some accidental clarity

Ever since I learned of Sara’s passing I’ve been in a foggy dissociative state that’s been confusing for me. Since mid November when I returned to my previous job (which is now my current job, life is funny that way), and fired Doc, my last psychiatrist (more on that in future posts), I’ve been doing surprisingly well. I’ve had less instances of getting stuck in the car in a foggy state where I’ll be stuck from anywhere from 10 minutes to upwards of 2 hours. I’ve even been able to get out of bed with very few instances of the stuck-to-the-bed feeling that used to plague me on a near constant basis.

However, a lot of that foggy dissociation returned once the news about Sara reached me. I understood the return of the dissociation at first as it was and is a loss. But then I started getting the feeling that there was more to it, but I couldn’t pin point it, and because I was in that foggy state the thought would come to me in a fleeting moment, and just as soon as it would come it would disappear. I would ask myself, “Wasn’t there something important I was just pondering?” But the thought would just evaporate, such is how it is when my dissociation is ever present.

Yesterday and today seemed to glob into one space of time. Every thing was an effort: getting in the shower, getting in clothes, going to get something to eat, driving, laundry, grocery shopping, the gym, eating again, and then throwing out garbage and putting away groceries. I was stuck in the car, and I just said to myself “We just need to go in the grocery store. We need bananas, oranges, toilet paper, and almond milk. You can do this! It won’t take long.” Thirty minutes later I make it into the damn store.

In that moment when I was sitting in my car, playing a game of Candy Crush trying to jolt myself out of the foggy state, the fleeting thought came back, and this time I managed to hold onto it. As I was playing that stupid game I suddenly had the realization that this has been so hard because of my mother. This whole thing took me back to my mother. There were countless times that she threatened suicide. She would yell that nobody cared about her, we didn’t care about her, and because we did not care about her she was going to kill herself, and when she killed herself we would all be sorry that we did not show her how much we cared about her.

This was a frequent scenario growing up in that dreaded ugly brown house on Marietta St, so much so that I got to the unfortunate point where I am ashamed to say that I started to wish she would go ahead and do it and put us all out of our misery. Thankfully, I never expressed this to her, but I definitely thought it, wished it, hell I think I might have prayed for it at one very desperate point. I don’t even want to know what God must have made of that request.

There was one time when I was likely around 6 or 7 years old when I ripped up a Ziploc bag in front of her and ate it as she was making her typical suicidal threats. When she realized I did it as a suicidal gesture she laughed, and said to me that eating that bag was not going to kill me.

Eventually I started staying away from home as much as possible. I recall one particular argument (actually this is the only part of the argument I recall. I couldn’t tell you what we were arguing about in that instance)  with my mother when I told her that there would come a day where she would never hear from me or see me again, and I wanted her to remember this moment, remember all the moments that brought us here to this because they will make up the reasons that she will never see me again. And I believe I said something to the effect of, “You should never have been a parent. You’re the worst.”

Decades later I stand by those words. I do, cruel as it may sound, it’s how I feel. I wish her no ill well, just that I leave this earth without any more exchanges between the two of us. Any love that was there was killed, extinguished long ago. She’s just a person to me, a person in this world with whom I have an unfortunate connection. I’ve kept my word in that I’ve not seen her for many years. It’s the right choice given the situation.

I never realized this until this week, but I believe her suicidal threats were likely the most damaging to me out of the entire potpourri of damage she rained on us. I believe it’s the reason when I’ve had friends who’ve experienced suicidal ideation I tend to freak out or take off or both. My own propensity for suicidal ideation leads me to be very close to the vest about it. In the rare moments when it has scared me I am reduced to whispering it to my therapist. There have even been times when I couldn’t even whisper it, all I could do was write it to my therapist and hand her the piece of paper. I never realized, until now, that I have a fear of talking about suicide.

The legacy of suicidal ideation was passed down to me, but I went the opposite direction with it. I try to protect everyone from it. My mother wanted everyone to feel responsible for her ideation, and I go out of my way to protect my loved ones from even knowing that I struggle with this. My mother suffered out in the open, and I struggle with mine in a good amount of isolation.

My mother was a good at crafts, and our dining room table often looked like a craft store vomited on it. She would make homecoming mums (a strange Texas tradition) or make candy cane reindeer at that table. I remember wishing that I liked crafts so that I could have one good memory of doing something nice with her. Instead, I would glance at her doing crafts at that table with my sisters, and I would read a book.

a hard thing

The day before yesterday I learned that Sara, a WordPress blogger, took her own life. I’ve been bereft since then, mainly because I feel I have no right to feel this way. For a period of time, Sara and I corresponded after she posted about her experience at Sheppard Pratt. In that particular posting she ranted in that brilliant and funny way of hers about Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT). I resonated with her rant because I also find it exhausting that too many of these places that treat PTSD and DID put all their eggs in the DBT basket. DBT is not a bad concept, it certainly has its’ good points … but please it is not the be all and end all cure for PTSD. I had completed a stay at Mclean Hosptial’s residential program for traumatic and dissociative disorders, and it was interesting for both of us to hear about each other’s experiences in what many consider the top two psychiatric programs for PTSD in the country. From our correspondence you could see that we both found our programs acceptable, but way too ballyhooed for their own britches.

Sara was much more articulate than I was in ranting about it. I wish I could recall the specifics of what she wrote.

I am most disappointed in myself because I fell out of contact with her. It’s one of those things that happens when life gets in the way.

I will further admit that I became aware that Sara lived less than a 3 hour drive from me. In the back of my mind I planned to tell Sara that I lived close enough to drive to her, and I would ask if she would like to meet. But, it never came to pass. My own life struggles take center stage far too often, and that plan never got off the back burner. Now it will never be.

I sit here stuck now in front of my laptop computer, immobilized from disappointment and undeserved grief.

Make the right choice

Every year since 2008, this, right here, is the week that I dearly wish would pass by without notice. How lovely it would be to glance at the calendar in early September, and think, “Oh, hey, that typically dreaded horrible anniversary week in late August went right on by without notice. Look at that!”

Alas, but no, that is not the case. All the progress I’ve made to date feels like it’s slipping through my fingers, like thin beach sand that easily flows through our fingers as we let it fall. My body feels as dissociative and floaty as ever, as if I’ve not seen Doc for the last two years. The will to continue is dreadfully hard to yank out of me, and yank is exactly what I have to do in order to put one foot in front of the other, in order to not give in to the incessant thoughts of an end. An end that would be just that, an end with pain for others, and that is, sadly, what keeps me going this very moment -others. I am hardly continuing on for myself. No, right now there is too much regret over the life choices that led to that terrible week in late August of 2008. There is too much awareness of the fact that I threw my life into a deep and wide ditch that week from which I may never fully extract myself. Right now, I continue for others, like my two nephews whom I love, and though I know they think I’m goofy, they do look up to me. And what a terrible life lesson I would be dropping in their lap if I were to leave this earth by my own volition.

I know that if I were to make this choice that I would be presenting it to them as a viable choice, and I don’t want to be that person for them.

In order to try to shake the depressed feeling, I try to focus on the good fortune I have in my life.

The fact is this, there is not a whole hell of a lot that separates me from someone that is called a “consumer” in our statewide mental health system. Similar to someone that has a “serious and persistent mental illness,” or rather (SPMI) as it’s called, in my worst moments of DID and PTSD, things like laundry, grocery shopping, cooking and cleaning become fantasies and dreams. But, because I have been blessed with resources I am able to send my laundry out to the wash-and-fold service, hire a cleaning service, and eat outside the home. Even with these services in play, I can still struggle with getting out of bed, getting into the shower, and getting dressed because I am floaty and dissociative. But at least in those instances I’ve narrowed down the things I must accomplish, which is the best way for me to have some semblance of success when I am in that state.

Even so, I am acutely aware of the fact that I have a job that pays me enough so that I can pay for the services I’ve mentioned above. This salary, and the fact that I have a friend that lets me stay with him when I am too afraid to be by myself, these are the only things that keep me from becoming part of the system of care.

And just when one would think I would sit here and feel blessed about my resources, I sit here and get scared instead. I get scared because I know it’s the job that provides the resources, which means I need to continue to do the job, and do the job well. Lately, when every morning is a fight with myself, I ask, “How much longer can I fight? How much longer can I juggle this?”

Then I loop back to my brain telling me that it’s a fruitless fight, and that’s when I remember why I threw myself at the mercy of my friend today, and asked if I could stay with him for a while. He said “sure” and asked me what was up, and between tears I said, “I get too scared by myself right now, and bad choices are floating in my brain.” He then took my hand, and said, “But you’re making a good choice now.”