some history… (a box of triggers maybe. open with caution)

I read another blog (the few lines that came up on my reader, as it refused to load) and it got me thinking… my methods and preferred spot have changed over the years.  I started with a few small scratches on my left arm… I did it with a pin.  It barely left a mark that lasted for a few short hours.  Like any good addiction, it stopped being enough.  I remember the first day I “graduated” to scissors… it scared me, but I felt better.  I also switched arms – I had run out of unmarked skin… I had bruised my arm up really bad with a desperate attempt at hurting myself one night when I had nothing but a key to work with.  I started wearing nothing but long sleeves at school (in the sweltering heat).  I wore a sweatshirt that 90 degree day when I cut at school and it bled through my light yellow uniform top.  No one questioned it… I was usually cold anyway, anorexia will do that to you.  I’m not sure what prompted me to reach out one day and admit to my guidance counselor that I self-injured.  She took it in stride and offered support.  She had experience from one of her other students from a different school… She agreed not to break confidentiality if I would continue to seek help.  I nodded.  She knew it would be ugly if my parents found out.  My dad had not reacted well to the news of Anorexia, forget self-injury.  It was brought on by s**t at home anyway.  I’m glad she left it up to me to tell them.  I don’t really remember when I actually said something to them (if I ever did before I was first hospitalized… it’s a bit blurry).  Once I went  away to school, the intensity changed, and I branched out in my preferred spot to self-injure.  Once anyone noticed, I had to switch to someplace easier to hide.  That, and I was running out of places to cut…  I didn’t scar so easily back then.  My nurse commented on it one day… I was to check in with her regularly (per my therapist) to assess the damage.  I think I saw her about once a month… She saw the worst of the cuts (relatively deep), and they rarely scarred.  She said I was lucky.  I think her saying that broke my body’s spell, and I started to scar up shortly after that.  I don’t really remember the intensity of my cuts changing, but the scars started remaining on my body… I don’t really remember why, but I know I had to see the gyn a few times (I think it had something to do with abnormal test results… or maybe they were just checking up on me).  A few times she had remarked to my therapist that I had words carved into my legs… I remember J gave me the chance to explain them to her, and tell her what I had written… when I did not fess up to it (I was too embarrassed… wasn’t sure why I had written what I did), she asked me outright “Why the words ‘Slut’ and ‘Whore’? ‘Worthless’ I understand, but the other two confuse me”… I don’t remember what I said, but I’m pretty sure it wasn’t even close to anything truthful, as I really don’t remember being in touch with it at the time.  I think I confused even myself with that.  I still am not sure I know why I wrote it… There was a sense of shame from Duckboy and being molested earlier in life… I think I internalized that as my fault… I no longer have access to what I was thinking then.

Shortly after that time, I started cutting my legs more and more… I tried my abdomen, but it wasn’t satisfying… My legs became my next abuse victims.  I did the worst damage there.  Those cuts would take weeks to heal, and my nurse would shake her head.  There were a few she contemplated stitching up, but I never consented… I miss her.  She was gentle and kind, and another non-judgmental person to be accountable to… I wasn’t used to genuine, kind caring, but I liked it.  It was a huge loss when she retired before I graduated.  She had kicked my butt into line for 3 years… my most consistent support yet at that time in my life.  She sent me to the ER one day, and I was beyond hurt and angry at her, but I know she had to do it.  I’m glad she did it during lunch… it was less embarrassing that way, Health Services was more empty… fewer faces to witness my crumbling facade.  I really miss M and my therapist at the time.  They tag-teamed me more times than I’d like to admit just to be able to get me through each year… I don’t know what I would have done if I was kicked out of school and forced to move back home.

The next few years are a blur… I was in and out of therapy after graduating, mostly out because my SO at the time thought it was useless… I held it together as best I could.  Then one day I remembered that feeling of falling… I knew it was there; at a distance, but I was along its ever-speeding trajectory.  I reached out to find a therapist again.  I called so many numbers and left so many messages… one woman called me back.  I met with her, and she became my therapist.  I think it was in that first session that she diagnosed me Borderline Personality Disorder, and said she was “an expert of sorts” in it… She worked hard to convince me that I needed to embrace the diagnosis.  She strongly pushed DBT (I had tried it before in college, but no one ever talked to me about being BPD… or maybe they did and I dissociated it, I’m not sure).  I resisted for quite a while.  She also pushed meds (which I was also resistant to) and finding a psychiatrist.  I grudgingly sought one I could tolerate… I think I went through 3 before I found one I could sit with and remotely trust… She ended up moving away after a few short months.  Back to the drawing board.  I never did find another psychiatrist I liked, but I stuck with meds because I was told I should.  I tried all the ones they had tried me on in college, and continued on through the gamut of available meds that even remotely had psychiatric applications.  I experienced crazy side-effects and was mildly allergic to a few.  My most hated phrase from a psychiatrist (or any medical professional) to this day is “but do the benefits out-weigh the negatives?”… “it’s just a little weight gain” (80lbs in 2 months); “but do you feel depressed when you feel sick?”; “the nausea is just temporary”; “do you really need to drive yourself to work? can’t you get a ride?”; “can you live with the drowsiness for a while longer?” “it clears up in a few days… weeks… months…”  No, it did not clear up.  No, a recently anorexic patient can’t handle 80lbs of weight gain.  No, I can’t rely on others for transportation to and from work over 45 minutes away… No.  The benefits do not out-weigh the negatives (are there really any benefits                       ?  I have been hospitalized more times in the last year on meds than I think most chronic psych patients do in a lifetime)…

Something happened and I was able to maintain a decent facade for the next 2 or 3 years even on meds… I struggled frequently with self-injury and suicidal thoughts, but I was on meds, so it was ok right?

I thought I was well enough to tackle grad school having had 2 years “clean” from major break-downs (little ones littered my days however).  I managed to hold down a relationship, a full-time job, and advance in that job… I had to be ok for school, right?  Wrong!  The pressure and the triggers became too much.  I had not yet dealt with the trauma I was trying to bleed away.  When I encountered it again in the position of helper, I crumbled.  It felt like trying to fill a wire-frame statue with damp sand in the hot, drying sun… I had a new therapist and was glossing over much of the “dirty” stuff in my closet, but we figured I was able to handle a degree in the same field.  The mess at school coupled with the triggers at my internship finally tipped the last domino and I it was down-hill from there.  If I thought my first bout of hospitalizations was a lot, little did I know how often I would be passing through those revolving doors that coming year.  They did not know what to do to help me.  Hospitals are only meant for containment and stabilization on meds… they keep you alive, but don’t help you move on through the pain.  There is physical support, but no real emotional support… their general practice is to medicate to the hilt if anything distressing comes up, and not to help you learn to deal with the feelings that are so incredibly overwhelming… why would they? it gives them more work… I can’t tell you how many times I requested that Haldol be taken off my PRN list at the hospital only to find a nurse had slipped it into my med mix because I was having a rough time.  It would knock me out for 2 days, and I would get shit from family and staff for not participating.  I resent that more than most things… I know my body and I know what medications do to me.  If I specifically ask that something be removed from my available meds, please do so…

It’s amazing how fast professionals can give up trying when their usual interventions don’t have the desired results.  Yes, I’m crashing harder and faster than ever before, but then why are we doing the same old shit over & over again?!  I remember asking, begging for a different program, a different intervention.  I remember adamantly refusing DBT (so far, all 5 times resulted in severe self-injury, suicide attempts, or long hospitalizations; but the 6th time, that one will be different…).  I bought into it, L did a good job of wearing me down on it in the 4 years she was my therapist).  I tried again.  I struggled and floundered and was triggered beyond belief.  I begged for help, and ultimately  I was kicked out for screwing up and “not using my skills.”  Only they didn’t realize I was dissociating so badly I lost several days… I begged for help… it wasn’t good enough.  The week following my discharge that time, I was sent to a PHP program the floor below the DBT program… Apparently the psychiatrist was not versed in DBT despite the program’s proximity.  She committed me for riding the wave of self-harm urges that weekend.  She said I told her I would try to kill myself and could not commit to safety… In actuality, I had said I would use my skills to ride out the emotions because I had done it that weekend, and I was sure I could do it again.  I also said that I would reach out if things got too bad… She only heard what she wanted to.  It was a turning point for me though.  I felt anger towards another person (other than bitch or my dad) for the first time ever.  I was so angry I wanted to pummel her head in with my water bottle as they walked me through the underground tunnels to the locked unit… I was calm outside.  I forced it.  No matter my anger, I would never hurt another person.  When someone walked in too close a proximity to me, I calmly (and barely above a whisper) told them to step away from me… no one thought to take my heavy water bottle from me… I would not have acted on my rage, but boy was I brimming with it.  (How dare you tell me to do all this shit, trigger me to the hilt, have me actually succeed (in my eyes) at something extremely difficult, then negate any progress…  you are just like that bitch…)… I had such a hard time that hospitalization… I was rageful towards everyone in power… I found no one to connect with and no one to seek support from… I was unable to convince the doctors to release me. I was there for a full week… it felt like months (I had just left there 2 days ago).  For the first time in my life, all my anger was focused externally.  I was telling the truth when I told the psychiatrist that I had absolutely no thoughts of harming myself… That time, I lived on Haldol… if it knocked me out for the duration, all the better.  I don’t remember what prompted my discharge, but apparently I was outwardly better, or insurance refused to pay for more.

I do not remember how long after that it took me to find my way back to the unit, but I was back again (multiple times).  While I was intensely suicidal the days before my last hospitalization (and actually planned on carrying out an OD in the woods the day before I was committed), I had no intention of dying by bleeding to death from my self-injury.  That was just an addiction and a release from all the thoughts swirling in my head.  The problem was that I had found a place to cut that was way too dangerous.  I did not realize the extent of the damage I was doing, all I wanted was the relief of the flowing blood.. I actually stopped that time, frustrated that I could not bring more to the surface… I did not know that I had already bled out most of my volume in the last 2 days… there was nothing left to gush, so nothing did.  I reached out to my therapist and others so much those days… I could not go more than 10-15 minutes without cutting… I found ways to do it even with others in the house.

The next day, my therapist convinced me to go see my doctor.  I was worried too, as the bleeding was still pretty heavy (not at all normal for me).  Someone had made a note somewhere in my chart tho, because even though my doctor was on vacation that week and I quickly hung up, the nurse called me back with an appointment time with one of her colleagues.  I was not given much of an option, but told I was expected in at a particular time.  I am not sure how it happened, but my wife was home early to take me… I traumatized a lot of people that day with the extent and nature of my injuries… the sad part is, while I regret it to some degree, I would never have gotten into the trauma program at The Center at PIW.  I would not have started that very crucial step towards recovery… I would have missed out on the trauma of the whole ECT affair, but I would have also missed out on insight and a detox from all the meds they had me on.  That was my rock bottom.  Though I had attempted suicide in the past, this was my absolute lowest point… I was hopeless, frequently suicidal, and easily able to harm myself to within hours of death.  I was dissociating, experiencing very strong and frequent flashbacks, and I was desperately searching for anything to make it all better.  In my flailing, I wounded so many… I truly regret that part…  I’m sorry you have to live with that… If I could do things differently, I would remove you from any instance of my self-destruction.  I would protect you from my demons, because after all, they are mine alone…

That break was not an easy one.  I struggled daily with hating myself and life and wanting to hurt myself again to make the anxiety and pain go away.  I had eyes on me 24/7 though, so I was not able to do anything.  I also had support in DC.  While I was pissed that I was not allowed to dissociate when things got too much, it helped center me.  I was able to find a way to wall off the intense emotions.  I found a way to make it through the days.  I found ways to relieve the stress without self-harming… It was a giant step towards recovery.  It is a rough road, with a ton of bumps… but I have to remember, as D said, the future is not an absolute.  Can’t lose hope just yet.

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