Current State of Affairs

Re-invigorated by the overwhelming positive response from my last blog, I shall attempt to humour you with some fanciful details of my current life as it stands, which is not so unlike my blog from last week. I had a mostly soporific weekend punctuated by a lovely dinner with friends. (Yes I do have some friends here in this not-so-new area of the world… it will soon be almost a year since I moved here). I have a new four-legged trailer, literally, attached at my hip (okay, figuratively); this creature wants to make sure I’m not out of his sight at all. I’m surprised, as I would deem him to be slightly neglected due to my depressive sleeping activities, but he seems to want to beg to differ. It’s as if he’s just begging to be petted. And so, the petting shall commence shortly.


In the meantime, I realized that whilst one of the hundred or so residents of my complex is using the gym, I might best make use of my time by doing some much-needed laundry. I seem pretty level-headed as of late. That means that my emotional state-of-being is even-keeled and I even feel invigorated today, which is surprising, it being a Monday. I’m impressed with myself. In fact, I’m doing so well that I’m seeing my therapist in two weeks rather than weekly.


“You’re only going to harm yourself, and then pass out,” the employee of the county mental health ward said to me, as I had barricaded myself from intruders into the room, only to wrap a towel around my neck in defiance of the insidious beasts that ran the ward. Did this have to do with my post-traumatic stress disorder? Probably. It’s a memory that popped up from January in the aftermath of my suicide attempt. Evidently I am still processing this memory. Healing from PTSD is not linear. No one can claim it to be so. Trauma memories pop up time and time again as intrusively as salty anchovies on a pizza… Can you tell I’m about to eat a pizza? 

I don’t know why that memory popped up but I’m not opposed to it either. It brings no significant feelings of remorse, more of disdain for the staff at county mental health. 

Before dinner on Saturday we stopped by FLAX art and design, a fabulous art supply warehouse where I dared to purchase a whatchamacallit… one of those things that you mix paint on to then apply haphazardly, in my case, to a canvas. I also spent $95 on stickers, gorgeous fake tattoos, a fancy set of colouring pens, and a mindfulness colouring book, among other things, which are intended to be gifts to a certain someone down the road (for her birthday). Hint: she’ll be 9 years old in a few months, must be a pretty special someone! I’m just delighted that I even have a gift for her this year. I’m pretty adept at getting birthday cards for special people but not so practised at buying gifts.

A little whiny creature is reminding me that dinner is sitting on the counter and has yet to be eaten. It’s cooling down from the oven. I am also reminded of how fortunate I am to have my very own apartment… that I don’t have to share it with anyone else. My dog can whine and I can talk out loud on the speaker phone without having to apologize to anyone.

The pizza was delicious and the scraps went to a certain someone who was begging for them. What would we do without our furry or feathered beings? I am reminded that I have to do better by him in the form of more frequent baths and medications to be dispensed daily instead of merely when I remember. He is truly a pleasure to come home to, lest the turds I find because he couldn’t wait to go outside.

All in all, things are well. Isn’t that great to hear? I couldn’t have imagined this being the case five months ago. Thanks for being a part of my journey and I look forward to checking in with you again soon. Peace.

Just Another Day

I’m sitting upright on my bed with my back supported by a pillow as I type this. Piano music is playing from my phone. Ah, the wonders of modern technology where things like surreptitious music are but a finger swipe away. Some kind of Nocturne is playing and I’m wondering if it’s Chopin. It’s a familiar melody as I’ve listened to this Pandora Radio station many-a-time. My bedroom isn’t my only sanctuary. My home and private space extends into the kitchen which looks out onto the dining nook, filled by an upright piano, and the spacious living room of which a $3,500 couch takes up a copious amount of space because it boasts a queen pull-out bed. Behind the light moss green couch, a colour which I specifically selected, are a couple of dark bookshelves packed with books and my cast iron teapot set which I use once a year for fun. I would never again spend such money on a couch, of all things, but at the time, I was not worried about money. These days, worries of money pass in and out of my consciousness like an ever-present cloud of rain.


This is the life I have made for myself, chosen for myself, won for myself. This is not the life I had on the other side of the state, where I was far from family in a place I had forced myself to call home for over fifteen years, working several underpaid jobs, stressed out by the workload, underappreciated and torn by the remnants of post-traumatic stress disorder and severe clinical depression. I would say that I still suffer at times, but much less so. Torments of the past and extreme states of emotional distress have left my life almost completely. My depression takes the form of entire weekends spent in bed, whilst still managing to feed and walk my dog, a necessity of the life of being a dog mom. When I adopted him five years ago I committed myself to the responsibility of taking care of him. Though he is aging, he is still a spry 11-year-old chihuahua mix and at 10 pounds if he doesn’t listen to me, which is often the case due to poor training and a diminished sense of hearing, I can pick him up and bring him to me. Last night he had his monthly bath. He hates baths but oh, I am such a proud dog mom to say the least, as he is finally clean again! What a wondrous sight and smell. He was beginning to smell a bit like wet dog smells when he wasn’t even wet. I can’t manage to bring myself to bathe him more than once a month due to my depression. If I were a good dog mom I would bathe him at least twice a month due to his consistent allergies. Now he has arthritis to add to the mix, for which he will have to take special medication, hidden in between a “pill pop” flavoured like chicken that I got at the vet’s office today. Dogs are expensive and any pet owner can relate. Vet visits add up quickly. He’ll have to have a chest x-ray due to his heart murmur before we can decide whether his little body could tolerate the anesthesia required to get his teeth cleaned, for he has also been diagnosed with mild periodontal disease. 


Friends of a distant past have moved from my former home to Bali, Indonesia, where the wife of my photographer friend awaits giving birth to their first child. This friend sent me a photo and a video of her engorged, naked breasts. They were very tastefully and artfully depicted in the images. While this may not be a “normal” sort of thing for friends to exchange, I once posed nude for this photographer. We created a collage of artful and very explicit nudes of my then 115 pounds of flesh. I weigh much more than that now and would never get in front of a camera like that again. But in those days I was not afraid of nudity, nor was I a stranger to sexual escapades while I was being taunted by a narcissist who sexually exploited me to a degree which to some, would be unfathomable. I am happy for this couple, my friends of a still-distant past. It’s strange that I’ve remained in touch with them in spite of leaving everything else from that time period behind.


I’ve often dreamed of a different life for myself. Not the life of the 25-year-old new bride who dreamed of being a mom with two children behind a white picket fence. But a life which includes the trauma, now healed, and of being of service to others. I tried one semester of graduate school only to discover to my dismay that it was not good timing. When will it ever be the right time to go to school to become a psychotherapist? Perhaps never, perhaps, one day, when I am fully healed and suicide attempts are a thing of my distant past.


My last suicide attempt was in January of this year. I was so sure, absolutely certain, that killing myself was the right idea. I had come up with a brilliant strategy to complete my impending death sentence, one that I had never thought of before, only to chicken out at the very last millisecond. I ended up hospitalized for the requisite 72 hours, which were torturous because of the way hospital staff treated me, or should I say, county mental health staff. County mental health is notorious for being bad. After I got out my brother took care of me for two days and those days were lovely. It felt nice to be cared for, before I had to submit myself back to the daily grind, sometimes excruciating grind, of being at work five days a week and “pretending” to be okay.


The piano music is still playing and my dryer from a load of laundry is humming in the background. My hair is so long and voluptuous that after a shower, the weight of my wet hair is not well-held-up by one single hair band. I am wearing a baseball hat, so-to-speak, to keep my hair up and off of my back. My hair stretches all the way down to my waist and I normally wear it in a braid to my side, with my hair parted in the middle. That is my “look” every day of the week at work. They rarely see my hair flowing freely at the office.


I had my obligatory weekly shower. I don’t know why, but showering for me is difficult. Survivors of sexual assault and chronic sexual abuse often find showering difficult and unpleasant. Once I’m in the shower, I’m fine, but it’s the “idea” of the shower which assaults my placid mind which makes me want to vomit. Something about being naked, in the nude, in the buff, whatever you want to call it, something about that gets to me and it’s not something I can take for granted as many people do.


Well, this is a window to my world. My therapist, who has stuck by me for over a decade of weekly sessions, five years of which were pro bono and unpaid, has been on vacation for a week. I will finally get to see him again this weekend. I’ve been doing so well that we will often skip weeks at a time, or at least see each other every other week instead of weekly. There was a time in my life back in 2012 whence I was so incredibly suicidal and unable to work, that I would see him three times a week just to keep myself alive and from killing myself. Because inevitably, as all my attempts at my life have been, another attempt would be unsuccessful and land me in the hospital for a number of weeks. I had so many hospital visits and bills that I filed for bankruptcy in 2015. Seven years have almost passed by since then and the bankruptcy will finally exit its doleful place on my credit score report. Maybe one day I’ll actually be able to buy a home: a nice little two-bedroom condominium where my mom can stay in her elderly years. That’s my dream. She took care of me for most of my life, still does to a degree, and I owe it to her to give back to her what she gave to me: self-sacrifice.


It’s almost bedtime now. I walked on the treadmill for an hour this evening. I manage to do that once every few weeks at best, given that one out of the hundred residents of my complex could be using the gym at any given moment as well, and often the treadmill is taken. Because of Covid, only one person at a time is allowed to use the tiny gym anyway. So it’s time to say goodbye. The effects of the red wine are wearing off and I occupied my mind whilst cooking dinner tonight by listening to Michelle Obama’s “Becoming.” It’s a book which causes me to reflect on my life as it stands today, and on my past. I am really enjoying the listening. I finally got a library card because buying audio books and Kindle books was becoming an expensive habit.


I am in rare form tonight. I actually have energy. Not the sort of boundless energy one could attribute to a 20-something-year-old, but energy enough to sustain me, rather than having to feel the need to go to bed hours before my necessary bedtime. My brother inadvertently mocked me for going to bed at 7 PM one night, asking if I was a baby. I quickly changed the subject but I was hurt and I know he will be able to hear my complaint one of these days, to repair that minor damage to our relationship. Does he not know that I spend entire weekends in bed doing nothing but sleeping?


I just got up to use the restroom as my bladder wasn’t having this typing anymore, and I was delighted to use my bidet. This is a bidet installation to a regular toilet that my brother so lovingly and painstakingly installed when I moved into this apartment almost a year ago. If and when I ever move, I’ll have to get him to uninstall the bidet, as I am not adept at such very specific manual tasks which require a lego-like minded assembly motif to the instructions that come with the gadget. Mind you, my Mum did buy me pink legos when I was young, and I enjoyed assembling those buildings, as per the instructions. But those days are long since over and my patience wanes.


“Pure Imagination,” which played in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, is playing right now in the form of a piano composition. The melody is familiar although I haven’t watched that movie since childhood. I’ll get my obligatory eight hours of sleep tonight, though sometimes it wickles down to seven hours, in order to be able to function tomorrow. I can’t imagine functioning on less than seven hours of sleep though some people do it regularly. I don’t know how. Tomorrow I’ll send emails to clients, and be the detail-oriented me I know how to be. I’ll service the clients of our financial firm that were assigned to me, and I’ll prepare for upcoming meetings. I won’t call in sick, though I think about it almost every morning when faced with the prospect of having to go to work, particularly on Mondays. I’ll do my once-a-week grocery shopping trip to Trader Joes, get frozen meals for lunch at work and try to buy some fruit and vegetables since those are supposedly good for the constitution. And then I’ll have another mostly peaceful evening, perhaps punctuated by another glass of red wine, although I’ve been trying to curb my drinking habit as of late. But a bottle of red is open, so why not finish it off? And so the cycle continues. And so life continues, my life, specifically. I’m not dead yet and I am aware that death inevitably comes to us all one day. But for now, I am alive, and I’ll keep living until there is no more life to be lived.

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.

My Experience of Being Inpatient

The inspiration to write doesn’t always come. Sometimes I just have to make the decision to write, sit down, grab a pen, and see what comes. Then, once I get going, writing becomes easier to continue. It seems less daunting.

I haven’t written any poetry since I’ve been here. Just a few pages in my flimsy hospital-issued journal. The first few days that I was hospitalized I just didn’t get up out of bed. Not at all. My body was completely exhausted after what I had put it through. The overdose of over-the-counter medication really messed up the functioning of my liver, but apparently the liver is one of the organs that, if treated well, can regenerate itself.

My doctor is going to d/c (discontinue) my one-to-one patient status. This means that I don’t have to have someone following me wherever I go, including to the bathroom and the shower, and having someone watch me while I sleep.

It’s snack time right now and one of the benefits of having a one-to-one is that I am allowed to go to places where other patients cannot go. I already had my snacks half an hour ago and right now we are sitting out on the back patio where the calming water fountain is and no one else is out here.

My inpatient doctor just added a new medication on top of the three I already take. He said he doesn’t want me to kill myself in response to me saying I don’t want to add a new medication. I can’t really argue with that.

I graduated from the ICU (Intensive Care Unit) to ITP (Intensive Treatment Program). It’s a step up in the world. Plus, not having a one-to-one any longer is a huge accomplishment and it’s one step closer to getting out of the hospital altogether. I have certain responsibilities at my job and in taking care of my precious Samuel, my adorable puppy who is no longer a puppy because he is eight years old now.

I am thinking about writing a poem. It’s nice to be thinking about that rather than thinking about ways to hurt myself.

We had our afternoon community meeting. I was able to get a shirt from the donations pile and I really like it. It has flowers on it and they are teal blue. The floor staff are talking about when they are going to be taking their lunch breaks and about a nonspecific incident that happened on Friday and who was the first responder.

I need to be off of my one-to-one so that I can shave my chin hairs. Most women, I´ve discovered, have the unfortunate pleasure of having to deal with chin hairs. Some pluck, some wax, some shave, and some do laser hair removal treatments which is what I have been doing.

A bird flew down to the ground near the entryway to the patio and pulled out a Fig Newton from under a chair. He was very bold. When he got done he flew away.

A Reflection on Coming Back to the Present Moment

I have just been waiting for this moment, a moment where I can sit down and have the motivation to write a journal entry in my blog. I think about it a lot but the actuality of doing it is more daunting, even cumbersome. So here I am on a Sunday morning drinking French Vanilla coffee from a special mug with my small dog in my lap and laptop off to my side. I can hear birds chirping as I have my patio door open, which typically is a rare occurrence. The weather is so nice outside, I just decided to slide the door open.

These are sensory things, grounding things, things to keep me in the present moment. If I notice what is around me, and follow my senses of touch, taste, sound and smell (am I missing one?) then I can stay in the room. However, my mind wanders and goes to other places, far-off distant lands which have nothing to do with my present surroundings. I suppose that is called dissociation. I can be sitting with my therapist and he can be talking and I won’t have registered any of the sentences because I was still busy in my mind bringing myself back to the present moment. My therapist is kind and patient and he doesn’t mind repeating himself for me.

Last week I was suicidal. That was maybe a week and a half ago actually. When I am feeling suicidal it’s like there is an emergency happening in my mind and there are invisible and silent alarm bells going off in my body telling me that I am in crisis. I can be sitting quietly at my work desk and someone could walk by and not notice anything unusual, whereas in reality I am panicking and frantically texting with the crisis hotline to get help and calm the emotional storm. But that’s really what it is, isn’t it? It’s a big storm, something you really have no control over, but you have to hold onto the fact that it will eventually pass and the waters will be calm again and the clouds will be gone, letting the sunlight shine in. For many years I lived in a fog of dark, dark clouds and the possibility of the sun shining into my being was close to nil. These days, things are different. I still feel suicidal but I seem to be able to get out of that state more quickly than ever in the past.

Just over six months ago I took an overdose to end my life. You see, however, I didn’t really want to end my life as in dying. I wanted to kill myself as a punishment to feed my self-hatred and mostly to end the suffering which consisted of overwhelming emotional pain and a deep sea of sadness. There is more sadness these days in my life than anger. Yesterday, seven years ago, is the day I packed up my car and left my abuser. It was either going to be leaving him or kill myself because I couldn’t go on living like that. I have many memories and at times they are intrusive, and I find it best for me not to verbalize any of those memories, lest they become more real and concrete in my mind to the possibility of retraumatizing me. So these images and memories come up as flashes in my mind which involve the visual aspect of memory as well as thoughts and words associated with that memory. As long as I don’t say any of this out loud then the images will fade away. If I were to describe them it would just extend my discomfort.

Those images, those flashes of memory, used to scare me and make me feel that I was living those moments over again and again. I couldn’t sleep with the light off because many bad things happened to me at night. I have to remind myself even now, that nothing he did to me was ever my fault. He was ill in his mind and the things he did to me were not okay and not normal. The sad thing is though, that it was my normal. I didn’t know any different. I was young and naive and I didn’t believe in divorce. Even though I’m the one who physically left (he changed the locks to our home right away) there was a big part of me that couldn’t imagine life without him. He had controlled every aspect of my life including what I wore and how I got my hair cut. I had no say, and when I did try to refuse or speak up or say no, it would be met with emotional turmoil because, in a sense, he punished me by making me feel bad and by making me believe that everything that happened was my fault and not his.

That’s enough talk of the past. I just realized I was starting to go to a bad place in my mind and I needed to come back to the present. I was verbalizing things from the past which are better left there, in the past. I can hear my dog snoring in my lap, which is very comforting and which I happen to think is adorable. My coffee is now luke-warm but still tastes good. I think I am going to make scrambled eggs for breakfast and of course, I have to use a whole bunch of salted butter, to make it really good! You see? Now I actually have a smile on my face and there is less tension on my cheeks, forehead and eyebrows. I’m back where I need to be, in the present where I can hear the birds singing. My roommate just woke up and her noise will also help keep me in the present.

From suicidal one week to looking to become a first-time homebuyer! Really. Due to circumstances, which is that my landlord wants to sell the place I live to me or to someone else and that I can’t afford it, I have begun to work with a real estate agent. I know nothing about home buying and now I am about to hopefully become an expert at it. I can’t afford much but I am hoping to buy a two bedroom, two bathroom condo. My commute to work will be extended by at least an additional half hour if not more because I cannot afford to live any longer in the central location of town where I live now. So there you have it. I’m thinking about my future whereas just prior to that I didn’t want my future to be continued at all. It’s just that, I don’t actually want to die. I just want the pain and sadness to end. That’s what plagues me. That’s what makes me suffer. That’s what needs to change and I myself need to make that happen. I’m going to keep working hard at it every day and when bad things come up in my mind, I will always do my best to come back to where I am in the now, the present, the reality of things. For memories can seem real but they are not and they are not happening any longer. That’s the hardest thing, to remember they aren’t actually happening when I’m remembering them.

Thanks for reading, I really appreciate it. You know, very few people read these words that I write yet I appreciate every single person who lets me know they read my journal entry by clicking on the “like” button. It warms my heart that my story, my experience, my words, became a part of your life if only for five or ten minutes whilst you were reading this. Thank you for existing, thank you for being you, thank you for gracing my words with your attention, and I hope your day continues with peace and comfort. Just remember, when you are suffering, you are never alone. Let me say it again: you are never alone.

Sometimes

Sometimes I just want to shout out. But not Hallelujah. It’s more like, “Aaaaah! Urg. Ugh. Grr. OMFG.” Yeah, that’s what I want to convey. I just can’t stand having mental illness sometimes. I mean, it’s an illness, a real illness and it’s not the same as a physical illness so people don’t always give it credit. Damn the stigma.

I’m travelling up North to see my brother and my Mum is flying in. He’s going through a divorce but we still intend to enjoy the trip. My Mum bought squid ink pasta because I had brought some to her from Italy last year, but do you know how expensive this stuff can be?? It’s crazy expensive and it doesn’t taste much different than regular pasta. It’s a normal thing in an Italian grocery store but not in America.

I’ve been spending a lot of time cultivating my online community on Instagram. It just feels good to connect with people who are also passionate about mental health. I’m not much of a person to pick up a book and read and I definitely don’t spend my time watching television or movies, it just doesn’t interest me. So if I spend my time on Instagram, then so be it.

I’ve started to perform my poetry. I’ve been writing for years and years and now I am finally making it a point to “get out there” and let the world know that I exist. Of course, it always starts small, like at an open mic in my town and my community. But I would like for more people to know about my poetry one day. I happen to think it’s very good! I put my heart and my soul into my poetry and it really consumes my life outside of work.

Work was stressful this week. I didn’t feel suicidal until Thursday but Monday and Tuesday were long and by Tuesday night I was craving alcohol to drown out the noise and depression in my mind. Wednesday I gave in and had a glass of wine at a restaurant that is within walking distance from my home and I got incredibly drunk off of it. Then the next night I had some bubbly at an event. I think I’ve gotten it out of my system now. For the last five weeks straight I have been crying during my therapy hour. It’s like the trauma memories all build up inside of me and then I can release it when I am in a safe space, such as therapy. Thank God for my therapist and God bless him.

I like that I can talk and write without a filter here. I mean, for the most part, my blog is anonymous, meaning I don’t share my given name. Eventually, I might come fully out with my story of past abuse and resulting depression, including many years when I was suicidal every single day. But for now, I just enjoy writing and sharing my thoughts and feelings and my life experience as it unfolds. I am grateful to you, my reader, for soaking in the words I have written and letting it be a part of your experience today. In a way, you are experiencing my experience through my sharing. I think that is a beautiful thing.

My grandmother’s third death anniversary just passed and I didn’t make the time to call my grandfather for the occasion. I should probably call him today. Duty calls (to make a pun). Oh, I’m so punny! I love that expression. Hey, I’m just trying to have fun with words here leading off of a not so happy subject like my grandmother’s death three years ago.

So now both of my grandmothers are gone and I have one grandparent left, on my mother’s side. The word for “maternal grandfather” in Hindi is “Nana” and that’s what we call him. The word for “paternal grandfather” is “Baba” and that is what my cousins call him. It’s not very complicated when that’s what you grew up knowing all of your life.

There is an organization for at-risk youth which I volunteer with a few times a month. Even though it makes for a longer day, working 8 hours and then being with the kiddos for two and a half more hours, it gives me energy. I enjoy it so much that it regenerates my energy and fills me with happiness and hope. This job means so much to me. If entry-level positions in the mental health industry didn’t pay so little, that is what I would be doing full-time. But since I have to pay the bills and rent, I work at a bank. I do pretty good work there too.

Today I have to do laundry, go grocery shopping and maybe to Target to get paper towels and water filters which we are out of. But I’ve literally been putting off some of these tasks for over a month. Every weekend which comes around just wants to be filled with poetry creations and through my art I have no time for practical things such as getting a filter for our drinking water jug.

Right, so now, this is long enough and I bid you farewell until the next time. Thanks for taking the time to be a part of my life experience by reading. Loads of love!

 

 

 

I am okay now ~ a reflection.

Mindfulness Meditation. It’s what I just now attempted to do. I managed it for a whole ten minutes by focusing on my breath. When my mind wanders, gently bring it back to my breath. According to Dan Siegel, a wonderful psychiatrist and researcher who has written several books, we can rewire our brain and our neural networks just by practising focused attention. If I am not in tune with my emotions, or if my emotions are overwhelming and dysregulated, I can practice mindfulness and eventually that practice, even if it’s only five minutes a day, will help me, in the long run, to be more aware of what is going on inside. Dan Siegel calls it “the sea inside.

I am drinking hot tea. I have delicious-smelling candles on. Today is Sunday. Instead of going to church, I decided to cook steel-cut oatmeal, which takes about half an hour to cook, and I opted for my mindfulness practice to be my church today. Sometimes we just need to be quiet and calm. Sometimes being around lots of people, albeit that they are friendly and smiling, can be, well, just not the right thing at that time. We are all different and we all have different needs. Today my need was turning inward and spending time with myself. It really feels good. I even watered my plants today! That’s a huge accomplishment because it doesn’t often get done. My avocado plant which I grew from seed is about a foot and a half tall and over half a year old. I am very proud of this accomplishment.

Dan Siegel also talks about “the rim of awareness.” This is in his book called “Mindsight,” which I am listening to. It is read by the author himself. The rim of awareness is like a bicycle wheel. There is the outer rim, then the spokes, which are like our different thoughts, and then the inner circle which is the “hub.” I think of the hub as my safe place. Right now my focus is on feeling safe, and if that means I need to sleep twelve hours a day because it feels safer than experiencing my strong emotions, then so be it. I used to get very angry with myself for oversleeping. There was a time in my life when I have slept and stayed in bed for 22 hours a day, multiple days in a row. Now I am not so depressed and this sleeping a lot is still a protective measure and a defence mechanism. I am defending myself against the difficult thoughts and emotions which come up.

Now that I have been in therapy for over ten years, well, I have a better understanding of the sea inside. I can name my emotions. Another saying in psychology is, “name it to tame it.” It’s true. If you can identify and put words and a name to your emotions, then it gives those emotions less power by the simple blessing of your greater awareness. It’s a powerful thing, awareness, conscious awareness and focused attention.

In my mind, it has been many years since I left the man who had abused and controlled me for almost a decade of my life. I left him in 2012, not knowing whether I could survive without him because he made sure I depended on him entirely, in every aspect, and also knowing that I would not survive another day living with him because I was extremely suicidal and had attempted to take my life several times already. I am safe now. I have to remind myself that no one is abusing me. No one is criticising me or putting me down. No one is telling me what to do. No one is making me do things I don’t want to do. No one is hurting me on the inside or on the outside, physically. I pray to God that he protects my mind, my soul, my body and my spirit. I pray that I remain safe and that the nightmares don’t come back. He has been in my dreams lately, occasionally, but he no longer scares me. I have my power back. I have the power I always knew I had but was too afraid to exert.

I am okay now. I just have to keep telling myself that. Sometimes I feel not okay, and those times are difficult to get through. As my therapist always reminds me, “feelings come and go but I remain.” It works every time he tells me that. It’s like a mantra which gives me comfort and reminds me that I don’t have to let my emotions take over and control me. I get to choose to be okay and I am choosing to be safe.

 

New Year’s Hopes

It’s the new year. I could say I have been waiting for this day to come, but I haven’t. It just came. But I am more than just surviving. I am thriving. At least, that’s what I would like to think. I’ve been back at work for three weeks now. After a leave of absence of three months, being back and even doing well is quite remarkable.

Today is a sunny day. It’s nice. I hope that it will be a sunny year. We often think of bad things, like how I spend more than I make and that that is a problem. But bad things aside, there is room for hope. I hope that I never have to go to the hospital again. I hope that I don’t have any more suicidal episodes. I hope that I can just live my life. “Speranza” is the word in Italian for “hope” and it pops into my mind now and then.

April 13 of this year will have been the seven-year anniversary since I left my abusive ex-husband. Seven years is a long time, actually. Then it will be ten, then twenty, and I’ll have made such a meaningful life for myself that I won’t even have to look back at what was. Of course, there will be a day, I know it, I’m sure of it, that I won’t feel the need to count the years or give any credence or energy to the fact that the anniversary of my departure has gone by. I’ll just be living my life.

I’ve been writing a lot of poetry lately. I honestly don’t know if my poetry will ever actually get published, but I am okay with that. I share my poetry with people I care about and occasionally I will hear back on how much they appreciated reading my poem. Appreciation goes a long way. Other than poetry, I haven’t actually been writing a lot and I know I need to get back to it. I have my leather-bound journal that I write in occasionally, but the two blogs I have running have been rather neglected. I love being able to express myself with words. The written word is something very special. It’s not like oration, not one bit.  You get to put a little bit more thought into something that is written but not said.

I am feeling hopeful. The emphasis is on the “am.” As in, I am. I am and I will be and I will just be. I want to exist. I want to be here, on this earth, living my life. No one is telling me what to do, and I am in charge of my own life. After a lifetime, it seemed, of having every aspect of my life controlled, the feeling of having control of my own destiny is quite remarkable too. How do I describe this feeling? It’s a feeling of satisfaction, of comfort, of self-worth. Can self-worth be a feeling? I know it’s a state of being so I’ll include it in my “feeling” category.

I know I’m going to be okay. I just know it. My dog has been with me for a year and a half already. Every day I walk him, I feed him, and I pet him. I give of myself to him and for me this is healing. Doing everyday things is healing and it’s a part of building my life. If I can just keep on doing everyday things, with calm and peace, then those days will become months and then years, and then a whole lifetime. What am I going to do with my life? Am I going to have children of my own? I still have some time for that left. A lot can happen in five years, and in five years I will be forty years old. From a certain perspective, that’s quite young still. That means that I still have my “whole” life ahead of me. So many things can happen in the decades to come. I just want to be a part of it. I choose to be an active part of my own life. I choose to live. I choose life.

Letter to Myself

Dear Me,

You are worthy. You are so incredibly worthy. You matter. You matter to me. You matter to your Mum and your brother and your other family and friends. You are compassionate. You are caring. You make a positive difference in other people’s lives just by existing. Your existence brings joy to your mother. You used to be her baby and you are still her child even though you are all grown up. She loves you.

Your therapist cares for you. If he didn’t he wouldn’t have been there for you, regardless of your ability to pay him or not, every week for ten years. He has always been there for you. It’s okay to feel angry at people you love. You have a right to your feelings. You have a right to feel whatever you are feeling and to have those feelings be validated.

Here is what your girlfriend said to you recently, let’s memorialize it once and for all: You are beautiful, inside and out. You are intelligent. You are intuitive. You are compassionate. You are giving of your time and love. You are also worthy in every respect.

It’s easy to forget these things when you are feeling down and depressed. It’s not always possible to control your depression but you can take steps to have a more positive outlook. You can remind yourself that you are worthy and that you matter. When you feel like taking your own life know that this feeling will pass. Feelings are there to inform us, and we don’t have to act on them. Practise opposite action and do something nice for yourself when you don’t feel like practising kindness to yourself.

Remember your GRAPES from CBT: Gentle with Self, Relaxation, Accomplishment, Pleasure, Exercise and Social. Remember that doing something in each of these categories every day actually does help. Plan it out at the beginning of the day and try to keep that plan in mind. Remember to take deep breaths and let your belly expand. Don’t just breathe with your chest. Use your gut. Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth. You can do this.

You are strong. You are resilient. You have been through so much worse. You have overcome some of the darkest of times. You are who you are and nothing less. Who you are is everything and you are everything that matters. You are the best you that you can be. Your existence, your well-being is paramount and your survival means everything. Each day that you live you bring hope to others. Each day that you live you bring meaning to the lives of those who were not so fortunate and who lost their battle with depression.

Remember that depression is an illness and you can fight it. You have the tools. Rely on the people around you. Reach out and do not isolate yourself. Pick up the phone and call someone. If you are still reading, then you have proven to yourself that you don’t have to act on your feelings. You can use distractions. You can remind yourself that you are loved, and how much you are loved. Don’t forget that God loves you too. Prayer can help and there is no set way to do it. You can pray however you want and whenever you want. The Lord is here to help you.

With lots of love,

Me

In Recovery – It’s a Process

It has been over two months since my last suicide attempt. I had overdosed on one of my medications. Luckily, there was a part of me which didn’t want to die, and I texted a friend who immediately called 9-1-1. The ambulance showed up right away and it was six weeks of inpatient hospitalization after that. I was released mid-October and I have been in recovery ever since. I have made some poor decisions during this time as an outpatient, but have also remedied the bad results of those poor decisions.

You know, I just want a normal life. I just want a normal life. What does that look like? To me, that looks like working 40 hours per week and then doing things that normal people do. That is, not what depressed people do. In depression, all I want to do is to sleep. Part of what they teach us in Cognitive Behaviour Therapy is to practice “opposite action.” That means that as much as I want to pull the covers over my head, I choose to do something else instead. Sometimes sleeping 12 to 20 hours a day doesn’t feel like a choice. It feels as if it is happening to me. It doesn’t feel as if it’s something that I am choosing to do. But the fact is, one always has choices. When I am feeling depressed, I usually choose to do what depressed people do, not what non-depressed people do.

Depression sucks the energy from you. It leaves you feeling worn out, exhausted and exasperated. It is relentless and negativity reigns all of the time. Negative thoughts and a negative outlook on life and your future are not uncommon. Hopelessness sinks in and you barely have the energy to move from the bed to the couch, let alone to take out your dog for a five-minute potty break.

I want to do things that living people do. It’s not that I am dying, but when I feel depressed it is as if my spirit is dying inside of me. I want to have the energy to do things, like drive somewhere pretty to go for a walk outside in nature or to have coffee with a friend at an actual coffee shop rather than at home. Living people stay connected with their friends and loved ones. I will tell you, I am trying really hard at this. I am making a concerted effort to text message and WhatsApp message friends and family whom I know that care about me. I want them to know how I’m doing and I’m not into posting things like that on social media, so it just takes more effort to stay connected.

Before I was admitted into the hospital, that is, before my suicide attempt, my energy was at an all-time high. I felt invincible and felt as if I could do anything, including taking the world upon my shoulders. I wanted to start a non-profit organization, do poetry readings around my community, find and interview for a new job, take some college classes, do my regular volunteer job while still working full-time and so much more. I was doing all of those things simultaneously and my energy was going in all sorts of directions. There was no one thing which I was focused on. I was all over the place. In spite of having had 11 ECT’s (Electro-Convulsive Therapy affects mostly short-term memory), I remember what this time back in August was like. It was like being on a high, high on something, high on life. My mind was spinning and I thought anything could be possible. I talked with people and got them to buy into my great/grandiose ideas.

Now that time is over and I can reflect back. I am two states away from my home, visiting my mother and her husband in a very rainy part of the country. The day is gloomy and you sure appreciate sunny days like yesterday. I am on holiday. This is a vacation away from the loneliness which encompasses my time at my home. My roommate moved out in September and I have been paying the whole rent on my own since then. All I have is my dog. The people around me don’t always have time for me. I have to learn to love myself even when I am alone. Rupi Kaur, my favourite modern poetess, says that if you are feeling lonely, “you are in desperate need of yourself.” I completely agree.

In my CBT course, I am not allowed to ingest any substances including alcohol. Here at my Mum’s home, I have broken the rule. I better not tell anyone lest I get into big trouble. However, I only have two more weeks of that course left before I have to go back into the “real” world and resume my 40 hours a week of work. It’s going to be okay, right? Yes. I have to tell myself that. I have to tell myself that everything is going to be okay and have a positive outlook on the future. If I didn’t have that, I wouldn’t have much. I have to remember that I am valued. Being with my Mum, I feel so worthy, like a worthy human being. She pays so much attention to me and gives me everything that I need including just the right amount of delicious foods. It’s Thanksgiving week and I just want to enjoy being okay right now.