I’m constantly dealing with PTSD, depression, self-injury & dissociation. This will be a documentation of my journey to integrate the light and the dark in my life… I have little or no access to one or the other on a given day. This is how I survived. I built walls. Big ones. And they did their job: mostly it was keeping the dark times at bay, but when I’m lost in the dark they also serve to keep out the light. While that disconnect has served me well in the past, it’s working to my detriment now. I lose sight of the happy times and the progress i have made any time my depression looms or my PTSD rears its ugly head.
At some point in 2009, my walls crumbled once again (remind me to tell you about the first time in another blog entry) while I was trying to go back for my Master’s Degree in Social Work. My first internship placement failed through no fault of my own (my advisor told me so right after she & I found out I had been booted from it), so I looked elsewhere. It was already a few weeks into the semester, so my choices were limited. I took the first place that called me in for an interview: a domestic violence services center. This I would love to call a mistake, but a few good things did come of it: 1) I made a few good friends along the journey, and 2) I realized that I am not cut out for that work right now (maybe not ever, but I’m not at a space to make that judgement just now). Anyway, I worked my little butt off quite successfully for a number of months, until my depression and suicidal thinking landed me in the hospital for the umpteenth time, and I decided to take a break. I don’t mean to give the impression that all the depression came out of nowhere. It has always been with me, this blackness… As long as I can remember, I was either running from it or curling up with it. But at the time I had attempted grad school, it had been hiding for about 2 years. The experience of working closely with these battered women hit home though, and my wall started to disintegrate. There was one client in particular whose story hit close to home… I struggled with that relationship in supervision every week (heck, it would have been every day if my supervisor had the time). It ended up being the straw that broke me. Almost a year after I started my grad work, it came to a grinding halt. I dropped out of school, quit all my jobs, and fell head-long into a massive depression/flashback/self-injury/suicide attempt/hospitalization vortex. For a year and a half, I think I practically lived in one hospital or another. They did not help (as evidenced by the revolving door), but they were all that people could come up with to (try to) keep me safe. I was hopeless, literally – I had lost all hope of anything ever getting better for very long. I only consciously tried to kill myself once, but there were many other close calls from self-medication via pill or self-injury. Towards the end, my main focus had become the self-injury, and the sick way it kept me feeling safe & “normal.” I would do it for the high and the pleasure (here you may ask yourself: but didn’t it hurt? didn’t she realize it might kill her? WTF?!). It never once hurt, even when I hurt myself so badly that I required a transfusion in the trauma unit if the ED. the thing with self-injury is that it doesn’t hurt when you are doing it… most people who self-injure don’t register the pain, there’s too much other crap going on. The only thing that registers is the relief from the emotional pain, and the flood of endorphins that course through your system. It becomes a chase to keep it going. Much like drugs or alcohol, it can become an addiction. It did become one for me. I didn’t see the damage it was causing to those around me, let alone myself. I just wanted more. Only it became harder to achieve the same “high” so I had to do it more… yeah, like I said, classic addiction. In the end, it was yet another traumatic experience that pulled me out of it: my last hospitalization at a local (though “respected’) psychiatric unit. I had the pleasure of having a real pompous jack-ass as my attending psychiatrist. He was also the head of the ECT department of said hospital. From the moment I met with him this time around (yes, I had him just a few short weeks prior to this admission), he was going to try to get me into ECT no matter what. I’ll admit, it’s an ok last-ditch effort if you have solid foundation for it… but the thing was, NO WHERE is there any study proving the efficacy of ECT with trauma patients OR addictions. Yes, it works for depression and bipolar and maybe even schizophrenia, but there is nothing ANYWHERE stating it works to cure addicts (at this point, I was self-injuring for the high it brought, NOT to kill myself). Our battle lasted the entire time I was there (a little over a week & a half), during which time he tried every method possible to get me onto the table, including bullying me, having his friends (2 other psychiatrists) literally yell at me to scare me, and trying to deem me incompetent and get a judge’s order for the treatment. I don’t know what you know about ECT, but to me it’s scary shit. You lose memory (I really don’t need help in that department; that’s where a lot of my symptomology blossoms from), you change personality… it’s basically re-setting your brain artificially via heavy-duty “controlled” electrical current… I don’t know about you, but that creeps me out. Anyway, after that ordeal (he was not able to take it in front of a judge. he would have needed 2 other independent psychiatrists to also deem me incompetent, and nobody else was able to do so because I was not in fact suicidal at the time, just a “junkie” of sorts… fittingly, my knife had dragon on it. I re-purchased the same kind of knife 3 separate times after I gave it up for one reason or another), I was able to finally get into a trauma-specific program in another part of the country. It was by no means an awesome place (though it did help a lot and I am grateful for the people I met there), but it was miles above what I had been getting locally. They helped me detox from the plethora of useless meds I was on and from the cutting (I’m not sure which was worse…). The difference there was that they actually listened to me, and did not push their agenda. They put the patient, as messed-up as we all were, first. And they helped begin treating the trauma… From that point, I was able to once again build a wall between the blackness and the light – not healthy necessarily, but very important at the time.
That was almost a year ago. Today, I’m starting to work on lessening that wall and integrating the past with the present. And maybe somewhere along the way, I can flesh out a future too.