, right? Problem is my little flitting dragonfly like brain kept moving on to new projects. Is the back room that is now supposed to be an organised office slash art studio done? Nope. Have I finished decorating the bathroom, the tiniest room in the house? Of course not. Those are small tedious tasks. I needed monumental challenges to quench my thirst! Bring on the landscaping!
Now I'm not talking planting a few things here and there. No no no. We dug up the entire front garden so I could create a landscaped rockery. A quintessential English garden complete with climbing roses and a brand spanking new trellis on the porch! And what of the sea of ugly pebbles in the back garden that previous owners felt was preferential to a beautiful lawn? I spent days raking stones up the slope to create a plateau so that we could put in a small retaining wall and plant new grass seed. Managed to convince hubs this was the time because it was autumn and it was the best time.
But what now? Garden is done. In fact, it's beautiful. DIY done (short of ripping out our kitchen which I know would end in divorce court). All I have left are the tedious little projects. These require focus which I am in short supply of these days. Rage & energy? Plenty. But focus is eluding me.
Someone told me to make a list of things to do. I did. First thing on the list: make lists. That's actually how this whole rolling stone gathering no moss of projects got started. I made lots and lots of lists. As quickly as I crossed one task off, I added three more. I'm out of control. And I'm scared. All of my big energy burning jobs are done. Autumn is here and I can smell winter just around the corner. My walks will dwindle as the cold misty British weather reduces my enthusiasm for walking.
So what is next? My biggest fear. Depression. Everyone who suffers the waves of mania & depression fears this most. Running myself ragged and feeding the mania is so much preferable to the lingering cloud that will smother me in the coming months. Days of not even bothering to get dressed, or even days of not getting out of bed. How do I fight that? You can feed the mania, but the depression feeds on you.
So here I sit. Praying for an early Spring.
Monday, 17 August 2015
Today is my 3rd wedding anniversary. I should be happy. But instead I lie here crying. Not because I don't love my husband or am unhappy in my marriage. But because the demons have awoken.
A couple months ago someone started shaking the foundation of my wellbeing. Someone not worth it, but damage was done. My over 8 years of mental stability and happiness has now crumbled to the ground. My illness is awake and dragging me through hell again. Uncontrollable anxiety, fits of rage, debilitating depression, obsessive thoughts, helplessness, and ideation that's put me on the edge of sanity.
When you are "well" you sometimes forget (or try to convince yourself you're cured) of your mental illness. I am Borderline and it took me 35 years of pure hell to find an existence where I was content with who I was. I knew I wasn't cured, everyday was still a struggle, but life was manageable, balanced. I was even happy, seemingly had it all. Nothing flashy. Part time job I enjoyed, small happy home we were slowly making "ours", a handful of good friends. People were actually envious of my life. If they only knew.
That tenuous grasp I had on life has slipped away. I blinked and it was gone. I'm at ground zero. Frantically trying to get my neurones to reconnect and remember exactly how I was able to escape my nightmare the first time and become a seemingly "normal" person again. It's like a child trying to catch bubbles. They look around and spy a big juicy one, they quickly run over and POP! It's gone. And no matter how hard you try, they always disappear.
I saw it coming. Slowly creeping up on me at first like a fog rolling in. I thought I was going to outrun it for a minute, but it was there, slowly enveloping me until I no longer knew which way to run. I breathed it in and it consumed my soul in an instant. The battle was over.
It's early, only couple months in. I'm gathering reinforcements (meds, doctors, therapists, etc), people and things I hoped I would never need again. Here I am. Slowly slipping away. Fighting like hell, but it's so exhausting. Sometimes a good day is just making it out of bed to the sofa. And other days I am able to get stuff done around the house, maybe make dinner, visit my bestie who is luckily my neighbour. I'm somewhat agoraphobic at this point. Leaving our house/garden is hard, and venturing too far away is paralysing. However every thought, feeling, and action is dependent on whatever the next moment brings. Everything is perpetually flying through my head, and if something bad takes hold for more than a few seconds, I'm suddenly fighting demons in my head and I lose all control of my actions. In a split second I can go from calm to sobbing on the floor, or flying around in a rage, or panicking so much I can't breathe. I'm tired. Just so tired.
The fight is real. I hate that so many people still don't understand mental illness, don't believe in it, or put stigma on it. I hate that part of me still feels the need to hide my illness from the world in shame. I know it's difficult to understand sometimes. My husband admits he completely underestimated what it could become if things got bad, and now things are bad and he is frantically trying to make sense of it all. You can't truly appreciate what it's like until someone close to you goes through hell and you're trying desperately to hold their hand while they are desperately trying to push you away. We don't want you to leave. We are just so scared.
I will just keep fighting and praying.