Just when I think I’m making real progress… SPLAT!
Things were stressful with the proposal writing, and my work days were long last week, but I was (mostly) keeping things in perspective and trying to take care of myself. The project director continued to make things really hard, and I was getting frustrated, but I could handle it as long as I could vent with a colleague who knows what a mess it’s been.
But then on Saturday night I somehow forgot to take my regular meds. It’s been a long time since I made that mistake. It became a restless night, lots of tossing and turning with no more than 30 minutes of uninterrupted sleep. Kind of reminds me of the good old days when my second son was a baby and got me up 8-10 times a night. Ha. Hell is a three-month-old who won’t sleep.
Anyway, by Sunday morning, I started to feel sick. I think it’s the clonazapam withdrawal that makes you feel like you’re coming down with the flu. By lunchtime, the mean voices started up again in my head, “you are so bad, you are a horrible person, you don’t even deserve to live.” In the late afternoon, I tried to take a nap and found my brain deciding it needed to think about how to make a noose and what I should use if I were to hang myself. Is rope better? Electrical cord?
I had recognized by then, of course, that this enormous, overnight mental switch was flipped by the missing drugs. There was a little bit of me that stood outside it all, observing the chaos in my head and telling me, “it’s okay, this is just a chemical glitch, it won’t last once you get back on the routine tonight.” I think though that the chaos didn’t appreciate that separation and ability to observe myself. It just turned up the noise until I was well and fully sucked into it all.
I started to feel angry about how this proposal writing effort at work has gone. At how much time I ended up wasting because the director was disorganized and unwilling to commit to what would be in the content of our proposal. He’d tell me something, and I’d spend four hours getting the background info together, and I’d write up the activity, and a few days later he’d decide to cut that. It had been bothering me before, but now it grew big, hot, noisy. Its winds blew around in my head like a tropical storm.
I’m not skilled at anger. It was never allowed in my house except from my stepfather, who was very cruel in his display of it. The rest of us were supposed to accept it and cower and tiptoe around him, and for the most part, that’s what I did. So anger is dangerous and mysterious and I don’t know what to do with it except turn it around on myself.
Ironic that I wrote just last week about uncoupling current day stress from traumatic experiences in the past. And here I was, doing it again. Insight is not the same as prevention.
Though I took my Sunday night meds and slept better, the storm didn’t let up on Monday. In that evening’s therapy session, E. had me pretend to sit Rage on the sofa and talk about what she looked like and sounded like. Then she wanted me to sit on the sofa as Rage. E. wanted to interview her. How long had she existed? What did she want? Rage was spiteful and mighty and demanded to be released upon the world. She was also contradictory and illogical, but hey, she’s an EMOTION. No one says emotions have to be logical.
E. was trying to encourage some kind of deal between me and Rage. What does Rage need? “Q is trying to listen to you, Rage, so in return could you let up a bit in her intensity? You are torturing Q.”
“Good!” said Rage, “She deserves it.” Rage didn’t’t know what she needed, and she was in no mood to negotiate. She wanted release, and she knew that burning was the most direct road to release. In the end, E. settled for saying, okay, if that’s what you need to do, at least try to journal first. Write the director a really angry letter than you won’t send to him. And after that, if you want to burn, it’s not the healthiest, but it won’t kill you.
And that’s what Rage and I ended up doing today. It was a worthwhile exchange, trading away the internal turmoil that gets in the way of thinking and functioning and in return taking a burn that will hurt for a few days and then will heal. I do feel calmer now. Relief.
But at another level, I don’t want this to be the way I cope the rest of my life. So this evening I’m using the calm after the storm to make a list of ways to strengthen and support my healthy self so I can tolerate Rage better the next time she comes to visit. I’ve no doubt she’ll be back.
This is so true – yes, knowledge is power, but often knowing what is happening doesn’t help to STOP it happening. I hope Rage keeps up her end of the bargain and the turmoil stays away, for a while. I’m wondering how it felt to have E say it was okay if you needed to burn? I know we have very different experiences with self harm since you started as an adult (unless I’m getting you mixed up with someone else?) and we may have very different reactions, but as much as I want my therapists to recognise that it’s an effective coping mechanism, I’d be crushed if they “gave me permission” to do it.
Good luck and godspeed with the proposal – I’m in a similar boat at the moment, and if we don’t finalise it this week I just might jump overboard.
I was surprised she gave me permission but not crushed. In a way, it made me feel as though she understood what it really was. It does help me feel better. I don’t mean to encourage anyone else to do it. And maybe it’s because she knows I control it and don’t cause myself serious harm. I know she wouldn’t say it was okay if she thought it posed a serious danger.
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I’m really glad she found the right balance between validation and safety for you. Must be a hard line to walk.
I’m sure it’s hard for her to find that balance.
And btw, good luck on your own deadlines at work!
Q, sometimes when I read your posts, I wonder if I’m reading something I had written myself but had forgotten. The things we both struggle with are so similar, it’s uncanny. The only difference is, I’m not on medication for my depression. I’ve been rejecting my psychiatrist’s attempts at giving me them. Lately I’ve been wondering if I need to relent and let her help me. Unlike my feelings for S, I am more distrustful of Dr W. I can’t explain why.
Anyway, sitting with rage. Wow, that must’ve been very difficult. I’m sorry you had to go through all the turmoil. It’s not easy, I can attest to that. But you’re actively working at it, so that’s something! You’re very brave and still so inspiring to me. So I hope the proposal gets finished soon without more drama and difficulties so that you can get peace of mind!
Hi, thanks for always commenting and connecting. It makes me feel happy to see your comments.
What do you think is behind your resistance to medication for depression? I know it’s not an easy decision, especially because often the first thing you try doesn’t help all that much, and then you wonder if you should keep trying things… I used to get a pretty reliable boost from Wellbutrin but honestly, I feel like the generic is less helpful. But how can I know? Maybe it’s just part of my current stage in therapy and healing that I am going to feel really bad some of the time, no matter what. Or maybe I wouldn’t be functional if I weren’t at least taking what I do take. That’s the fear, I guess, that keeps me on medication.
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I don’t know why I’m so resistant. It’s funny you should mention it today because that’s exactly what S suggested at the end of the session today. I resisted him too. I think it’s the fear of being dependant on a drug to be “normal”. That somehow it makes me “weak” even though that’s not true. I don’t know. Lately I’ve been feeling like I might need them. I’ve been struggling with really really bad suicidal thoughts.
I always feel happy to see your comments too btw. So thank you for sending them as well.
I have been on anti-depressants probably 15 out of the last 20 years, so I am long past any worries about being dependent on drugs to be normal. But I get it; I went through a period of thinking like that. In the end, though, I do believe that there really isn’t any difference between taking anti-depressants for mental illness and taking insulin for diabetes. That’s my decision for me though. You have to do what feels right to you. Just take care of yourself. Suicidal thoughts are not just painful; they are also dangerous. You are too valuable and deserve to be cared for. xo
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Thanks Q. I think I may just be nervous about it because of how bad my tolerance is for drugs, alcohol, caffeine or stimulants. I am just no good around those things and finding the right ADHD meds have been painful with all the side effects and stuff. Man, the dry mouth is awful!! But anyway, I get why S is so concerned. He had never suggested meds before and for him to do so now definitely says a lot… And I appreciate his concern. It makes me feel really loved.
And yes, you’re right about he suicidal thought. I told S today, “I don’t know how much longer the rational adult can keep fighting…”. I’ve bumped up my BHM self evaluation of my risk to “moderate” and I’ve never been at that high a range. For the first time ever, I was actually concerned about my own safety… It’s weird how I’m speaking like I can’t control myself but sometimes I feel like I’m not really living in my body. I feel like I’m just a guest.
I want to say something but I don’t know what so just ❤
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That’s more than enough. ❤
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That often happens to me, too lol! BTW, liking the new blog look;)
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This is interesting: “I think though that the chaos didn’t appreciate that separation and ability to observe myself.” I’m not sure why it sometimes works this way for me too. Also this: “Insight is not the same as prevention.” This is true, but it is a step in the right direction hopefully. It sounds like you did stay pretty mindful of things. I like how E gets it about coping skills so that doesn’t end up being shaming. Its probably going to take a few times for you and Rage to figure it out since you haven’t had a lot of contact in the past.
I think you are right – Rage and I need to get better acquainted. When I’m not fully overwhelmed by the whole thing, I can feel kind of curious. Where will this take me??
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Also, I wanted to add that I agree with you – insight is not the same as prevention, but it is a step in the right direction. What I need is the insight, then to keep reminding myself of the insight, then to practice the behavior or thought patterns that help integrate the insight into my way of being.
Yep that sounds like the process to develop any new skils or habits. No easy button but practice. Unfortunately life keeps giving us plenty of opportunity to practice 🙂
I know that feeling so well…needing to hurt in order to feel okay again. It’s not the best coping method, but at one time it’s what we had, it’s maybe all we had. And it works. I’m sorry you felt so bad, I’m sorry rage turned inward on you. It sucks, there just isn’t another word for it. I am impressed that afterwards, you were able to use the calm to make lists and shore up healthier coping skills. That’s big. Really big. It’s growth. I know it feels bad –and a relief– to hurt yourself, but I feel like this was different in some ways…you recognized it, you could observe what was happening. And that’s the first step to change. Sending hugs and support. Xx
I talk about self-harm as a way to punish myself, as a way to relieve intense feelings that I can’t sit with, as a way to validate to myself that “this is serious!,” and as a way to mark my pain onto my body. All of these are true, but in some ways it probably comes down to the endorphin release that happens with the shock of the burn.
But I can get endorphin releases from exercise and pleasurable experiences. I can give up punishing myself. I can learn to sit with intense emotions and not need to chase them away. I can validate that my pain is there because something is wrong, or was wrong in the past. And if I really want to, I can get a tattoo. So over time, I plan to find ways to meet my needs using different tools.
Thanks, Alice, for your comment and especially for sending the hugs and support. It’s so meaningful, because I can’t say these things to the people I interact with on a daily basis. So having someone out there who gets it and is encouraging… that means a lot.
Have you seen the CARES protocol (maybe that is the wrong word…)? It’s used as a replacement for self harm, addiction behaviors or eating disordered behaviors. Bea is a big fan of it. I honestly have been resistant to trying it, but it makes sense to use…this is the gist of it. The idea is to replace all the things we get from those behaviors, not just the endorphin release.
CARES Box – decorate & fill a box with items used in CARES protocol
Set Timer 10-15 min for each activity
Journal, draw, collage, poetry, tape recorder to speak into, paint, sing, ext
Physical activity, hugging, laughter, watch funny YouTube videos or video of baby laughing, dance, go for a walk, ext
Warm bath, singing, meditation, music, butterfly hug, tapping, self-talk, call a friend, hug a stuffed animal, ext