Diagnosis : Disaster 

For the past almost year I have avoided my psychiatrist. In the months after my wedding I spiraled out of control, hurting everyone I could purposely or unintentionally. I left miles of burnt bridges in my wake, knowing all the while in the back of my mind that being alone would make my final task easier. I was going to die. 

I finished the summer barely holding on to the tiny bit of sanity I had left, leaving a long trail of destruction behind me. Moments of clarity lead to intense self-loathing, and I dreaded the silence I normally craved. I punished myself for my shortcomings by destroying the relationships that mattered most to me, and in a final act of inner hatred, I consumed ten days worth of medication. 

Spoiler alert: I survived. 

Unfortunately, the attempt on my life did not provoke me to seek professional help. I went to my local walk-in, told the doctor that I lost my meds while on holiday, and carried on hating myself. I pressed on, facing each day with a heavy heart and a crazy brain. If I’m not supposed to die, what am I supposed to do? I’ve lost almost everything I had. My kids and my husband deserve better. Could I run? Leave them to give them a fresh start, and throw myself off of something that I surely could not survive? 

After thoroughly researching and considering my options, I got a message from my nephew. He told me about his girlfriend, and about university, and in they conversation he sent a message that changed my entire outlook on my life. 


This message. This one message had a profound affect on me, and is responsible for saving my life. 

I contacted USTAT and told the receptionist that I required immediate attention, and she got me in to see my doctor in the same week. What I learned at that appointment, I really wasn’t expecting. During the course of our conversation I learned that almost a year ago, he determined that my diagnosis was wrong, and that my treatment needed to be  changed. After dozens of attempts to reach me, he was forced to set my file on the back burner, and hope that I would either come back or had sought treatment somewhere else. 

I was misdiagnosed, and treated for, bipolar disorder. I  know now that this was incorrect. (I was also diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder, which is correct). I have now been rediagnosed with Disassociative Disorder, along with BPD and major depressive disorder. What this means, is that for more than a year, I was essentially treating myself for a disease I do not have, taking medication that was not correct, to the point that it was harming me mentally, which inevitably lead to harming myself physically. 

So what is Disassociative Disorder?

“Dissociative disorders (DD) are conditions that involve disruptions or breakdowns of memory, awareness, identity, or perception. People with dissociative disorders use dissociation, a defense mechanism, pathologically and involuntarily. Dissociative disorders are thought to primarily be caused by psychological trauma.”

I fall into the Depersonalization Disorder camp, and I have to say, as messed up as it sounds, I fit the bill perfectly. I’m not treatment résistent bipolar, I have DD; and after learning that, so much of my life makes sense. I cannot excuse my actions or behaviours, but I can finally start learning why I do the things I do, and more importantly, how to prevent these behaviours from occurring in the future. My medication regiment has been altered to fit this new diagnosis, and I am enrolled in Dialectal Behavioural Therapy (DBT). Three counselling sessions a week (until my program starts), journalling, and positive daily affirmations are helping me on the path to recovery. 

Not seeing my doctor was an intrepidly ignorant and dangerous choice that I made for far too long. I cannot treat myself, and I was naive to think that self care was as easy as having a prescription filled every two weeks.

The people whom I have hurt may not choose to forgive me, and that is something that I will have to learn to accept. I cannot change the minds of others, but I hope that, regardless of if they choose to stay with me or not, that they will see that I am once again putting in the effort to help myself, so that I may be better for my family. I already am feeling the effects of my new medication, and for the first time potentially ever, I recognise the wrongs I have committed, and feel immense guilt. It’s not a feeling I’m used to, but it’s part of my recovery, and I accept it.

I am not better. Far from it. But I will get there this time, because I truly want to. I want to be the woman my sweet nephew thinks I am, and I think I can be. No more self treating, no more ignorance, no more blame, no more hate.

To my nephew : I owe you my life, and I love you more than anything. We will succeed together.

To my sister : Out of everyone I’ve mistreated, I’ve treated you the worst. I don’t know how to properly apologise, because you deserve more than just words. I hope that my behaviour from now on helps to heal the gash I cut between us. I love you. That is my  constant. That has never, and will never change.

To my husband : Thank you for not packing up and leaving after you saw the pills I took. Thank you for standing unwavering in my corner. Thank you for loving me through all of the days that I can’t love myself. I life you.

Delerium

Intake 
Awaking to a swollen head, a puffed out chest, basking in the clarity that I have mentally ascended to. The universe is mine, and I’m ready for it. 
Like a mechanized cephalopod, limitless limbs extending in all directions, ready and willing to aid everyone anywhere, each limb acting independently of the body, but the body and mind are omnipresent; and approve the limbs whims. 

The world’s problems seem minuscule, and I am the answer. 

Calculating, insightful, linear, purposeful, energetic, like a bioluminescent light show, drawing everyone in, offering comfort, wisdom. 

The omnipresent body is full of hope, not just for itself; for everyone. Every being is a pearl; beautiful and fragile, and in need of constant protection. 

Tentacles outstretched, the mind clouded by the pounding of the heart; the omnipresent body loses sight of what each limb is doing, and against what it believes of itself – doesn’t know what the limbs are capable of when left to their own devices. 
Compression 
Awake in a shallow pool, gasping for breath, unable to see through clouded vision. The weight of the ocean bearing down on the omnipresent body, it falls in and out of consciousness. Ink stained dreams – memories – obligations that cannot be fulfilled by the weighted down limbs. 

The lights no longer flashing, the limbs fall away from the body – no longer omni anything – the body wheezes as the limbs splash violently, failing to grasp at anything, until they fall lifeless into the puddle, surrounding the body like a grotesque disconnected sun. 

Water finds its way into the lungs, but not ever enough to end the life of the body, but enough to inflict excruciating pain. A hurried prayer for an end that will not come, repeated until the words lose meaning. 

Metallic coughs sputter as the body tries to make sense of itself – of the limbs; brief moments of harsh clarity show promises broken, pain inflicted, knives through the hearts of trustees who trust no longer. 
Power
The second wind, the nail that seals the coffin. Muddied and bloodied the body crawls away from the decay of the limbs, determined to make right of the wrongs committed. A delusional sense of hope, a new kind of clarity. Answers to the problems that sparkle like diamonds. Plucking these hope diamonds out of the carnage, they quickly turn to coal. Extreme measures must be taken to prevent the coal from blackening the delicate pearls. 

Clawing through inky darkness, clinging to anything that remotely resembles a solution. Cramming pièces of different puzzles together and convincing itself they fit. Panic, chaos, and the passage of time force the decayed limbs into réanimation, recklessly attempting to do the bidding of the body, who is trying desperately to gain traction in the shallow pool in which it fell apart. 

Completion is completion, regardless of the eventual outcome. The ends justify the means, a deluded and tired body is convinced of that. 
Exhaust 
The calm before the final storm. 

A sense of relief washes over the body, its intense desire to succeed in the eyes of others temporarily sated. The mind and body blinded by the pounding of the heart, watery eyes that stare blankly, hiding behind them a prayer of desperate hope. A hope that things will work out the way they were intended. 

Watching the good intentions go up in flames, but standing steadfastly by the choices made by not only the body, but the limbs as well. Flames licking at the body, it crackles and bubbles until it pops. Delusions of happiness are gone, an inky hole of unfathomable depths remains. 

Acceptance washes over and the breast swells with understanding. A limp handshake with the devil, the pills are lined up and swallowed without hesitation. 
Awake with swollen eyes and clammy skin. Disappointment that it’s not over, and terror in knowing that the cycle will repeat, but you can’t know when. 
The strand of pearls dirtied and broken, the body bruised, the heart broken. Waiting….for the next manic upswing. 

The lines you amend 

*addiction, compulsive behaviour, and any other symptom can be substituted for the one I’ve chosen to write about. Pick your poison.*
How does one make amends for all of the horrible things that they do in a day? How does one recognize when their actions are underhanded? Is there a line between succumbing to your symptoms and being malicious?

Bipolar comes with some very unique symptoms, some of which are compulsive spending, and habitual sneakiness (I have refrained from using the word lie, because it insinuates a conscious decision to deceive). Usually accompanied by these symptoms is regret, self-loathing, and sometimes, thoughts of suicide and/or self-harm. When you are involved in a partnership, you are expected to, and want to, contribute to said  partnership. Whether it be a roommate, a spouse, an employer, you want to succeed at being normal. You hope and pray and beg yourself to make this the partnership that changes everything. You set your sights high, and you start out with a clarity you’ve never experienced before. More often than not, that clarity is delusion. Your glorious brain telling you that it’s finally got a grip and is going to behave itself. 

Everything is hunky dory until your first regression. A trigger, known or unknown, presents itself, and you panic. The light switch is clicked off and you are left in the darkness of your disease, groping for anything that will help pull you out. What’s the first thing you grab? Your debit card. 

Impulsive spending is a very slippery slope that destroys more than your credit; but how do you curb it? How do you avoid these destructive behaviours that can cause myriad problems for you and the people you love? You don’t do it on purpose, it just happens. For those around you who don’t live with bipolar, this is not a good enough excuse. How can spending money be a symptom of anything, aside from vanity and arrogance? 

Unfortunately for all, this is a well documented and very real problem that the majority of us don’t know how to deal with. We don’t know why we do it, how can we possibly ask for your understanding and forgiveness? 

We can’t

So we hide it. We find ways to bring things in without notice. We shop online, we overspend on things we consider necessity, until we get called out on it. We don’t have the forethought to cover our tracks. Hindsight is usually found on the way home from a panic shop, when you have to consider how everything will get in the house undetected. When the panic has passed, the guilt comes knocking. If you don’t catch us we feel the guilt of being dishonest, but we’re also afraid of having to tell the truth. What will be the straw which breaks the camel’s back? If we do get found out, we have a very quick decision to make, though it’s not entirely conscious decision. We must decide if we will defend, or amend. 

If you are in defence mode, it turns into a battle royale. Our magical brains come up with excuses at the speed of light. It is expert at telling us why you’re at fault. Why you’re the one causing our problems. If we decide to make amends, we must admit freely that we are wholly in the wrong, and that even though it is a  symptom, it is not an excuse for destructive behaviours. 

The wish of those struggling with compulsive/impulsive spending is of  course, to permanently stop those behaviours. The knowledge that we cannot completely eradicate ourselves of these short comings amplifies the self-loathing, which can lead to harmful thoughts and behaviours. 

Mental health/illness is a cycle. You are the hamster running on the wheel of illness, powerless to stop and get off. You are exhausted, you don’t remember why you’re running, but here you are

So you keep spinning the wheel, every rotation presenting a new obstacle. Sometimes the hardest obstacle is progress. The longer you succeed at ‘wellness’ the more steep and rapid the descent becomes. Every few rotations you slow down enough to ask yourself if any of your triumphs have been worth it. Is anything worth it? Is continuously punishing your loved ones worth it? You know that you’re ruining their lives. 

Like many of my posts, I don’t have the answer for how to fix this. I struggle with this symptom almost daily, and there have been many low points where I’ve had to defend or amend. Luckily for me, I have an unreasonably understanding husband who refuses to give up on me. Does that make our rows over finances any easier? Hell no. More often than not I would prefer if he yelled, or threw in the towel. The self sabotage finally works, and I am left alone to deal with my psychosis. That suicidal grey area that tells me he’s better off without me is a very scary place. It doesn’t tell me that I don’t love my family, it tells me that if I truly loved them I would free them from the burden of my existence. 

 However, as of right now, I have chosen to accept my defects, make amends, and work with my loved ones to be an effective and valuable partner. I won’t ever stop running on my wheel, but I think the struggle is worth it, and I would rather be their burden in life than their burden in death. 

Enough already.

I am physically strong. I can lift things, fix other things, my cardio could be better, but I can begrudgingly run a 5k without throwing up or dying. I am mentally acute, and in many aspects I am emotionally strong. When it comes to defending myself and my ideals, I am undaunted. Strangers with differing opinions don’t scare me, and I am always ready to go to bat for those I love at any moment. This does not, however, mean that when I do need help, when I am scared and vulnerable and feeling weak, that a simple “you can handle it, you’re tough” will make all of my problems disappear. 

Telling me I’m strong is, in my opinion, a brush off of my concerns/fears/anxiety etc. You care so little about my wellbeing that you end the conversation before it starts. One sentence and TA-DA! I’ve been reminded that I can deal with it, so I should shut up and make sure there’s nothing that I can do for you. The worst part of this for me is that nearly every time I’ve been given the “you’re strong” conversation ender, it’s been someone I consider myself close to. I don’t latch onto strangers and force my sob story upon them, I keep my emotions for the people I think I can trust with them. 

And thus begins a whole new sub-cycle of anxiety and fear. Are my problems that easy? When I struggle, should I keep it under my vest so as not to burden my loved ones? Why is it that I am willing to repeatedly help those who cannot offer me even a feigned interest in my life?

I am strong. I kick ass on the regular. But strength still requires maintenance, validation, and gentle care. If you leave the rebar exposed to the elements it becomes warped by the wind and rusted by the rain. It needs to be built upon, encased, secured with foundation, and protected so that it remains a a useful part of the structure as a whole. The point is, we all need to support each other, whether you’re the rebar, the windows, the support beams…because if one breaks down, the whole structure suffers. 

So please, I beg you, don’t brush ANYONE off by “reminding” them that they are strong. They know they are. What you need to remind them that you can be strong on their behalf when they need a break. You may see your statement as uplifting, but to people like me it indicates complacency. Treat me how I treat you. 

That’s all. 

Two songs to go with the post: 

Apple Blossom by The White Stripes https://youtu.be/y8gU1zhzJ2E

Bloody Motherfucking Asshole by Martha Wainwright http://youtu.be/pX-bIr8dr6U

Reflective Fragments 

The first time someone called me delusional I was seventeen. The librarian called said that I must be delusional because she was positive that I hadn’t returned a book that I was positive I had. 
The first time I questioned my mental health, truly, I was sixteen, and was largely rebuffed by the professional I confided in. I was lazy, ungrateful, ambitionless, and angsty. Get out of bed, brush your hair, show up to class on time. You’ll feel better. You have so much potential. 
The first time I wanted to die I was fifteen. I had a panic attack over having to tell my mother that I had failed math again. I had myself in such a lather that I began cleaning out my closet, and I had every intention of hanging myself in it with a belt. A pink belt with green stars that I bought at Forever 21, the only souvenir from my school band trip that I could afford. My mother called and asked me to do the dishes before she got home. I missed my window. That feeling of wanting to end would simmer in the recesses of my mind, bubbling over at different times later in life. 

The first love of my life came at fifteen, and has remained my only love. He nurtures the good parts of me, and forgives the bad. I owe him my life. 
The first novel I remember reading was Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls. My dog was my best friend, and the book helped put my emotions into words. It also destroyed me emotionally for a few weeks after finishing it. Being able to read independently (i was in the third grade) offered a method of escape that would save my life more than once as I got older. 
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On the foggiest days I can reach out and touch the ragged fabric with which my reality is created. It’s frayed edges like worn burlap glide through my fingers as I struggle to grasp something tangible. As the mist coats the flora in the early morning, so does my fragmented reality coat my mind. My thirst for normalcy never quite sated from such a thin layer of moisture. 

When the wind picks up I am carried into the lives of others. Today I’m a parent volunteering at the school. When the wind changes I am an acquaintance in a tattoo shop, a fraud in a bookstore, a friend via text. I can never commit enough energy or attention to any one person or thing for too long. Lights flash in front of my eyes, I want to entertain all of them but instead cannot focus on even one. 
I feel so many things, yet I am paralysed by the thought of expressing them. Truly feeling them. It would be more apt to say that I think about feelings. If I start allowing myself to feel, I won’t be able to stop. I am an emotional implosion waiting to happen. The only thing I feel is fear. 

Fear of loss. Fear of change. Fear of success. Fear of self confidence. Fear of finding out who I really am. Fear of failure. Fear of faith. 
I couldn’t tell you who I am if I had all of the words in the world. I am a collection of grand ideas, half-truths, fears, and open wounds. The embodiment of an overactive imagination. I am an actual metaphor. Or is it a simile? I could never keep them straight.