Just Another Evening

My mind and senses are rife with excitement for writing about my evening right now. And at the same time, I feel as if I could drift off to sleep early without a care in the world, other than needing to take out Samuel for his nightly potty break, thus interrupting my would-be slumber. However, it’s an hour before the normal time when I start getting ready for bed, so I’ll stay up and type! Type away!

There’s nothing special about my evening, other than that it is not punctuated by suicidality or any other extreme emotions. Thus, in a sense, the evening is actually extraordinary, and every evening like this should be just as amazing. My Mum bought me a book, “Alone Time,” by Stephanie Rosenbloom. It’s a book about four little weeklong vacations the author took in different cities around the world within a year’s time. I’ve finished the introduction and am deep into the first chapter. There’s something about having a physical copy of a book in your hand. Rather than the hype of the smell of the book, the feel, the texture, I’m thinking it’s clunky and annoying, at first, to have to hold a physical book in one’s hands. First of all it requires two hands, rather than one, unless you have extremely dexterous fingers and are adept at holding a book’s pages open with one hand. Second, it doesn’t elicit that stare-like quality you get from having blue light flashing before your eyeballs… Yes, that’s more of a negative quality of digital reading. But I’ve gotten so used to reading Kindle books on the app on my phone that holding a real book just seems clunky. Nevertheless, reading this book in the flesh, so-to-speak, has grown on me. It’s just a different experience than the digital one. Also, with the Kindle app on the phone, one can change the font size to any size desired, which means I don’t have to squint whilst reading.

I digress. Where was I? My evening. Yesterday the evening temperature outside was 99 degrees Fahrenheit. That’s about 38 degrees Celsius. Far too hot for taking a leisurely stroll for exercise. Tonight the temperature was slightly more tolerable but I am very lucky that my apartment seems to stay at a decent temperature no matter what. I have air conditioning units in the windows of both my living room and bedroom, but when turned on they are very loud and not so pleasant. I also have a space heater for the colder months, as the wall elements that are supposed to heat a room really just don’t work. I fed my dog, picked up his poop off the hardwood floor and searched around for possible wet spots where he could have peed. These days, with an old dog, this is a daily routine. Sometimes I get tired of this routine of picking up after him!

Some chilled rosé started off the evening and I barely had any: not even a buzz. Then cereal for dinner with vanilla yogurt and nibbles on carrots to make up for the lack of vegetables in that bland diet. All in all, not a bad start to the evening. I exchanged voice recordings with my friend in Nova Scotia, saying whatever I pleased and could think of off the cuff, including expletives, because we never hold anything back between us and any topic is fair game, even “I’m on the toilet whilst recording this message.”

It’s a good use of time for me. I get to have social interaction without it feeling too glaring or obligatory or awkward thanks to the miracle of modern technology. We exchange messages on an app called Signal which encrypts messages, unlike WhatsApp, which does not encrypt messages. It’s interesting: I don’t own a television and I don’t miss it. If I want to watch a movie I have the option of watching it inconveniently on my computer or conveniently on the screen of my phone. I’ve enjoyed several movies from my phone screen and it works just fine for me. I mean, just because I don’t own a TV doesn’t mean I never watch anything. I do. I like the occasional surreptitious form of pre-recorded entertainment.

My dryer is loud in the background because of the numerous zippers on clothing items that are banging against the walls of the inside of the dryer, saying “let me out!” “I will,” I reply, “when it’s time and you’re dry.” The only thing I have to hang-dry is my bra because it’s too delicate for the likes of an electric drying machine… unless I didn’t want that clothing item to last me a long time, then I could make it suffer the forced heated air. I always look at my piano, well, my family’s piano, that is, and think to myself, “I could be playing you.” Yet the desire just doesn’t compute into action.

It’s almost completely dark outside now. It’s smack in the middle of the eight o’clock hour. Do you know that in Germany 8:30 is actually “half nine”? This makes complete sense. It’s a half hour before nine, so we attribute the following hour, not the current hour. Maybe it doesn’t make sense to you but there are a lot of things that are sensible about the German language. The one thing I can never quite get right is “the: Der/Die/Das” There are three genders: masculine, feminine, and neutral. This makes me think that Germans pioneered the LGBTQ movement long before anyone else thought of it. Yes please, call me “They/Them” instead of “She/Her.” Neutralize my gender, thank you very much!

Well, enough of my musings. I am done for now. Suffice to say that the newest addition to my household, my kalimba, is sitting as quietly as my piano, patiently waiting for me to desire to play it. It’s a wonderful little instrument and very versatile. I could be lighting candles, burning incense, wafting lavender oil water via my electric diffuser, but that all sounds like too much work. I’d rather just listen to my dog snore and nod off to sleep myself without the hassle of having to remember to blow out a candle or press the “off” button of my diffuser. I got the diffuser for free on my Buy Nothing Facebook group. It’s a nice thing to have. Now I shall hit “send” and the “off” button of my computer. Goodnight!

A Discussion About Mental Illness

I suffer from mental illness. Also known as mental injuries. Those injuries are depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. It makes me different from other people. It sets me apart in that life seems just more difficult than it would otherwise without those illnesses. Every person is unique. We all have “mental health” but not everyone has a mental illness. It’s different. It’s unique. It’s not exactly desirable.
What do I think of this? I’m sure a lot of people have mental health “issues” but staying in bed for 48 hours straight on the weekend feels somewhat debilitating. That is just one way my illness manifests itself. I have a lot of respect for people who work in the mental health field, such as my therapist and my psychiatrist. It takes a lot of compassion to work with people who have mental injuries that are chronic.
Then there are the crying spells. I do have times where I just need to cry to release the sadness. It’s a release of negative energy which has built up over time. But then again, I’m not the only person who can cry after watching a sad movie, right? I recently watched the movie “I am Sam” and cried twice throughout the movie. There were some very sad parts, and the sadness spills into my personal life and my emotions that I have just about daily living.

Sometimes living is hard. Sometimes I would rather be dead. But I know there are a lot of people who know me who would rather see me live my life, preferably a productive (meaning, happy) life, and I try to live up to those expectations. It takes a lot of patience, which I don’t always have. When life is going well I dream a lot of things about my future, such as buying a condo one day or going back to school.
Living takes a lot of grit. No one ever said life would be easy, and it really isn’t! It’s hard. We get tired, overworked, exhausted emotionally and physically, and then we have to recover. But living with a mental illness takes just a little bit more effort than it would for the average person to get through each and every day.

Being suicidal takes an enormous amont of effort and energy. With suicidality comes a lot of anxiety, anxious feelings that are intrusive and interfere with whatever else is going on at the moment. When I am suicidal I can’t work, I just sit at my desk making plans for ending my life and finding comfort in the fact that my life could end soon, that the emotional pain would soon go away. Suicide is not selfish, it’s an act of desperation to end emotional pain. If you ever come across a suicidal person, just listen and be there. No special words are needed, except your presence and for them to feel like they are not alone. Luckily I haven’t been suicidal for a number of months now. I am just living my life day to day doing the best that I can.

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.

A Piece of Writing

What makes music so beautiful? What makes it so perfect? What makes it so special? Why is it that I am crying at the mere thought of creating such beauty when I know I don’t have the skill, but to listen. What is it about music which produces tears?

Watching the Soloist this evening, on my phone, since I don’t own a television, brought some humanity to my otherwise mundane days. I’ve felt lately that I have no purpose in life. Yes, I am my dog’s mom. I am a good friend to a few people. I am a sister and a daughter and a patient to a very special therapist. But there are days I wish that my life would just end.

I don’t have the skill when it comes to creating great melodies but I do have words and with my words I sing until I feel better, until I have created a picture of something that I could imagine swallowing whole, like swallowing a pill to make things seem better if only for a few moments.

Somewhere in life there has to be a purpose for me still being here. My mother has counted the number of times I’ve tried to take my life. Maybe it helps her. I’ve lost count and I dream of the end of my pain all the time. I just want my pain to end. When I looked up the year The Soloist was released, in 2009, it brought me back to my painful years of being abused. The feeling never quite leaves you, when you’ve experienced that much pain in your life. The feeling of being raped, of having every aspect of your life controlled and not having a say, it never quite leaves you. I want to keep practising saying “no” because my “no” was disregarded so many times. It just wasn’t a thing.

I feel like I have a wet beard because my tears have traveled down the length of my face and have stopped at the hairs of my chinny chin chin. And just like that, with the swipe of a long-armed sleeve, they are gone. My piano has been vacant for over two months, not being played, no sounds being produced. All I can do is sleep on the weekends. I don’t make a sound. I don’t disturb anyone but myself and the waves I make with followers on my Twitter account. It’s as if I don’t exist and I really don’t care to exist.

Pain makes tears seem easy. Some people who have experienced pain cannot bring themselves to cry, and they’ve envied my tears. It’s true! Tears are a way of releasing emotions that have built up, festering, for some time. They come and they go, just as emotions do. The pain comes, and then the pain goes, and somehow, I get to live in the present with the past in the past, once again, where it belongs.

Trying to Figure Out My Worth After Sexual Abuse

What am I worth? Am I worth a $90k a year job when I’ve been working very underpaid jobs for the last six years? Before that, I couldn’t even hold a job. I was so broken. Broken down from a relationship that exploited me. Some say I was sexually abused. I say I was sex trafficked. I was only worth what someone would pay to have sex with me in a hotel room or at home in our living room with my malnourished, anorexic body.

My tears are still dripping as I type this. I’m too dumbfounded by the realization that I’ve undervalued myself for so many years to wipe the tears away. Wet, shining, they caress my cheek as they find their ultimate resting place. What am I good at? In my opinion, not very much. I don’t have much to speak for myself. Yes, I can write a mean poem and then recite it wholeheartedly. It takes everything out of me to perform my poetry. I need an entire day of rest before and after if I’m the headliner for the open mic show.

I’m on my sixth interview with a company. It’s scheduled for Monday, in just a few days, with the founder of the company. I guess they want to make sure that I am the right person for the job. If I get the offer, the numbers in the approximation of $90,000 will be stamped in black and white. Of course, in that area of the country, the living costs are very high. Rent would be around $40,000 a year, so that brings the number down a bit, and with taxes taken out, well, I would still be able to save a bit of money. I want to go visit my aunt in Australia one day. That will cost a bit of money.

When I think about my malnourished self of around the age of 24, that was in 2008. It’s when I started seeing my therapist, who hasn’t left my side in over a decade. I call myself malnourished because my abuser, who was also my husband and pimp and sex trafficker (the pimping out started only when we had gotten engaged)… let me side track for a minute. I remember an attorney over the phone exclaiming stupidly to me: “You married your pimp?” I’ll never forget those words. To an outsider who doesn’t know my story, it may seem like that. But no, I married my high school sweetheart. Only, he wasn’t so sweet. I didn’t know what narcissistic personality disorder was back then. I didn’t know that people who are sexually abused as children either become abusers themselves, or they heal from it. He was the first of those two options. We dated and the screwed up sex stuff didn’t start until he “owned” me by putting a ring on my finger.

In 2012 when I was 28 I left that relationship. I had been seeing my therapist for four years. I couldn’t take it any longer, the abuse, that is. Don’t get me wrong. There was a part of me that didn’t want to leave him. I was trauma bonded to this abuser and thought that I loved him. I grieved that loss of relationship for many years. It was a long time before the anger came. I still feel angry now and then. The anger rears its ugly head in the form of suicidal ideation. When I’m furious, I think about ending my life. At times, this is really intense.

Back to the beginning of where I started out. I’m about to get or not get a really good job offer that no one in their right mind would refuse. But it would mean leaving a city that has been my home for so long, and leaving my friends behind, even though I don’t see them often anyway. Taking this job would mean delaying my dream of going back to school to become a psychotherapist. But am I ready to help others when I am still healing myself? A therapist who helps suicidal people not kill themselves and yet experiences suicidal ideation on her own terms?

I really don’t know what to do. What am I worth? Does my $22/hour job define my worth? I’ve wanted to take a $15/hour job as a mental health worker, but that would mean I would be using a minimum of $10,000 a year of the nest egg I got from my divorce, because yes, everyone, the narcissistic man who sex trafficked me was a promising young CEO of a technology company. That’s the only reason I can afford to work such low paid jobs in the first place is the “savings” that I have which aren’t savings but divorce severance from the profit of a company sale, a company which I, in a way, helped to build, because I was married to the man who was a founder. Enough technicalities. I’m being completely open and honest here, and I have no idea who is going to read this, or what you, reader, are going to think. Of me. Of my story. Of my latest conundrum.

Really my focus should be on healing. I should keep my underpaid job that has good health insurance, whilst using some of that nest egg every month to make ends meet, and heal, heal, heal. I need to heal and figure out what defines my value. God defines my worth. Not a job. Not the status of my mental health. Not my depressed thoughts and feelings which tell me lies. Not my trauma. Not my history. God defines my worth and I define my worth. That last one is tricky, because whilst God may value my existence and my soul, I do not. Whilst at the moment of creation, God knew that he was creating the makings of a masterpiece, here I am years later still wishing I were dead because the trauma in my mind won’t leave me alone.

Images and memories pop up constantly, uninvited and intrusively pushing their way in to my present moment, making the nine years in which I have been safe from my abuser seem like the blink of an eye, and I am being raped, in my mind, in the present, by men whose faces all blur into one unpleasant, gruff essence of “man” and “abuser” and “rapist.” What I need to find out, before I start graduate school, again, is what I am worth. The truth is that I am worth my weight in gold. Gold is the word that God gave to me when Ruth and I were praying together.

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.

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…

Just Your Average Sunday of Suffering…

Why do I have to suffer so much? Can I just please minimize my problems in a self-deprecating way and say that others have it so much worse? I have a car, a nice home, a good job, so how could things possibly be bad? Well, I could be dirt poor or super rich too and still suffer the same as I’m suffering now. Depression has nothing to do with socioeconomic status, although, those who have money get the best treatment options. For example, there’s a DBT program (dialectical behaviour therapy) but it would cost me an extra $1,100 per month and that’s just not in my budget. My roommate is listening to something upbeat right now and it’s driving me crazy. I want to tell her to shut it off.

It’s Easter Sunday. Happy Easter, everyone! Well, the “happy” in there is just a figure of speech and well-wishing but it does not apply to my Sunday. I actually made it to a church service, the last of four services offered by my church. It started at 11:30. I cried when the band played the introductory songs. Then during the service, I cried a bit more. Then when I went for prayer at the prayer team at the end of the service I cried a lot more. I told her that I wanted her to pray that my depression doesn’t kill me. She’s obviously experienced with knowledge in this area because the first thing she asked me was, “have you ever attempted?” That was just over six months ago, my last attempt, but I’ve attempted many times before. Her second question was, “Do you have a plan.” I answered “no” and I was being truthful.

There’s a traditional Italian cake called a Colomba and it’s very similar to the Pannetone they have around Christmas and new year’s. My Mum sent me one and that’s literally all I’ve eaten today. I finished off the day, after a long nap which prevented me from self-harming, with some beans, cooked kale and sundried tomatoes mixed together. The rice had gone off so I had to throw that away. Yesterday I stayed in bed all day. From 10:00 PM Friday night to 9:00 AM Monday morning I’ve been out of bed for a cumulative four hours. My back was hurting this morning from having been in bed so much. Being asleep during the day and having nightmares just seemed easier to bear over being awake and having to deal with the reality of being alive.

I didn’t want to die yesterday, but today I was on Twitter and saw an article about a young woman who had suicided. There were photos of the self-harm scars on display and it completely triggered me. I went from wanting to cut myself to thinking about jumping off a bridge or somehow drowning… okay. I’ll stop there. Let me just say that I let my imagination run a bit wild whilst I was texting with the crisis line. They have my name saved because they knew my name without me telling them. I guess I text in for help a lot. Their main concern is that I don’t have a plan that I’m going to carry out immediately and if I do they would try to get me help. It’s mainly just someone to talk with when the most painful and overwhelming emotions are happening.

Now I’m overwhelmed and exhausted just having typed out that last paragraph. I’ve been wanting to write a post all weekend but just haven’t had the energy. I barely have any energy now. But the last time I showered was Wednesday night so that’s one thing I have to make myself do tonight. I don’t know what it is, but in my mind showering is one of the hardest things to get myself to do. The actual act of it isn’t but it’s the stories I tell myself in my mind that make it hard. I would just rather never shower and at the same time, I can’t go to work with a greasy head of hair. I discovered dry shampoo which is amazing, so amazing, but since my last roommate moved out six months ago I haven’t bought any. I would always just use hers, with her permission of course.

I got behind on handwashing dishes so I am running the dishwasher now as they were beginning to pile up high in the sink. I don’t consider having to run the dishwasher a failure, however, I do feel bad that my roommate has to put up with my dirty dishes being in the sink. I do not know how some people are just so diligent about washing a dish right after using it. That almost never happens for me. I just don’t have that kind of motivation, perseverance, diligence, or whatever you want to call it.

I think that’s about enough from me for today. I thank you for attending to my words, my lovely reader, and for being a part of my life for these few moments which you have spent reading my journal entry. Thank you for letting me be a part of your day and I truly wish you all the best. Even though I suffer from depression, I am a loving and caring person. It’s much easier to love other people than myself. That’s why I tell my therapist I love him, because if I can’t love myself then I at least have someone I can love. Everyone needs love in their life.

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.

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.