SO IT'S NOT BIPOLAR…

I guess I should have read the second part of the last p-docs report a little more closely. She says it’s not bi-polar, but Persistent Depressive Disorder. I’ve never been manic and the hypomania symptoms I’ve experienced are common with Borderline Personality Disorder, especially as one comes out of a deep depression. So the official diagnoses are as follows: Borderline Personality Disorder, C-PTSD, Persistent Depressive Disorder, and Generalized Anxiety Disorder. What I’m really curious about is how, if I’m not bi-polar, the atypical anti-psychotic is working. I’ve done some research into it, and as best as I can figure, it acts as a mood stabilizer, even in the absence of bi-polar or schizophrenia, as an adjunct to the anti-depressant. Which may or may not work without it. I’ll find out soon enough. My GP has a referral in for me to talk to the p-doc about lowering my medication. I’m on 20 mg of escitalopram (Cipralex), 20 mg of aripiprazole (Abilify), 4 mg of prazosin, and 1mg of clonazepam (Klonopin) as needed. The prazosin and clonazepam I’m fine with. I enjoy my nightmare free sleep. And I only use the clonazepam once in a while. I’ve been using a lot of it for my dentist appointments, but now that I have my partials, I only need to go every four months for cleanings. It’s the aripiprazole that I’m mostly concerned with. It’s a strong dose to be on, especially if I’m not bi-polar. I’ll probably need to be on an anti-depressant for the rest of my life, I can understand that. But if possible, I’d like to minimize the doses. The longer I’m on the aripiprazole, the more likely I am to get Tardive Dyskinesia. I’m already starting to get very slight hand tremors. Not bad enough that my doctor is concerned, but they’re still there. We’ll see, I guess.

THE PAST CIRCLES ROUND AGAIN

Mom had her first round of chemo Wednesday. It was an incredibly long day. A doctors appointment and then three hours of infusion. It was very weird. I couldn’t concentrate, but was bored out of my tree. The incongruence of this made my therapist go hmmm. This is not a common phenomenon.

The reason it came up was Wednesday night I had a complete and total need to flee my house. I don’t know what happened, but I was laying in bed, looking for something to read. Stopped on “Coping with Trauma-Related Dissociation” by Suzette Boon and others. “Don’t you think when you’ve been through something like you were with your mother, you should read something NOT trauma related?” “Ninety percent of my book shelf is trauma related.” “Then you need to expand your bookshelf.” So that happened. The other theories are that I’m empathic and picked up all the energy of people around me, the six people and their care-givers, all getting cancer related treatment, and it hit me when I finally had a chance to unwind.

Likely, though, it was a somatic flashback, harkening back to a time when I felt trapped. Only this time I wasn’t trapped. So I grabbed my bag and bugged out. But it wasn’t a thoughtful, I’m leaving because I can, it was a mindless flight. Which is not good. Fortunately, I had enough sense to go someplace safe, which was my friends cafe. Straight to the basement. Where I just typed up the last of my poetry. We had a mis-hap a few weeks ago, where I didn’t realize my poetry was only on the cloud, with links on my desktop. I deleted everything off the cloud, only to watch in horror as my files disappeared one by one. By the time I had finished that, I was feeling somewhat human again. It’s very frustrating how the past keeps circling round, often in unexpected and out of the blue ways.

Sitting with mom at the hospital was a very intense experience in a way. You’re sitting there, with people in very stages of cancer, at different points in their recovery. There were tears, there was laughter. For me, it was an uncomfortable reckoning, coming face to face with my own mortality. I have been suicidal many times, have attempted once. Suicidal ideation is a near constant companion. But this was different. The facing of a slow, painful demise. And everyone there is facing the same thing. The cancer centre has everyone in what they call pods. Six people to a pod, with a number of nurses in each one. Each person can bring one person with them. So twelve people, plus nurses. All cancer patients. All receiving treatment. A lot of energy in the air. A lot of energy. I hesitate to say it’s negative, because it certainly isn’t all negative, but it’s very charged.

I guess my system was over-charged and went off the rails on Wednesday, and then again on Thursday. Thursday wasn’t as bad, I had the presence of mind to email my therapist, and I made the decision not to run, but to stay put, to prove to my system that it was safe, there was no danger, that we didn’t have to leave. My friend helped me over text with some flashback protocols, and then I was able to ground myself by touching each book on my bookshelves and saying the author and title. I did it under my breath, but the act really helped me calm down.

Last night I went out with the girls, and then went home. I had a small feeling of panic, but was able to breathe through it. Things never last forever.

AND IT BEGINS…

So much to write about. Not sure where to start. Since Mom’s cancer diagnosis, I’ve been avoiding thinking about it. I had no choice but to face it dead on today. Mom had an appointment with her oncology doctor and I had to go with her to take notes and make sure she doesn’t forget anything or get confused. She starts chemo next week. Going to most likely lose her hair. It has been down to her waist as long as I can remember. So she’s getting it all cut off on Saturday. Poor thing. She had tears in her eyes thinking about it. And my life is now, for the next six months, revolving around her chemo treatments. Three hours every second Wednesday. Plus the consult with the doctor before each treatment. Only Stage Two cancer, which is not too bad. A really invasive, aggressive cancer that was encapsulated in a mucinous pre-cancerous mass. She’s pretty lucky. Without the chemo, there’s a twenty-five percent chance that it will come back. With it, the chance goes down to fifteen percent. She is going to become very cold sensitive, to the point where touching things in the fridge is going to cause neuropathy for a while. Cold air, cold drinks, all no noes. She is going to be officially immunocompromised. And I can only imagine how tired she’s going to be. The chemo attacks fast growing cells, like the ones in your mouth and your stomach.

She is easily discombobulated these days. And dad just gets frustrated with her. If she is developing dementia, I worry about how dad is going to handle it and how the chemo is going to affect it. There’s a lot of good reasons for them to move to P.E.I. once mom is better, but my reasons for wanting to stay behind are just as, if not more, valid. So in a year I’ll be homeless with my boys. Hopefully I’ll be able to get into subsidized housing before then, but the wait lists are huge. I need to stay in my city because I likely won’t be able to afford a car, and my therapist, my psychiatrist, my GP, my youngest sons ADHD specialist, and my older sons therapist are all here in the city. The mental health support down east is even worse than it is here. At least I’ve been able to get the help I need. And all my friends are here. How is an anti-social introvert with mental illness supposed to make friends? It’s not like my sister and I get along very well. More than a week together, and things get really tense.

My therapist has given me a half price discount on my counseling so I can start saving and clearing up my debt. She’s wonderful. I love her so much. As my therapist. Yes, there is some transference going on, but it’s nothing I don’t recognize for what it is and can handle. It didn’t help at the beginning that she is my perfect fantasy. A petite pixie with silver grey hair. The type I would spend all night in the corner of the bar trying to muster up the courage to buy her a drink. Once in a while I get distracted by her attractiveness, but I can cover it up with my dissociation. Fortunately for me, she maintains such tight boundaries that there is no room for me to mistake anything for more than professional concern. I mean, after three years I still don’t know if she has a partner. I only know her potential orientation from the name of her partner in her father’s obituary (which I found when digging around the internet for her). Her mother’s obituary listed no partner, but Fariya, a couple years ago said “they” like to go skiing up north. So there was one. There was a picture of a kitten on her desk, so I assume she has a cat. That’s the sum total I know about her.

She starts next week. Going to most likely lose her hair. It has been down to her waist as long as I can remember. So she’s getting it all cut off on Saturday. Poor thing. She had tears in her eyes thinking about it. And my life is now, for the next six months, revolving around her chemo treatments. Three hours every second Wednesday. Plus the consult with the doctor before each treatment. Only Stage Two cancer, which is not too bad. A really invasive, aggressive cancer that was encapsulated in a mucinous pre-cancerous mass. She’s pretty lucky. Without the chemo, there’s a twenty-five percent chance that it will come back. With it, the chance goes down to fifteen percent. She is going to become very cold sensitive, to the point where touching things in the fridge is going to cause neuropathy for a while. Cold air, cold drinks, all no noes. She is going to be officially immunocompromised. And I can only imagine how tired she’s going to be. The chemo attacks fast growing cells, like the ones in your mouth and your stomach.

So our lives are about to turn upside down for a while.

AWESOME NEWS!!!!

I’ve slowly, tentatively, been submitting my poetry to a few publications. After a couple of no responses, and one very nice, personalized rejection letter, I am going to be a published poet. Poetry Quarterly is publishing a poem I wrote called “Empyreal”. This is virtually unheard of. It usually takes hundreds of submissions and rejections before you get accepted. But it happened. I’m so stoked. After the last few months of things being generally, all around shitty, this is a much needed boost.

Things actually got a little too heady. My mom told me she’s proud of me, for the first time ever that I can remember. Then she told me to post it. So I did, and she publicly told me she’s proud of me. And my dad showed a bit of interest, which he never does, so I was totally overwhelmed with that.

I’ve still been struggling with being present ever since that horrendous dentist appointment which triggered me huge. To cope, I’ve been overdoing it on the benzos. I’m allowed two a day, twice daily, as needed. I’ve been taking double that, and mostly all at night, to help me sleep. Which is leaving me out of it the next day. Which adds to the dissociation. My therapist was like, “maybe you should talk to the doctor about reducing your tranquilizer usage”, and I had to tell her I wasn’t taking them as prescribed, so yeah, that stopped. Back to normal.

I had a very bad flashback, but I knew where I was, so it was more like a remembering than a full flashback, but I was in it and couldn’t get out of it. Absolutely was there, being gang raped again, and again, and again. Over stimulated, over tranqed, overwhelmed. So I cut myself. Just a small mark on the inside of my ankle, small enough that it looks like I scratched a spider bite, but large enough that I had to disclose to my therapist. Who responded kindly. I emailed her, again. Third time in three weeks. The first about wanting to do some scarification on my calf. The second, I had to share with her that my poem got accepted. She replied to that one, and reminded me of my contract, so that was her way of telling me that scarification is a no go. She also said it was a wow moment. Which it definitely was. Then I had to email her a third time, to say that I self-injured. She thanked me for letting her know, and had some upbuilding things to say. Needless to say, I had some trepidation when I saw her this week. I really don’t know why. She truly is the embodiment of compassion.

There was no processing this week, but lots of talking. Lots of her reinforcing that I made a choice, but it doesn’t invalidate all of my work. And we talked about the trafficking, and about how I was having a hard time staying present, and how I was so up and down, flying high and crashing low with no in between. I have to work hard at “applying the brakes”, staying in that window of tolerance. Not too high, not too low.

SO FUCKED UP

The day before Christmas and I’m pretty fucked up. It’s a good thing the kids are with their father. On Monday I had a very traumatic dentist appointment that culminated in him using a probe to take a complete picture of my mouth. It was not unlike one of the times I was raped and had two men try to use my mouth at the same time. By the time Thursday came around with my therapist I was a wreck. So we did some unplanned EMDR. Just knee tapping, so it didn’t feel as intense. But damn, does it mess me up.

And Young One wants to do some scarification on my ankle. A butterfly. We’re arguing about whether that constitutes self-harm or not. I say yes, she says no. My therapist did not respond to my email Thursday, which surprised me. But it’s her prerogative. I have to respect her time out of the office.

Dad is now home until next week, which sucks. I am always stressed out when he’s home. Giving me a hard time about my weight, my hair, my clothes. Though to be honest, since I moved back home this time he seems to have let a lot go. But that feeling of being judged is still there.

And for some reason, I have purchased tickets to a New Year’s Eve party, with a roaring twenties theme. I purchased a silly panama hat, a bow tie, suspenders, and arm bands. The kit also came with a fake cigar and stick on moustaches. I hope it will be fun and not stressful. I need to buy a white shirt and a pair of black pants, as the black pants I have are ladies’, and my long sleeve white shirt is too small. And of course, the big kicker. Benzos before I go to stay calm, or have a social drink or two with my friends. I have a week to decide. I’ll probably bring them and decide there.

And I’m not wanting to shower or change. My hair is gross. I smell, and I’m isolating. Thursday I’m taking my friend shopping for a new phone, so I’ll pick up a dress shirt and pants while I’m out with her. And I’ll have to shower for that. So that means it will be a whole week without showering if I don’t shower tomorrow. Which I should do. But I dread getting in the shower. It’s an all glass enclosure that has no frosting. And I’m only coming out of my shut down from Thursday’s therapy session. Which is great. I’m doing it with just the support of my friends. Attending that group for sexual assault survivors was one of the best things I ever did. I have two really good friends out of it.

One of which I’m seeing on Friday. Hopefully the other one can come, but her husband has been being an asshole lately, so I’m not sure. She is starting to see how emotionally abusive/manipulative he is, but I have to tread lightly. She knows I’ll be here for her, whatever she decides. As she is there for me.

VULNERABILITY

Brene Brown, in Daring Greatly, defines vulnerability as “uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure. That useless feeling we get when we step out of our comfort zone or DO something that forces us to loosen control”. A quick google search defines vulnerable as “susceptible to physical or emotional attack or harm.” Why this sudden interest in vulnerability? Because that’s my homework this week: trying to eat better and getting in touch with my own vulnerability. I think she’s tired of hearing “Eww” every time she says vulnerability. Just typing the word causes my anxiety to rise. I also realized that I don’t really understand what she meant by “get in touch with your vulnerability”. She didn’t mean being vulnerable with other people, she meant with my own. Which is a difficult thing to come to terms with. So I’m going to blather on about it on the internet. While researching vulnerability, I came across a term that DID resonate with me. Vulnerability Hangover: the rush of regret you feel after sharing your weakness (read vulnerability) with others. I am terrified of being judged, or not believed, or, worse, believed and mocked/ridiculed. That stems directly from my extremely judgemental parents. I remember when I tried to tell my mom about my first rape a few years after it happened. I started with, “When I was in high school I went on a date that went very badly.” She gave me such a look of disgust and then turned and walked away, so I never trusted her again. With anything. I remember telling her stuff as a teenager that she would relay to dad, and then dad would use it against me. Usually as an excuse to beat me. Betrayal runs deep in the family. So many betrayals and failures. Both by those around me and myself. I can forgive myself, as I honestly didn’t know better. If those who were supposed to love and care for me would treat me thusly, obviously I deserve it and will treat myself with the same disregard. That is still something I struggle with. How to love myself when my parents didn’t? Even now, the little innocuous things I share almost always garner some sort of criticism. Vulnerability. Maybe if I type it enough, the revulsion will dissipate. Vulnerability. This has been a huge trigger for my dissociation. It has taken me almost two hours just to write this much. I keep zoning out. So let’s approach it carefully. What is happening? Why am I so unfocussed? What is triggering my dissociation? Obviously the answer is the word vulnerability. But why? What about it is making it so difficult to stay present? And Rock gets huge. Why is this? What is going on? I’m writing this more like a journal entry than a blog piece. More stream of conscience type writing. Dammit. There I go again. Anything but the topic at hand. Vulnerability. Let’s personalize the definition. What does vulnerability mean to me? It means being open and susceptible to being hurt, used, and abused. My whole life I’ve been abused, it seems. Only the past few years, where I have made a conscious decision to avoid toxic people as much as possible, have I been abuse free. And this life of chosen celibacy has pulled me out of the dating pool for a while, as I focus on my healing, which means I’m not putting myself in positions where I’m open to betrayal and abuse. Some day I will again, but not right now. Vulnerable. Open-hearted. What does that even mean? Open-hearted. Definition of openhearted according to Merriam Webster: 1 : candidly straightforward : frank. 2 : responsive to emotional appeal. I am not unmoveable, but I am definitely guarded. I listen lots, talk less. I care about specific persons, but can’t stand people in general. So where does my vulnerability come in as it relates to me? I’m really struggling with this one. I am certainly not gentle with myself. Vulnerability. A few months ago I submitted some poetry for publication. That was being pretty vulnerable. When I open up to Angry Dude, Young One, and Squirrel, I guess that could be a form of vulnerability with myself. When I’m honest with myself with what I’m feeling, how I’m coping.

MED COMPLIANCE

At night, the monsters come out. Since my dentist appointment last week, I’ve been having dreams of disembodied hands. Creepy and unsettling. I wake up in a cold sweat, and don’t want to go back to sleep. So I stay up and read. Or listen to books on Audible. I’m acquiring a collection of un-listened to books that will rival my to be read stack of paper books. But that’s ok. Somethings to look forward to.

Am struggling with med compliance again. I’m tired of feeling flat and numb, and blame it on the Abilify. I’ve been reading up on it, and apparently it’s a common side effect. Right away she was concerned that I was still taking them. She was genuinely concerned that I would quit it cold turkey. Given my history, I would have to say that her questioning me is warranted. I started at 2mg, and now I’m up to 20. That’s a big dose. Especially since the last p-doc I saw stated that I don’t even have bi-polar. I understand that I might need a mood stabilizer, as anti-depressants alone never work properly. I do question, however, the need for an atypical anti-psychotic. At such a high dose. The last p-doc I saw was just a consult, but she said I could see her in a year if I wanted to discuss a med change. So I need to call the hospital and find out if I can make an appointment through them, or if I need to go through my doctor. My therapist is all about getting it done. I hem and hawed and will be doing it in the new year. I may bite the bullet and call this week, so it’s not hanging over my head. But I hate talking on the phone. I have real anxiety about it. So much so that even my therapist only contacts me via email. Even if it’s the day of an appointment, she knows I’m on my email, but if I don’t recognize the number, I won’t answer the phone. I’m so glad she’s willing to work with my limitations and foibles, without making them a focus or a big deal.

I have a feeling, since last week we didn’t really touch on anything big, as I’ve been pretty stable, we’re going to do some EMDR on Thursday. Just in time to do three weeks before she takes her two weeks off over Christmas. She is also planning on taking a week off in the middle of January. I’m just glad she’s not taking all three weeks off at the same time. Three weeks is a long time when you’re used to weekly sessions. She asked me how I’m feeling about the two weeks off. I replied, “Besides feeling abandoned?” Then I laughed and told her I was joking. “You’ll be holding seminars on how to yank your therapists chain.” I have mixed feelings about starting EMDR again. I’m scared of how it’s going to go now that I’m having visual flashbacks. My flashbacks have always been somatic, meaning feelings only. Recently, I’ve been having some pretty severe visuals. Not just feeling his hands around my neck, but seeing them. His cold, cold eyes. The collapse when I tried to stand up and he grabbed me by the neck and threw me back on the bed. Instead of just feelings of dread and sensations, I’m full on remembering. Which sucks.

I have my protocols. Babette Rothschild has saved my sleep. Her “8 Keys To Safe Trauma Recovery” has provided some very solid protocols on dealing with flashbacks and nightmares. So much so that I wrote them down for easy access at night. And I’ve passed them onto friends. They’ve been so helpful. I recommend that book to everyone I know with a trauma history that impacts their daily lives. Even if only sometimes.