I bleed freely

Yes, I’m talking about my period. When it’s bright red like it’s supposed to be I feel as if everything is right with the world, my world. I feel free, because no one is inconvenienced by my menstruation. I have no sexual partner. I have no one around me with any expectations when it comes to my body. I get to own my body. And I get to make decisions. Am I going to wear a tampon or a pad or both as back up? Am I going to wear the extra long pad tonight so that when I’m lying to my side in bed the blood won’t ease it’s way up my butt crack and make its way onto my panties and possibly onto my bed sheets? Yes! These are the things people don’t like to talk about. But they are a part of everyday life and I am not afraid to talk about them just like I’m not afraid to talk about my mental illness.

You know they make all kinds of products for women’s menstruation? There are heavy absorption and light absorption products. There are pads with wings and extra thick pads that make you feel like you’re wearing a rag. Women used to use rags. Rags! And then they had to wash them after each use, hang dry them for reuse. Reusable cloths. This is where the phrase “on the rag” comes from. But we don’t remember those days, do we? A newer generation that has it easier.

I’m very lucky that I don’t get cramps. I just completely lucked out! And when my period doesn’t come for a month or two, I don’t worry because I think it is normal. Other people would worry a lot and head straight to the doctor. What’s wrong with me?! But even without the period talk I think that’s a question I used to unconsciously ask myself all the time. Or the belief that “there must be something wrong with me.”

Why is he upset with me? I must have done something wrong. He played on my guilt. He perfected his craft. He trained me, molded me, coached me, groomed me into doing what he wanted me to do. See, I could go on about this forever. It’s a part of my life and I haven’t talked about it enough, in general, and to enough people. But “people” don’t want to hear it. They don’t want to talk about sexual abuse, marital rape, mental illness, chronic depression, suicide attempts, ECT’s. “People” just want to live their lives and thanks to social media they come across some stories that they wouldn’t have otherwise come across.

I haven’t talked about it enough, so I’m now going to therapy twice a week. I haven’t talked about it enough so I’m going to find a sexual abuse survivors group to talk to. I haven’t talked about it enough and I want the world to know what I went through, but the world doesn’t want to hear it. They wouldn’t be able to handle it. I am tough shit, because I lived through it. I am a warrior because I live with the knowledge that it happened to me every day. My supportive network is full of champions because they treat me kindly and with compassion. I have something. I have enough. My story is out there and people will find it if they want to.

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Becoming okay again

The leaves are falling and the days are becoming shorter. The first rain has come and gone. Nine months ago I could have not foreseen this season coming. I was living in the “now” and unable to see much into the future. I was still surviving and doing my best to cope. Different coping skills are warranted at different times. My current coping skill to deal with the mental fatigue is writing with my head cocked to the right. Right now, in this moment, I am okay.

As the months have passed, I have been able to recognize that I do have a future. I can foresee all the way into next Spring, when I will find out or not if I got into the University I had hoped for. Applications have yet to be started. I know that I have a future because I no longer want to die. I look forward to my appointments with my therapist and as soon as one session is over, I cannot wait until the next, though I do need recovery time in between. I would not be able to do that kind of introspective and difficult self-discovery work every day. I admire him that he does do that work with other people every day.

Now and then I feel sad. Sometimes I feel anger toward my ex-abuser. Less often do I find myself angry with me. Depression, it is said, is anger turned inwards. I have become more accepting of myself, my body, my self worth as a person, someone who deserves to have a positive future. I suffer less emotional depression even though I still exhibit a lot of behavioural signs of depression, such as staying in bed for 22 hours in a 24 hour period, or not showering as often as I should, not exercising, not going for walks. For the most part, however, I am able to take care of myself. I eat. I shop for groceries. I go to the ATM. I am a good driver. I go to work.

This was a difficult week. I experienced extreme anger – rage – and I expressed that in a letter to my ex-abusers’ future wife. Then I tossed and turned for several nights and even had to take a day off of work. Now that I have resolved to not actually send that letter, I feel more at ease. But what is leftover from the anger turned outwards is extreme sadness. I am sad for all of the hurt that I endured, all of the emotional pain that I have battled with. I am grieving the loss of my self. I lost myself and now I am finding myself, really, for the first time in my life. When I got together with my ex I was still a teenager and my full self had not yet formed or had a chance to develop. Now I am allowed to be whole and to be me.

Why didn’t I ask for more intensive therapy sooner? Why didn’t I do it? I thought it would be a burden to my therapist. I didn’t want to take up even more of his precious time. Yet, he did not hesitate one beat when I asked to see him more than once a week. “What are you doing this Saturday,” he asked me. “Nothing,” I replied between sobs. “How’s 2:00?” He had his schedule memorized. He didn’t even need to look at his calendar. He is going to dedicate himself fully to me, yet again, from 2:00 – 3:00 this Saturday. “That means you have to get out of bed, can you handle that?” “Yes,” I replied sheepishly. Yes, I will get out of bed for you, if it’s the last thing I do. I will not miss a chance to see you because I love you and I need you.

I feel relieved because it’s Thursday night, just 26 hours since I last saw my therapist, and I only have to wait two and a half more days to see him again. Much less anguish, less stress, less anxiety, because I know he will talk to me and help me and say things that help make my life okay again. Because my life was not okay this week and I was not okay. But I am becoming okay again.

Not enough therapy

I didn’t go to work today. I called in sick. Actually I emailed in, I didn’t even call. I stayed in bed literally all day, until 6:35 PM when I had to get up to go see my therapist for our weekly session. We agreed that I am going to see him twice a week for a while, and see how it goes. I have felt for a long time that once a week isn’t enough any more. I write him emails about my day every day and I’ve told him several times by email, but have never had the courage to say it in person yet, that once a week isn’t enough. In addition to seeing him this Saturday, he is going to help me look for a sexual abuse survivors group. I tried looking on my own and found a group that looks like it would work but after contacting the group therapist it turns out there are not enough people committed to the group to hold session. So he said he will keep me in mind. My therapist thinks that this would be a very good idea, since it appears there are still some things that I need to work through. Friends and family can’t understand because they haven’t gone through similar things that I have. They haven’t been sexually abused. They often can’t handle if and when I talk about it. But in a group it’s okay to talk about those things especially if the other people in the group have gone through similar experiences.

I am going to be getting more therapy. Therapy, therefore, will be more intensive. I am ready. I am ready to work hard in therapy. I want to work hard. I want to work harder than I have ever worked before, because I am sick of feeling sad and depressed. I am tired of the tears. They are exhausting. I didn’t have to feel today, because I was asleep. I didn’t have to think. But during my therapy hour, I felt deeply. I felt very deeply. And I cried a lot. I almost couldn’t stop crying. Sure, it must have been cathartic, but I felt as if I was drowning, and my therapist was there to keep me afloat.

I feel awake right now. I am awake. My eyes are open. For the first time today. I’ll have to go to work tomorrow, and I’ll have to do actual work while I’m sitting at my desk. I’ll have to find a way out of this darkness and despair. My therapist pointed out a pattern to me. It seems as if, now and then, I bring myself back into this very dark place. And it’s hard. It’s difficult. It’s really difficult. Why did I go on the internet and look up my ex-abuser’s name? Why did I try to do research? Logging into his old accounts. Looking for something. What did I think I was going to find? Something to prove his guilt? Some kind of justification for all of the pain I have been through, that he put me through, which I continue to put myself through?

I told my therapist I didn’t even brush my hair today. He said he didn’t brush his either. He’s funny like that, and it made me laugh. He doesn’t have much hair to begin with and it’s so very short. Of course, it was a joke to lighten the mood, my mood, and it worked. I admired his square lamps. I touched the fabric of the shade and ran my hand along it. I told him I don’t know anyone else with square lamps. Touching them was to ground myself. It was a way of bringing my mind back to the present, and I did it on my own, automatically. I have learned some coping skills over the years.

I think this next year is going to be hard, because I am ready to work hard. I have been through harder things before. I have gotten stronger and stronger over these last few years. I still have a long way to go. I used to have to sleep with the light on. I used to not be able to leave my apartment. I used to have much more difficulty with showering, though I still hem and haw about it, and that’s not a PTSD thing, I don’t think. There is so much wrong with me!!! How is it that I am supposed to live?! Not like this. Not like this. Not like this.

Why do I bring myself back to the dark places? Feelings come and then they go, and I remain. My mantra in therapy. Is there something I haven’t been able to let go of? The anger. The resentment. The monumentous amount of anger. That I was wronged. That I will never be able to get “justice”. That I have to keep living. Not like this. I can’t do it any longer. Not like this.

I just took a deep breath. Sometimes it helps to breathe. I love my therapist. We have such a deep, strong bond and connection. I trust him with everything, and I can tell him anything, even that I love him. There was a time when going to therapy twice a week was too much for me to handle, like I didn’t have enough time in between to recover. But things are different now. Things are different and I am stronger. I just keep getting stronger. Now I want to stop thinking about this and just lay on my couch in the dark of the night and not think.

Own It.

I have to own my illness. I have to own my story. This is my story, not yours, damn it! You can’t tell me that I wasn’t a victim, that I knowingly took part in those acts, that I have responsibility to burden and bear. I was coerced, manipulated, infantilized, abused, exposed, indignified, raped, pimped, emotionally wounded, psychologically distressed, innocent…

I can’t go on. I started this rampage a day or two ago but I can’t go on. I am unable to concentrate at work. I toss and turn at night and wake up every hour. Ever since I found out that my ex-abuser is getting married, I’ve been wanting the world to know my story. The world! I want everyone that he knows to know my version of the story. Why? Why do I need their acknowledgement and validation? Why care about other people’s opinions? Why care about his happiness versus mine? I don’t! I care about the woman he is going to hurt over the next years, and the child that he might bring to this world who will have to live with him as a psychologically abusive, manipulative, childish, and potentially sexually abusive, objectifying father. God forgive us all if he has a girl. That’s abuse that could have been preventable. Or could it?

I can’t concentrate. I am infuriated. Beside myself. With anger, with rage. It’s not that he’s moving on in his life; we have both moved on. It’s that he’s sinking his fangs into another innocent soul. Someone probably unexpecting and susceptible just like I was.

I shared my last post, the “Warning Letter,” with a lot of people. I got mixed reviews. Some people told me simply that it was a great blog, that I’m such a good writer, that they’re proud of me. Some told me they would send it. Others have told me that it’s none of my business, their relationship and what goes on in between them, and that I should stay out of it, and focus on my own mental health. He’s totally the kind of person who would sue. If I sent her a warning letter, he would either serve me with a restraining order, sue me for defamation or harassment, and it would all be written off as me being the “jealous ex-wife” who’s still in love with him. Only I’m not.

I shouldn’t have looked him up in the first place. I shouldn’t have Googled his name. Why did I do it? To be honest, I’m not sure, but he has been in my dreams lately, in a different way. In my dreams, I am fighting back. I woke myself up one morning by punching the air and shouting out loud “asshole”. I couldn’t remember the rest of the dream, but that was the most important part, right there.

I shared the letter with a Catholic friend and she reminded me patiently to never, ever, ever send her anything about my story and the experiences I went through again because it is “tainting her purity” and she needs to protect herself. Seriously?! I mean, right, I guess I can understand. Some people just can’t handle the truth. But the memories of the abuse and the lasting effects and my past suicide attempts, those are something I have to live with every single day of my life. It is MY reality. It doesn’t go away. It isn’t always as intense but it doesn’t go away.

I shared the letter with one of his ex-employees. At first I told this person that my ex had cheated on me. That, he understood. Then I told him I had been sexually abused. He didn’t believe me. He said, “even if it were true (which I’m not saying it is) you played your part.” Personal responsibility and all that shit. That I’m not a victim. Is he saying I wanted it?? That I wanted to get raped and pimped out to hundreds of men?! I was vulnerable, yes. I was codependent and he was narcissistic and it played hand in hand. I lost myself to him and he was everything I lived for. I had no sense of self and no sense of reality or normalcy. My “normal” was what others would call a “living nightmare”.

How am I supposed to go back to work after this? I can’t even concentrate! All I am thinking about is this stupid letter and whether or not I should send it to this lady who will be his new wife, and knowingly not acknowledging that I really should not send the letter because I could get sued and I don’t want to lose all of my money to this, something that could be and will be preventable. The “not contacting him”. Or his wife. And I don’t want to have a restraining order on file.

In the end, it’s not my responsibility. It’s not my job to prevent another person’s life being potentially ruined. If it wasn’t her, it would be somebody else. I can’t stop him from living his life and hurting other people. Everything will come back to him in the end, right? Won’t it? He thinks he’s all that. He has rich, powerful, influential friends and business contacts. So what? It can’t hurt me, as long as I stay out of it.

I’ve wondered for a long time and have gone back and forth on whether I should publish my abuse and survivor story under my real name or under a pen name. If I do it under my real name, that story will forever be associated with my name, and will be on the internet, for anyone to see. If, however, I publish under a chosen identity that is not mine, then my story will be out there to help others potentially, without it harming me. But I want justice! I want people to know the truth! Is that so egotistical? Or is it normal to feel that way? We can have feelings, which doesn’t mean we have to act on those feelings.

I’m all confused. I don’t know what to do. I feel jumbled up inside my mind. I want to see my therapist tonight but I don’t get to see him until tomorrow. I want my mind to rest, to be at peace. I want to be okay with myself and my body and my life and my mind. I want to have health, and happiness, and children, and an intimate, adult, mature, sexual relationship with another person. I want to live again and I want to stop spending weekends in bed because I am only hurting myself. I still dread the weekends because I have nothing to look forward to and despite having slept all weekend I do not feel “rejuvenated” after the weekend. I just go to work in that same mental space of drudgery.

So, in the end, do I really own my story? Can I fess up to the people who are closest to me that my story is my reality and that I live in that reality every day? The knowledge of what happened to me haunts me and makes me a better and stronger person all at the same time. I wouldn’t be who I am without my past, yet I wish my past had not been as it was. I would much rather have a more simple life than the one I was dealt. I would much rather know myself and be fully okay with myself. I’m working on it. Slowly. Every day. Step by step. Moment by moment. I can do this.

Warning Letter

To the future wife of my ex-abuser and ex-husband,

Soon you will be a newlywed. I’m sure you don’t want to hear this. I would like to believe that people can change. But people like your future husband do not change, unfortunately. You may or may not know that he was sexually abused when he was two and a half years old. Not all abusers become abusers, but this was not a unique case. This man you are about to marry became one of those abusers.

I’m sure you like the gifts he gives you, the clothes he buys you, the expensive restaurants he takes you out to, the expensive car he drives, the nice home you probably share together. Just know, that ultimately, those gifts come with a price. Someone like this man does not give for the sake of giving. He expects much in return. He expects fierce loyalty, so much so, that you would do anything for him. And I mean, anything.

Has he admitted to you yet that he is a sex addict? Addicts don’t change if they don’t get help. The rouse of sex stimulates that pleasure center of his brain, only, he can’t control it, and he will want more and more. Has he taken you to the annual porn convention yet? Does he already choose the clothes you wear? Does he ask you to go out with him at night not wearing underwear? This is just the beginning.

Has he asked you to pee in front of him on the floor, because he gets a sexual rouse out of it? Has he asked you to urinate on a pile of towels on the bed while inside of you? Have you had a brazilian wax for him? He prefers that because he likes the idea of you being his “little girl”. He wants to feel like he is a “daddy” having sex with his “good girl”. Has he asked you to wear children’s underwear?

I knew none of this when I first married him. After we got married, everything changed. He believed he owned me and he got me to do things for him that were outside the compass of my dignity and morals. How is the group sex? Has he taught you how to eat pussy? Does he like to watch? Are you his porn star? Does he keep photos and videos of you nude and in sexy lingerie? Does he find men and women for you to have sex with on Craigslist and on Backpage? Has he pimped you out to men for financial gain? It’s not about the money or the sex at this point. It’s about the control.

Do you watch pornography together? Does he stay up late at night feeding his sex addiction by looking at porn? Don’t let him fool you. He says he loves you. He buys you gifts and nice things to own you. He earns your trust and loyalty, and then he betrays that which we call the marital bond.

Maybe you like having an open relationship with him. Maybe you don’t know that when he goes on business trips alone, he solicits paid girls to come to his hotel room to perform sexual acts for him. Maybe you think that you have a monogamous relationship. It won’t last. He can’t control it. He will have girlfriends on the side and you will either be okay with it or you won’t, or you simply won’t know.

You are probably thinking of carrying his children. Just beware if you have a girl. Don’t let her become a victim of abuse, manipulation and coercion. I tell you this as a warning, because he likes little girls. He likes watching them pee and modeling in little girl underwear. He will buy her revealing and “sexy” clothes at an inappropriate age. But don’t let her get molested. Fight for her. Don’t leave her alone with him. Please, if you do anything, don’t leave her alone with him.

Does his mother come over to clean your home? Does she still wash and iron his shirts? I know, she can be rather intrusive. That’s because she doesn’t want to let her “little boy” go. She would do anything for him, just as I, in a different way, did everything for him.

Don’t let it destroy you. Don’t let this relationship take away your sense of self. Set boundaries early on in the marriage. Don’t let him control you. Stand up for what you think is not right. Somewhere inside of me, I would hope that he would have the ability to change, to become a better man and a better person. But he is not. And that is why he drove me to attempting suicide, not once, but multiple times. It took me five years to get to that point. Don’t let this relationship rob you of your life.

I will always be around if you need someone to talk to 5 to 10 years from now. You are not alone.

Good luck,

A Friend.

In Bed

When I am in bed, there is no one around to judge me. I am free. In bed, I can do whatever I please. I can close my eyes, play with my feet, toss and turn, hold my teddy bear, curl up, stretch out, lay on my side, my back, my stomach. I can stare at my paintings on the walls with the daylight streaming through the cracks of the closed blinds of the patio glass door that I never use. I can day dream. I can suffer. I can cry; I can smile. I can have my hair braided to the side or loose and wild, draping over my pillow and shoulders. I can wear cotton underwear with no one telling me I can’t. I can wallow with zero makeup on. I can breathe. I am in control. This is my choice.

When I am in bed, I don’t have to deal with people. I don’t have to share space with my roommate, because my room is my private space. I don’t have to be alert and have engaging conversations, except for with myself. I don’t have to think about paying bills or earning money to survive. I don’t have to remember the trauma that I have been through unless it comes up in an inescapable nightmare, which doesn’t happen very often now because I live in the present. I am an overcomer because I have nearly overcome my past.

When I am in bed, I don’t have to have sex. I can think about it, but I don’t have to masturbate either. I can simply fantasize. I am in control. I can choose to not take my pills because I am in bed, and they’re all the way, five whole steps away, in the mirror cabinet above the bathroom sink. I don’t have to shower. I don’t have to put on deodorant. I can have greasy, unkempt hair. I can scratch my ass. I can marvel at the softness of my down pillows. I don’t have to change my bed sheets every week. I can be dehydrated and hungry and not give a fuck about doing anything to ameliorate those physical symptoms. I can nap and sleep and wake up every hour, looking at the clock on my phone. I can ignore messages. I can keep my phone on silent.

In bed I don’t have to be creative. I don’t have to be strong. I don’t have to say I’m okay when I’m not. I don’t have to smile politely at a passerby whose name I don’t remember even though I’ve seen that person a hundred times in the office over the last year. I don’t have to wonder whether I am pretty enough. I don’t have to wear the same bra every day, the only one I have which fits me properly. I don’t have to look at myself in a mirror.

In reality I should be getting out of my apartment on the weekends. The sun should be gracing the skin on my face and on my arms. My feet should remember what it feels like to be in sneakers, walking shoes. I should be exchanging glances and perhaps conversation with other souls. I should, upon my own, internal motivation, go to a coffee shop, and sit and drink whilst people-watching. I should learn to be comfortable in my own skin. I should take my books away from my couch and actually open the pages. I should have a reason to live outside of the 40 hours I spend at work each week. I should know what it’s like to see friends regularly. I should know what it feels like to be spontaneous more often. I should practise being out of my home at night in the dark to relearn that darkness doesn’t have to equal fear. I should dare myself to actually turn on my electronic piano and play it. I should carry my Nikon camera with me at all times just in case, on my outings, I see something worth photographing. I should continue to write poetry, which I stopped doing a year and a half ago. I should play with words again. I should have someone over to play Scrabble with me, my favourite board game. I should cook food instead of eating frozen food which is high in sodium.

But the thing is, I like it in bed. Even though, afterwards, I am never pleased with myself. I can spend up to 22 hours in bed per day on the weekends. I do look forward to the work week ending every seven days, but I never look forward to the weekend, because I know what my weekend will entail: exactly this.

Yesterday I was in bed for 20 hours. I woke up early evening to have two large bowls of cereal with soy milk and then continued to lay in bed until it was late evening, upon which I woke up and scrolled through social media feeds for hours to pass the time, only to go right back to bed again. Today is Sunday. I was in bed for 14 hours, from midnight onward. I actually had coffee and cookies and have been on my couch ever since. I have been corresponding with an old friend on Facebook. She has read my story and has been ever so empathic. It feels wonderful to connect with another person.

I have been connecting with some people over Match.com. None of those conversations have resulted in actual in-person meetings as of yet. But who wants to hang around a person that sleeps all day? Who would want to even consider dating someone whose favourite “hobby” is sleeping? See, I need the external motivation to do things, because I don’t have the internal motivation. I got up out of bed today on behalf of a lovely friend who told me to. I didn’t kill myself for my therapist. I chose to stay alive for my therapist. I got a job because I was running out of money. I go to the job every day because I have to. I don’t do things that I don’t have to do. I don’t have motivation to do things. I need internal motivation. I need to do things for me.

I haven’t showered since Thursday night. Haven’t been out of pajamas all weekend. My hair needs washing. There is a treadmill at the gym with my name on it. The sand on the beach misses my footsteps. The air outside is at a standstill waiting for me to breathe it in. There are people who don’t even know me who are just waiting to meet me. My foreign languages are yearning to be spoken. It’s just that, I don’t think of these things. These things don’t usually cross my mind.

My behaviour fits the criterion for Major Depressive Disorder. I don’t have an anxiety or panic disorder. I was never officially diagnosed with PTSD, of which symptoms I have overcome by now. I have what one psychiatrist called “anhedonia,” which is the inability to feel pleasure or to engage in pleasurable activities. Does eating cookies count?? I rarely have suicidal thoughts any longer and I’ve been told by a wiser, older friend that passing thoughts of suicide are normal, as long as they aren’t obsessed over.

Is this blog entry a justification of why I spend my weekends in bed? Maybe. Do I feel as if I need to justify myself? Sometimes. I used to get very angry with myself for sleeping all day and I suppose the self-hatred was another way of punishing myself. But right now I am not angry at myself or others, I am not sad or crying, I am not anxious, I am certainly not sleepy. I am not afraid of any tangible or intangible thing, other than sometimes, my mind itself. The disease of the mind is a tricky one. It is a hidden disease. It can be the cause of many physical symptoms, yet it is incredibly stigmatized. My mind has been becoming stronger and healthier in the last four years. ECT’s helped me to not kill myself. And now that I can choose to live again, of my own volition, it opens up possibilities that I could have never before imagined.

Just another day

It’s Saturday night, almost midnight. I just started drinking some red wine and am eating chocolate almond cookies which are saturated with sugar and butter. They are delicious! I have been in bed all day. For over 18 hours. It’s a pretty typical Saturday for me. I just tell myself, I can’t cope. I don’t want to deal with life. And sleeping is the way I check out.

I am looking forward to meeting the new psychiatrist on Tuesday. It couldn’t be coming soon enough. The fact that he practises psychotherapy is just so wonderful. I know people can go broke, spending on their mental health care. It has happened to me.

I keep thinking, who is going to want to be with a person like me? Like me! Anhedonia is the term a psychiatrist used to describe me last week. I don’t find joy in the things I used to do. I used to have hobbies and interests and now none of it interests me. Does eating cookies count as a hobby?

After two months of not being able to study, I finally caved and got myself a private tutor for the quantitative (math) section of the exam I’m supposed to be taking. If I don’t do this exam I feel like I’ll be stuck in my non-career forever and that depresses me.

How is it that my roommate, who will soon no longer be my roommate and which I am sad about, has energy to live? She works out at the gym, swims, plays volleyball, now has a boyfriend, hangs out at the beach, goes to church, gets up early on weekends. She only seems to need about 7 hours of sleep a night. Not 18 like me.

I think this is going to be a short post. I am feeling depressed. I have not re-traumatized myself again by reading old journals. All I want to do is to see my therapist. I have waited three long weeks while he took time off. And I’m finally going to see him again, just four more days. I feel as if 50 minutes a week really isn’t enough time, but then again, therapy is challenging and exhausting, and I find myself thankful every time the session is over, even though I don’t like leaving his actual office. His office is calming, and peaceful. It is decorated with earthy tones and sparse and simple. It feels very comforting. When I miss him I look at photos of his office that I’ve taken, or listen to recorded sessions. I don’t tell him that I’m recording them, I just turn on the recorder on my phone. It’s just for me.

My mum asked me today if I would be willing to move into my grandfather’s house if he were to die. It would be to take care of my aunt, who is unable to work or support herself and who has schizoaffective disorder. She has lived with it all of her life. In my grandfather’s trust, he has my mother as the primary successor trustee, and also in charge of her younger sister’s care. It’s a great burden for anyone to take on. We all just want to be taking care of ourselves. Taking on an extra burden is… beyond the scope of what I want to have to deal with. I want to live my own life, have a husband, have my own family. It might be selfish but it’s also normal to have those desires.

I’ve been reaching out on Twitter. There’s a community called SickNotWeak and it’s for mental health. I’ve been talking to people and it has been helping. I want to get my story out there. I want others to know what I go through, and that’s it’s hard. It’s my story and no one else’s. It doesn’t mean that other people don’t have it hard. But I want to make a difference, someday, somehow.

Finding the Perfect Psychiatrist

There’s no such thing as a perfect psychiatrist. But I’m trying to find someone who will be the best fit for me. This has been a very time-consuming endeavour, as well as disappointing, at times stressful, and expensive. I have had two good psychiatrists over the last four years and I am no longer under their care. I am currently in limbo. I am in between psychiatrists and it is disconcerting.

I’ve been with Dr. K. for the last nine months. He made me cry on our first session. His medication management appointments are only 15 minutes long, pretty standard for how psychiatry has evolved nowadays. Fifteen minutes isn’t enough to get to know your patient. This doctor was always abrasive, blunt, to the point. But he was also always looking at his computer screen and typing notes instead of looking at me when he asked questions. I feel like we didn’t connect. I knew I didn’t like him from the start but I gave it a chance. I gave it nine months.

I found a new doctor at the beginning of last month. She also accepted my insurance. It sounded ideal because she had been a recommendation from a friend. Rather than being an in-and-out practice, she actually spends 30 minutes with her patients for medication management appointments. We had our first meeting and it seemed to go well. I told her about my history, she listened and asked questions. I already felt like she cared more than my previous doctor. And she told me she specifically works with only women who have been abused. I thought, perfect! However, to my utter surprise, just this week I received a letter in the mail stating that she is closing my file. She doesn’t want to work with me and I have no idea why. She is also not obligated to tell me why. She simply said that she feels I would be better off with someone who has more resources.

Shocked, I called back my previous psychiatrist’s office to schedule a new appointment with Dr. K, but they had already mailed me the termination letter after I had said I wasn’t going to meet with the doctor any more, and he is not willing to take me back. Panic! I have no psychiatrist! I have enough medication refills to last me a while but I want to be talking to a professional. I have been on the same medication regimen for the last three years and someone might have an opinion of making some changes. I want to know those options.

In shock and disbelief, I texted a friend to ask her to think of some referrals. Then I went online to Psychology Today and called a number of different offices. I had an appointment this week with another psychiatrist who, by coincidence, works in the same office as the one who rejected me last month (yes, I took it as a total rejection and it made me feel awful. What did I say or do that was wrong?). I met with this new lady and the first thing I did was cry for ten minutes because I was feeling overwhelmed. Then I started talking to her. She seems okay but not the gentle and caring type. Still someone who is direct and to the point. Halfway through the session she asked me if I was committed. I said “yes, why?”. She told me it didn’t seem like I was that committed. Granted, I did tell her that one of my goals is to eventually get off of medications. But I didn’t like that she was making an assumption. On top of that, she gave me dating advice! She told me that she does not think it’s a good idea for me to start dating because I am not fully healed yet, and I have a lot of work to do on myself. Then I told her I have a date scheduled with a man already and she told me to not tell him anything. “He doesn’t need to know. Do not talk about medications or your past with your marriage.” Yes, a friend of mine has been reminding me to do “moderate self-disclosure”. But I did not appreciate receiving dating advice from someone who doesn’t even know me.

Because of this most recent and very expensive last session, I am still looking. The good psychiatrists do not take insurance and are considered out-of-network. They take cash-pay only. They will provide what is called a “superbill” with billing codes. I will need to meet my deductible for the calendar year before they will cover anything, and they will only reimburse me for 60% of the cost, according to the insurance plan that I have. At least it’s something. A year ago I would not have had the emotional energy or mental space to 1. Look for a new psychiatrist, and 2. Deal with processing and keeping track of my own billing with the insurance companies.

So this brings me to Dr. B. The first thing I liked was that when I called and left a message, it was his voice on the message. I was calling him directly. He runs a private practice by himself and does his own scheduling. He will even text message! When he called me back in the morning, I said I had already found a new psychiatrist. Then, after that disappointing last session, I called him back. He asked me if I already am seeing a psychotherapist. Because most psychiatrists these days will do only medication management, but he is rare and unusual in that he also does psychotherapy. His patients see him once or more a week. It’s $250 cash, upfront, per session. At once a week this is $1,000. I only make net $2,000 per month in income and can barely cover my current expenses.

Dr. B said that he might not be the best fit for me if I already have an established, solid relationship with a therapist. I asked him, why can’t I have two therapists? Dr. B said my therapist might feel threatened and I said, no way, that’s not him. We have a good relationship and he lets me do whatever I want (for my treatment). This doctor is willing to meet with me. All of this doctor-shopping is taking a lot of time away from my work week and this is really not ideal, but it needs to be done. My TalkSpace therapist is supporting me in that it might be to my benefit to see a psychiatrist who is interested in how I am doing and how the medication is affecting me from week to week, as opposed to a 15-minute appointment every six weeks. I do like that idea. The only thing, she said, is that talking to multiple therapist providers might be counter-productive or uncoordinated. I would like to find a way to coordinate my care.

I will see how my new psychiatrist appointment goes next week on Tuesday, and you can bet I’ll be talking about it with my therapist on Wednesday. Dr. B has a kind and gentle voice and I already like him, the question will be is whether he will accept me into his practise as a patient and whether we get along.

A lot of people confuse the terms “psychiatrist”, “psychotherapist”, and “psychologist”. A psychiatrist is a medical doctor and can prescribe medications. A psychologist is not a medical doctor, but has a PhD or a PsyD doctorate degree and can teach psychology, as well as practise psychotherapy. A psychotherapist usually has a master’s degree and a license as a Marriage and Family Therapist (MFT / LMFT), Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor (LPCC) or something similar. A psychiatrist and a psychologist can also be psychotherapists, but a therapist cannot be a doctor or call themselves a psychologist without the doctorate degree. Usually the psychologists who have a doctorate degree can teach at universities, however, my therapist has the MFT license without a doctorate and is teaching future therapists and educators at the local state university.

In addition to all of this doctor shopping, I have been putting a considerable amount of effort working with the claims department and my victim advocate at the Office of the District Attorney. There is a Victim Compensation Program that I am eligible for whether or not the crime actually occurred. (This has nothing to do with whether they believe my story – they do, and no one has been prosecuted.) My victim advocate tells me that it is my right, as a victim of a crime, to have access to this program. My first application to the program was denied because I’m only allowed a three-year grace period from the time the crime(s) occurred, or “that it can have reasonably been known that a crime took place.” It has been way over three years, but I am claiming that I was too suicidal and traumatized to have fully realized what had happened to me until 2014, when I made the first report to the District Attorney and filed the case. This gives me technically until 2017 to apply to the program. In order to file an appeal I have been giving authorization to past medical offices to provide my medical records to the District Attorney claims office. There is so much information, years of records, and inches thick of printed paper to go through. I still don’t know if this will work out and if I will be approved into the program. But if I am, it would really help. Had I known about this program a year ago, I might not have had to file for bankruptcy due to medical bills resulting from the crimes (suicidality). It makes me sad just thinking of that fact.