Jobless Musings of a Mental Health Warrior

What am I going to do? I don’t have a job. I do have an apartment that I’m still able to afford renting for now, so I have a home. I have plenty of frustrations in my life. Every other week I feel suicidal enough to text with the suicide hotline for support. I have two therapists and a psychiatrist. They do what they can with me. I’m not a lost and hopeless cause but my past trauma is complex and difficult to deal with on a daily basis. I remember things that make me feel sad. I remember things that make me feel angry and ashamed. I remember things that make me feel confused. None of it is pleasant.

I don’t even know really how to express myself right now. It’s hard to type because I need to cut my fingernails. My hair is wet because I showered for the first time in a week or so. I have plenty of things to complain about, if you just give me a chance I can list them all. The funniest thing to me was when I told my EMDR therapist that “I’m fat.” She said right back to me without hesitation, “I’m fatter.” That solved that problem. I didn’t have anything more to complain about on that front. I just laughed and couldn’t stop smiling about that response. It’s good to have experiences where you can smile in therapy. It’s therapeutic to be able to smile, even if it’s only for a short while.

I have to take a shit. I have a friend whose nine year old child refuses to take a shit unless he can shower afterwards. So he won’t go to the bathroom at any public place and gets in a bad mood if he has to poo. So I guess my problems aren’t that bad after all if I can shit anywhere I please. Shitting having been taken care of since, I can now focus on other things. Like how discouraging and disappointing and how almost hopeless it is, applying to jobs in the Covid-19 era of life. So many people, thousands of people are unemployed right now, and many people are looking for a job to pay their bills, just like I am. I’m lucky that I have some savings to get me by. Not everyone is that lucky. I guess that makes me really really lucky.

I finally convinced a friend to try going to therapy. I’m taking her tonight and I am paying for the first session. I insisted. I’ve been wanting her to go to therapy for years and finally things are so bad in her life that she’s willing to give it a shot. Therapy has done amazing wonders for me in my life so I definitely recommend it, but you have to make sure you find the right therapist. You’ll just know if it’s the right therapist for you. I had to go through seeing several therapists before I found the right one. And I’ve been seeing him for the past 12 years. Imagine that, over a decade and a third of my life. Like I said earlier, I guess I’m lucky. I made it out of an abusive relationship. Not all women are able to make it out alive.

Yet Another Suicide Plan Averted

It’s half past ten o’clock in the evening on a Saturday night. I was, frankly, supposed to be dead by now. I’m not sure what triggered me. Whether it was staying in bed all day for days on end and being angry with myself for that, or the violent television programs that I’ve unfortunately been watching. Whether it was triggered by a flashback of my traumatic past (I think I would remember a flashback) or by my incessant self-hatred, which also stems from being abused. All I can say is that my therapist is in the business of saving lives and helping people live their best life possible. I am grateful for him.

Twenty-four hours ago I sent a message to my brother saying goodbye. He promptly phoned me and we talked for a while. I felt better after we had talked, and less suicidal. My plan had been to go through with my suicide plan after seeing my therapist one last time for our regular scheduled session. But as usual, with a good night’s sleep, and with having spoken with my brother, I was much less determined to kill myself. And by the time my therapy session was over, I had decided to not go through with it.

Am I glad to be here still? Yes. Plus, death is violent, no matter how you try and sugarcoat it for yourself. Me causing my own death would have been a violent act. Plenty of people, including my dog, would have been left with confusion and heartache. It was very impactful at the end of our session when my therapist, who has known me for twelve years, said that he would have been sad if I had killed myself.

But I was so determined to do it. I was sure that this was the answer and solution to solve my pain. Not healing. There’s a part of me that doesn’t want to be healed because that would take away the option of suicide as a way out. If I were healed, fully and completely, then I wouldn’t want to kill myself anymore. I’ve been suicidal for almost a decade, off and on. What would I be without the option to die by suicide? I would have to live out the rest of my life and, well, that scares the shit out of me.

I’m glad to be here still. I’m glad I get another chance at life. I get to have the option of having a family one day. I get to have the chance at holding my brother’s baby in my arms and becoming an aunt one day. I don’t have to end things now. I am “free, pure, and blessed,” as one of my former mentors used to say. Any positive self talk I can get, I will take it, as it’s far and few in between. I am here to stay.

So I’m here. “Free, pure, and blessed,” as a former mentor of mine used to say. I have my life ahead of me. For this damaged yet vibrant woman in her mid-to-late thirties, there will be a tomorrow. I have another chance at life. I have the opportunity to continue healing. I have the chance to grow. I might have a family some day. I might get to experience the joy of becoming an aunt and holding my brother’s baby in my arms. Just maybe, the darkest days won’t hold be captive any longer and I can break through the muddy muck of awful thoughts to find a morcel of hope which will carry me through until tomorrow, and then the next day and the next, one day at a time.

Healing and What Depression Feels Like

I am eating oats, the old-fashioned kind that you have to cook on the stovetop for 30 minutes, not the kind you cook for 5 minutes or just put hot water in. I have coffee off to the side sweetened with maple syrup. My friend taught me to do that. Not the sugary syrup coloured to look like maple syrup but actual maple syrup. I like real food and real ingredients when possible. Fresh produce, not canned. All of this is slightly comforting because I’ve had not comforting thoughts in my mind lately. So external comfort is welcome. Plus I’m living. I’m actually living in this moment. I’m doing what living people do, that is, eating food and drinking a beverage and just, being awake.

In the last week, I haven’t wanted to be awake. I haven’t been awake much. A majority of the past one week I’ve spent sleeping in bed and feeling very, very depressed. Today, after walking my dog at 7 am, I decided to be like most “normal” people and not go back to sleep. I decided to live for a bit, instead of hiding out in my bunker, aka my bed. When I’m in bed, alone or with my dog, nothing bad can happen to me. Except for the memories. The trauma memories are horrific and terrifying. I hate it when they appear. When I sleep too much I tend to have strange, bad dreams, but I would much rather take those over reality. My reality. My reality is peppered with memories of sexual abuse from over a decade ago. I really just can’t stand it anymore. I cannot live with myself when those memories resurface, and somehow get triggered.

In January this year, I just remember screaming. I was driving home from the office of a new therapist I had been seeing for five months, to try out a different type of therapy than what I was used to, and it was night time. I started driving home, twenty minutes is what it took, and I just started screaming at the top of my lungs in terror because of the faulty therapy session which had pushed me to the brink. I don’t remember how I got home safely and I didn’t even think to pull over and stop driving for my safety because in those moments I was back in 2008 in my mind and being sexually abused. It was happening in my mind but not in reality, and I was terrified. Back then I was not cognizant of the abuse that was happening to me, and I just let it happen. It seemed like I didn’t have a choice. I disassociated while it was happening so that in my mind I was detached and somewhere else. But having a flashback over a decade later sent me spinning into oblivion. And that is, I was having a mental emergency.

Earlier this year when this flashback was induced and I experienced more terror than I had in a long time, I became immediately and acutely suicidal. I checked myself into a crisis house instead of going straight to the hospital. I’m not sure what is worse, a crisis house or a hospital, but I know that a crisis house is less acute. I had never been to one before. I still owe them money and haven’t settled the bill from now half a year ago. I’m sure it’s been sent to collections… the story of my life.

Now a week later, the fog of my recent depressive episode has finally somewhat lifted. You have to know, it’s really difficult, living with depression and feeling majorly depressed. It feels like you’re weighed down by a ton of bricks that you’re not carrying, but that essentially own you and you can’t get rid of. And even though you may have a regular heartbeat and a normal breathing pattern, at the same time it feels like you can’t breathe. You sleep all the time because you’re afraid of what may come into your mind if you’re awake. Nightmares are preferable to the reality that’s in your waking mind because when awake you are filled with the terror of memories of past abuse that feel like those events just happened and that a decade hasn’t actually gone by, that they happened yesterday. You’re filled completely and overwhelmed with feelings of guilt and shame and horror and absolute disgust with yourself that you could have let those things happen to you. So in this depression, you don’t want to be dead. You just don’t want to be alive. So when I say that I am “doing things that living people do” right now, like drinking coffee and eating oatmeal, well, that’s a monumental step towards my healing.

Thank you for listening. I don’t ever want someone to try to solve my problems for me. All I ever want is an empathetic ear to listen to what I have to say, someone to hold space for me while I go through this long and ancient process of healing, someone like my therapist who has never left me, never once emotionally abandoned me in the 12 years we have worked together. For this, I am grateful.

Schindler’s List in the Midst of an Epidemic

I am not about to write anything profound. I am sitting here on my bed in the middle of a city in the United States of America, a country I am glad to be in but am not proud of, letting out some well-earned tears after watching Schindler’s List. It is a movie I had not seen before and probably wouldn’t have gotten around to seeing for a while had I not been unemployed. But the company I have given five years of my life to, five years of my recovery from PTSD and depression, have graciously let me go thanks, apparently, to the coronavirus. Thanks to them I no longer suffer from work stress and get to sleep as much as I want to. The trouble with having depression is that I do want to sleep all of the time.

I attended an online Buddhist meetup group today. We talked about the value of life and about how precious life is, not only human life but all life on earth including that of an insect. In Japan, rather than kill a spider in the home, you catch it in a glass container, slide a piece of paper under the opening and return the spider to the natural habitat of the outdoors, wishing it luck. Well maybe not the latter part but I have been doing this practice for many years now.

There are some people who don’t value their own life. This I believe may be diseased thinking, that is, an illness talking. It is my illness talking when I say that I want to die. It is my humanity speaking when I say that I am grateful to be alive today. There are people out there on the front lines risking their lives to save lives, only the front lines are not on a battlefield, they are in hospitals. People, otherwise healthy individuals, are dying, and it’s not just “the old” people. Young people are dying too. The COVID-19 virus does not discriminate and can take anyone from us. It is a virus that is invisible to the human eye, yet its effects are far-reaching and devastating. People aren’t able to breathe and there aren’t enough ventilators to save every human life. Doctors are having to play God and choose who lives and who dies.

Not only did I lose my job but, at a time like this, my landlord is evicting me. They won’t do a walk-through of my unit because of the virus, yet they expect me to expose myself by going out and shopping for a new home, looking at prospective apartments. People hear this and assume it’s because I couldn’t pay rent. That’s not true. I’ve never missed a month and I don’t plan to if I don’t have to. It’s because my greedy landlord wants to sell and get the money. He owns multiple properties. Sure I get it, but at a time like this? I sent him an email asking if he would do this to his own daughter, have her expose herself to a deadly virus by going out and looking at apartments. Of course, I got no reply. I keep thinking secretly to myself that when they do the walk-through eventually, I will just “accidentally” sneeze on the property manager who has been very nasty to me, without covering my mouth. It’s the only thought that gives me some sort of comfort.

Life is precious and this, by all means, is not the end of mine. I will live until tomorrow to tell my story. My therapist hasn’t stood by my side every week for the past twelve years for nothing. I met him when I was 24 years old, in the midst of the years of abuse in that past traumatic relationship, and now I am 36 years old, have been away from the abuse for eight long years. Because of the ECT’s I have lost many memories and sometimes the night I left my abuser seems just a stone’s throw away. But I made it out. And if I made it out of an abusive relationship which kept me prisoner for twelve long years, from the age of 16 to 28, then you, my friend, can make it out of whatever situation you are in too. It won’t last forever. Nothing does. Feelings come and then they go and nothing ever remains the same, except you. You remain. The feelings go, and you remain. Never forget that.

My Duty

What’s a woman to do other than to post a blog entry? I’ve been applying to jobs today. The rest of the weekend I spent completely in bed. I only got up to walk my dog a few times a day. I haven’t accomplished much and I don’t feel like a go-getter. I want a new job with the least effort possible in terms of the application process. I don’t know if that’s possible, but we shall see.

It has been a week since I’ve been out of the crisis house. I was truly in a crisis and being at the house helped. I even got my own room to myself because there weren’t enough women in the home to have a double occupancy in the room. I’m trying to put my book together, that is, my poetry book. The other book I’ve already got put together, I just need to submit to publishers. But how many people really want to hear about what an inpatient psychiatric hospitalization is like? I suppose those who are just starting out in that industry may be interested in what it’s like from a patient’s firsthand perspective.

Will I ever get published? Will I ever stand in front of a crowd and be able to tell my story of horror and trauma with a straight face? My therapist said that no one has to know my story, no one, should I make that choice. But I feel as if it’s my duty of being alive to share my story with others who have survived similar ordeals in order to give them hope.

Crisis House Episode

Coffee appears out of nowhere here at the crisis house. I wake up in the morning and pour the hot, blackish liquid into my double-walled plastic cup that I brought from home from a large, black vat. Eventually the coffee runs out and there is none left. That’s how I feel about my hope. Some days it’s there, but then the negative thoughts creep in and leave me wanting of more.

Today I am going over the events of a few days ago, how I sat at work not getting much work done and feeling intensely suicidal with a plan to drive to a bridge and jump off. That’s something I fantasise about a lot when feeling suicidal. My suicidal thoughts have gone from about every other week to every week now. Feeling suicidal once weekly is nothing to be ashamed of, yet I feel shame that others in my life know about it. I told my boss I was feeling suicidal. He was understanding. I just couldn’t keep it away from him any longer, the frequent hospitalizations that he as my boss has had to be understanding about. I’m just lucky to have a job at all and that I am able to make it to work most days.

I don’t know if I have bipolar disorder. My psychiatrist thinks I have type 2 which is the not-so-obvious type of bipolar disorder to have. Honestly I don’t know much about it and am much more familiar with the symptoms of severe clinical depression, also known as major depressive disorder, and those of PTSD, which I also have. Some people want to say that I have Borderline Personality Disorder in addition to these things but I just don’t know. The mass of labels just seem overwhelming.

I spoke with my Mum. I think she probably feels sad that there is not much she can do to help me other than to listen. I mean, I’m pretty much self-sufficient. I have a place to live and my roommates are taking care of my dog. I have a job even though I’m having to take some time off. Oh, and it’s a stressful job at that. How I manage the stress, I don’t know either. I just go to the bathroom and cry and that releases some of the tension. I feed myself even though I don’t do a great job of that either. Right now my pantry is full of dry food and the fridge is empty. Hard to find food to eat when you don’t have the energy to cook up that dry pasta and would rather just lay in bed.

I’m not a delinquent although I feel that way sometimes. I’m actually a person who is worthy of all the things someone gets to enjoy who doesn’t have PTSD. Only the negative thoughts and feelings of sadness and worthlessness and being hopeless get in the way.

This is Not the End

I have been having a strange sensation lately that I am not alone. I am not alone in my depression. I am not alone in deciding that this is not the right time to go back to school. I am not alone in being a survivor of an abusive relationship which ended years ago and yet which still affects me inadvertently today. I am not alone in my suffering. Others suffer too. I’m not the only one.

In sharing my suffering on Twitter @DepressionMuse, I have seen how a community can come together and help each other. Modern technology and community, in this sense, is really amazing.

Today was the drop deadline for the two classes I was signed up for in my gradate program for Marriage and Family Therapy. I am no longer enrolled in an MFT program. I am no longer an MFT student. This has been my identity for some time, so it’s going to be hard letting go of that, and figuring out who I am when I’m not studying psychology. Sure, I could study on my own regardless of a degree, but this DBT Therapy is so energy-sucking and all-consuming that every part of my conscious awareness is going towards healing the PTSD that resulted in the abusive relationship I endured.

Trigger warning… well, not really. But you know, the relationship didn’t start out abusive. He was charming and I fell for it. He groomed me for a number of years before the really traumatic abuse began to happen. And it took me being in years of therapy healing wounds from my childhood before I was able to face what was actually happening to me at the time. I was young. I met him when I was a teenager and it lasted throughout my 20s. It’s really not my fault although I blame myself daily for it.

I suffer from guilt and a lot of shame. In fact, I’m crying as I type this out because this is triggering for me but I just have to get it out. I spend most of my time sleeping because sleeping is much less painful. I finally got out of bed at 1:00 PM today. Fast forward seven hours and here I am listening to Jasmine Thompson singing in the background with a candle on, trying to help myself feel better. I’m not in actual pain. Well, isn’t pain relative? The memory of the pain right now is what is hurtful.

How am I ever going to be healthy enough emotionally to be able to become a therapist? Now that I am no longer enrolled in a program, that means I have to reapply. I have to send in new applications and do new program interviews and write new admission essays. I have to do it all over again. But I can do this. I know I can.

This isn’t for nothing, you know. The pain, the suffering, getting through it all, not killing myself when that’s all I want to do sometimes. It’s not for nothing. Because one day, I am going to help someone who went through what I went through. And I am going to help that person learn to suffer less, so that they can have a more meaningful life worth living.

Am I ready?

The answer to this question is very clear to me. I am not ready to go to school to get my Marriage and Family Therapy (MFT) degree. Hey, see, I’m only 35 now and I’m still struggling with my own trauma which lasted for six years and ended seven years ago. That’s over a decade of first having the trauma happen to me, then suffering endlessly from major depressive disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD. People can go back to school when they’re 50, right? Meaning, I have time. I have plenty of time to become a healer, but right now I need to be healed and trust me, I’ve been working on it.

My last suicide attempt wasn’t much more than six months ago. That’s not very long. I know it would take me five years to finish school, and that would give me healing time, but what would life be like without stress? Without school? What would life be like if I just lived my life, without adding extra “stuff” to my plate? What would life be like if I could just focus on myself and my poetry and not have stress and anxiety? Just imagine. Is that so hard to imagine? For me, it is really is hard to imagine. What could my life be like if I just lived it like a “normal” and “average” person.

You see the trouble is, I’m not just average, and that does bode for trouble. I have all of these dreams, ambitions and desires. Depression and PTSD didn’t kill my dreams, although it has inhibited them. I still like to do things, and I still do things. I have my volunteer job with kids that I go to twice a month. That gives me joy and fulfillment. I really like it and I’m really lucky to have that volunteer job. Not everyone qualifies to work with children, but I passed the requirements and now I belong to this really cool organization that helps at-risk children. I have a connection. Tell me that’s not cool.

I just applied to a company and had an interview. It’s a Sales Assistant position, which is what I do now, but instead of working with Financial Advisors I would work with a cybersecurity company. The job would be a lot more stressful and would require me to do overtime every week but there is growth potential with that company. However, I don’t even know yet if I will get a job offer. I have no idea, although I think that the interview went okay.

I have all of these options. Do I stay in my graduate program and take just one class for a whopping $2,600 including books (that’s the price of just one class at this private university) or do I take a class for fun at a Junior College for a mere $300 and just have fun with it? Or do I take no classes and just enjoy my life and go to more poetry readings around town with my free time?

Thinking long-term I might apply to an MBA (Masters in Business Administration) program, especially if I do get the new job because they may offer tuition assistance, and then it doesn’t make sense to not do it, because, while working for them I could work towards a higher degree, it just wouldn’t be in psychology. I can always do my clinical psychology program at a later time in life, and gosh, I think I will. But not right now. Do you concur, or do you think I should continue with my MFT program? Your thoughts are valuable to me and I would be curious to know what you think about all of this… Thanks, Depression Muse signing out.

Struggles = Cuddles and Self Care

It’s been a long time since I’ve allowed myself to put words in written form to my experience. My dog is laying by me and asking for pets. Really, this whole month has been a struggle, from beginning to end. I don’t like my job any longer. There’s too much to do at work and there is only one of me. I am struggling so much. Every day is a huge labor of I don’t know what because it certainly isn’t a labor of love. Help me, God… is anyone out there? Can anyone hear me? So, that’s pretty much how I feel.

I should be posting on my Patreon site right now, my monthly subscribers are due for a post but I just cannot bring myself to do it. Why why why. Dinner? Three pita breads with olive spread and some organic grapes. That’s all I could manage to do for myself. Thank goodness for frozen meals for my lunches at work. Tomorrow will be a long day and I am not looking forward to it. Sometimes, like right now, I wish I could just sleep all day. I would do it if I had the time and I’ve done it before. But my therapist wants me to get to church and schedule other activities. I’m supposed to act opposite to what my depressive behaviours are telling me.

I really don’t want to do anything right now. I barely even want to be writing. But I can finish this paragraph, and then see if another one starts. Sometimes you just have to take it step by step and do what they call “baby steps” until you get there, whatever the “there” for you is. In this case, getting “there” is the end of the day and here I am, thankfully, very grateful.

My Amazon Alexa is playing meditation music in the background and that is helping. My dog is snoring. I have twinkle lights on in my room which look very pretty and lend enough light to where I don’t have to have any other lights on. I wish I could stay in this environment all day long. Alas, tomorrow is another workday. I just hate my job. I should be looking for new jobs but you know the funny thing is, at the end of the day, I just don’t have the energy. I don’t have any energy to apply to new jobs and the few I’ve applied for have not selected me for interviews. Can we do this again? Let’s do today all over again and I’ll still be wishing for eternal sleep…

I am fighting the urge to not go back to bed. It’s Saturday morning. My depression is low and frankly, I would like to say that in these very moments, I am not suffering from depression. It’s a pretty amazing feeling. The last several weekends I have been sleeping my days away. I stay in bed until 4:00 PM. Of course, I walk my dog in the morning and at night but then I get right back into bed and close my eyes. This weekend has the potential of being different. I could actually live my life. Some people live for weekends. I’ve been hating them. Work keeps me on a regular schedule and I’ve been just barely surviving.

DBT Therapy is going well I think. Class is good. We have a Skills Group weekly, it’s like going to a class. We learn coping skills. Not really sure what else to say. My dog is snoring by my side whilst I type and it’s incredibly calming and soothing. I love my dog so much. I wish everyone got to experience the love of a companion dog like this. We’re together all the time when I am home and we sleep together. I love him so much. It was so sad that he had to stay with a dog sitter this summer for six weeks whilst I was in hospital.

We lost another financial advisor at work. My former coworker was asking me if I was going to jump ship too or stay at my company. This happens in the financial services industry. People come and they go. I’ve been at my company for four years now. Even though the job is stressful, I like it. I like my job. I get to feel a sense of accomplishment every day that I work. The clients like me. It is a good feeling.

Can you tell I’m not feeling so depressed? I mean, I’m not talking about depression, well, yes I am, but it just feels different right now. I am drinking coffee on a Saturday morning and there is nothing I have to do. I am not obligated to do anything. I don’t have kids to play with and I have a dog who is low-maintenance who just wants to sit by my side the whole time. Aren’t I lucky today… I just have to remind myself that I am still in recovery. I have that posted as a sticky note on my bathroom mirror, “I am still in recovery.” Because I have to remember to be kind to myself.