This blog is a collection of a young woman's random thoughts, many tangents, and occasional
short stories and novel excerpts. Stay tuned for plenty of bull and brief moments of brilliance.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

A Reflection on the Last Thirteen Years

How long has it been since I've blogged? Holy crap. I realize, as many times as I've alluded to or described it briefly in the past, I've never written in depth about my own mental health issues. I've always had a bit of an issue with being open in this area in my life for a multitude of reasons. But I feel like it's time I gave it a shot, not for anyone in particular, but for me. As most things with this blog, I write it for me and hope the occasional person will read it...as mildly narcissistic as that may be. Isn't blogging just that to a certain extent? Anyways...

After I graduated college, I didn't expect the numbness toward being creative that I found. Creative writing for the heck of it felt impossible and my work life didn't do much to help. I was a waitress, working odd hours and sleeping when most were awake. When I did have a spare second, I used to it to try to figure out how to get a better job and finance a move to Illinois.

The summer after graduating, I took myself off the medication I had been on since I was around eleven. Mandatory warning: I do not suggest anyone do this on his or her own. It's dangerous and should only be done with doctor supervision or with a doctor's suggestion. Toward the end of my senior year, my doctor at the time pointed out most of my mental health symptoms had subsided or were well regulated, so I should consider weaning myself off the drugs.

The very thought was terrifying to me; they were my security blanket and I didn't want to let them go. I had heard horror story on horror story of people deciding they were fine and going on benders that ruined their lives. Now, for a bit of background.

I was diagnosed with anxiety and depression at a young age, both by circumstance and a genetic predisposition. At sixteen I was diagnosed with PTSD from events in my childhood, though I only got counseling for it specifically when I got to college my freshman year. All the while, from ages 15-22, I was also self-harming. Even as my other mental health issues were under control, the self-harm addition persisted though the end of college.

I've been described by a lot of people as an open person, though the truth is my openness is more of a shield than anything. If you share far too much information about yourself, people won't ask you questions about the things you want to avoid. My subjects of choice? My struggles with mental health and specifically suicide and self-harm.

I don't have a problem talking about depression and anxiety. The average person knows at least a bit about both and though there are definite stigmas wrapped around both, society has come a long way. I promised myself at the age of thirteen never to discuss suicidal thoughts and eventually learned not to talk about cutting either.

I watched one too many movies where characters end up in a psychiatric ward from which they never escape. I already felt a lot of guilt surrounding my depression/anxiety, feeling like I was a burden to people, and thus never discussed my encounters with suicide with my parents. My mom was pretty perceptive and I think she guessed some things, but never confronted me directly about it.

My first suicidal "moment" happened when I was thirteen. What brought it about is not important; what is important was how close I came. My letter was written, erased, and rewritten. I had about half of my funeral  planned in detail (even in my darkest times, I was still irrationally organized). I had two or three concrete plans and what they were aren't important either.

There's a lot of shame in suicide but also a lot of fear. The fear is of being found out, not of death. If someone finds out you're at that edge, they'll try to help and then you won't get to end everything. You feel hyper-rational when you're suicidal and if you focus on it enough it's actually a rather terrifying feeling. It's something I have found difficult to snap out of but I know how it feels when it's coming on.

I'm not entirely sure what pulled me out of that dark place at that age, but I have a rough idea. I started setting small goals for myself or things to look forward to. "Oh, you can't kill yourself, you're going on that field trip next week!" "Wait, not yet, the dance next week will be fun!" I never believed in much of an afterlife so the idea I was going to miss out on impending events was enough to take my life day by day until the clouds slowly dissipated. Does that sound dark and messed up? Because it is.

From there I was fine until this past year. I had defeated the suicide monster for ten years before she reeled her ugly head again. I was a little over a year out of college and my life felt stuck. I was struggling as a waitress and bank teller, working long days and my free time was solo and lonely. Wandering a mall at 11am on a Wednesday is rather depressing. I had an amazing boyfriend who was supportive and loving, but I felt like I was touching my life with thick gloves. I couldn't connect.

I'm a great liar; it's something you learn to perfect when you cut, when you're depressed, when you're feeling like you're losing control. I smile a lot, almost too much to be fair, so even the man I was closest to couldn't see it. I came close, closer than I thought I would after teetering on that cliff so long ago. What pulled me back? Similar to last time with small goals, but as silly as it sounds, Luke helped me immensely. His constant love and support, never judgement, has made all the difference.

Cutting was the same thing. I started when I was fifteen, a result of not yet diagnosed PTSD and a lack of knowledge of how to handle flashbacks. I remember telling my mom when I was sixteen about it and she didn't react in the best way. She cried a lot but she blamed me to an extent, saying something along the lines of, "Why do you keep causing more problems?" I know she didn't mean it, that it was said out of frustration, but it hurt. I stopped and kept clean for almost two years, but that's when the addiction took hold. I did it once because I was stressed out and about something silly and college-y that wasn't a big deal and it felt good. It felt really good. Down the rabbit hole I went.

I told few people about my cutting over the following years, close friends and more random acquaintances. I never gave much detail and I'm not sure if I knew what I wanted to happen as a result. Sometimes, when you have a secret, it blurts itself out in very obtuse ways. Most everyone's reaction was the obvious one: take sharp things away from me and suggest I seek help. After seeing numerous psychiatrists over the years, I was done with the therapy thing; I lied too much to do it honestly. I hated that "admitting" moment with people; it's scary. To me it felt like I was admitting defeat, that I wasn't smart enough to keep my mouth shut, and that I was looking for attention. That last one stings the most.

I despise sympathy to an almost unhealthy level. I hate asking or getting help from people for personal issues and would rather go it alone 99% of the time (I'm trying to get better at this). Relationships came and went, almost all of them experiencing the cutting with me and one point or another and they all tried to help...which makes sense. For some reason though, once people try to help, it only makes me try to push them away or hide it better. Didn't say it made much sense, did I?

Luke was partially the reason I stopped cutting. I've had a few slip ups over the last two years, but I still consider myself two years clean. I remember the first time I cut in our relationship and I texted him; I don't know why. I wasn't looking for sympathy but it had been a long time since I'd picked up a knife and I was scared. For the first time, my addiction was actively scaring me and I couldn't "control" it. A couple hours later I opened the front door and he was standing there with a bouquet of flowers.The tag said, "Happiness Bouquet."

Inquisitively, I looked at him and he said, "Because you deserve to be happy." No rifling though my things to take so much as tweezers from me, no lecture, just love. This isn't to say everyone else's attempts before him were bad; this is just the one that stuck. Between that and my recent suicidal episode, the look on his face when he learns how badly I'm hurting is the most devastating thing I've ever seen.

With all of this background knowledge now, you can see why I was scared to pull the plug, so to speak, on my medication. With a few exceptions, life without medication feels...different. Most of my adolescence was spent medicated, and it's not something I blame my parents for at all. There were times in my life that if I had been without it, I probably would have died. They did what was best for me at the time.

After two years, I feel like most of the drugs are out of my system. The first few months I didn't notice much because that stuff can linger for quite a while, especially after over a decade of use. Eventually though I noticed a few negative things:

  • I freak out more easily than I did before.
  • Smaller things stress me out quickly.
  • Random things can get be down for a day or two for no real reason.
  • My brain feels more frantic if too much is going on.
The most recent suicidal episode was the first time I tried to face that demon head on with no help. And I made it out okay. It was the most blatant answer for me that I was doing the right thing. Though there are some negatives, the good greatly outweigh the bad:
  • My brain feels "clearer."
  • I don't have to worry about forgetting my medication.
  • No more concerns about medications interacting with another.
  • I feel creative again.
That last one has been the most important thing for me. I was creative throughout all of my schooling, yes, but that was partly fueled by the academic atmosphere I was in. Being in high school and especially college, being surrounded by a bunch of talented people makes you want to better yourself. That's one of the biggest slaps in the face when you graduate: no one is there anymore to see if you are trying.

For the first time since I've graduated I'm feeling creative again. I started early this year with cross-stitching. Then, I started baking cookies. Now I'm reading again. All of this is slowly inching me closer to the pen and paper (or Word document more realistically). Is it because of the medication? Because I've finally gotten over the post-college blues? Because I have a job I'm comfortable in and makes me feel fulfilled? Because I live in a great house with a supportive partner and feel happy in general?

Maybe. Most likely, it's a combination of all of the above. I've spent the better part of my life facing demons and monsters around every corner. I'm not sure what to do sometimes without the constant struggle. When life feels settled, something always ends up happening and WOOSH! I'm headed for a tail-spin. But most of all, I've spent most of my time in this life denying my issues to the world.

I hate talking about problems, REAL problems. It makes me feel whiny, weak, and generally like a worthless person. I have this intense fear of being a burden to anyone ever. I'm not going to start spewing my level of happiness for everyone and it will still take me a while before I can freely express my lows. With this new-found stability though, it seems as good as any a time to start. I can't keep denying my struggles to others or to myself or I'll end up in those dark places again. And next time, I might not get out.

My name is Molly. I'm a 24 year old woman who is a dreadful combination of self-esteem issues and overconfidence. I love my dog, my boyfriend, and my job. I struggle with depression and anxiety. I've overcome PTSD and a seven year self-harm addiction. I've come back from two suicidal episodes with a new appreciation on life.

I am a survivor.

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