Update: Post Meltdown

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“On the outside, I appeared  untroubled. I smiled and remained calm. On the inside, I was screaming, crying, frustrated, and clawing away at my skin.”

Every now and then there will be a sequence of life predicaments that overwhelm and paralyze my nervous system. During these periods, it takes every little bit of my energy and focus to remain grounded and in touch with my own realities. I want so badly to write, to blog and to share while I am in the midst of pain, yet, I have not reached the point where I am able to do that yet. That is why my posts are sometimes sporadic and I post these updates to share where I’ve been.

Fortunately, I’ve come far enough in mental illness recovery that I am able cope and survive these tests; but, it is not without the deep pain that growth and change bring.

I was barely recovered from my hysterectomy when I got my new diagnosis of DID. Then I began working on my rape traumas. As if there weren’t enough to process, an array of events followed, that eventually led me to a major meltdown. Beginning with my sister coming to stay with me.

My sister and I have had a topsy turvy relationship through the years. We had a difficult childhood and we were difficult children as a result. Her and I share an immense love for each other, coupled with intense resentments. We open one another’s doors to our pasts and therefore, we are huge triggers to each other. We will be getting along joyously for awhile and then eventually, we always end up in an argument and not speaking until the next time.

When she called me in June and stated that she wanted to move back to NH from Pa. I offered her to come stay with me. Part of me thought that maybe it was time we started working on our relationship and confronting our feelings about each other. I felt ready. Plus to be perfectly honest, I wanted a distraction from therapy, DID, and myself in general. A few days later she packed herself, her son and all of her belongings, and arrived at my front door. I was already full of anxiety but was distracted by my love for her and my nephew.

The second night she was there, we bonded about some of our emotional issues and our traumatic past. We giggled and reassured each other. Sisterly love at it’s best. We talked about a fragmented memory that suggested possible sexual abuse from our father, involving me. I have absolutely no memory of this and the worst part was I couldn’t even be sure that it didn’t happen. With DID and suppressed rape memories, I had no reason to not believe her. I cried myself to sleep that night in horror that my daddy abused me.

In an attempt to find truth and heal, I decided to include a separate note in my yearly fathers day card, apologizing that I hadn’t called in awhile because I’d been dealing with some suppressed traumatic memories in therapy. Then I added, that my sister shared this memory with me, and I asked if it was true. I of course immediately followed it with I’m sorry and I love you, recognizing my own constant desperate need for his approval.

Meanwhile, I had two birthday parties to plan for my daughter. One at home with family and one at a roller rink for friends. This was very important to me because following them, she was going away for three weeks to visit her father and family in Alaska. I knew I wouldn’t have much quality time with her before she left, because of the chaos of school ending, her birthday and planning for her trip, on top of the fact that our home environment temporarily lacked the personal space we were used to.

It was the evening of my daughter’s birthday when my sister found out that I had confronted our father, she was extremely upset with me, saying she’d never share anything again with me. I explained that I had a right to know. We did work through it and continued to celebrate a lovely evening. That night I lay down, drained on all levels, too tired to process it all and cried myself to sleep again.

A week later, after successfully throwing the roller skating birthday party for my daughter; I saw her off  for her trip with tears in my eyes. The same week, my sister confessed that the situation with our dad, may not be what or how she remembered. Exasperated, I sent a message via Facebook to my father apologizing.

By the end of the third week that my sister was there; my body was in extreme pain from sleeping on the recliner. I had given her and my nephew my room, because I thought it’d be easier for them. I was in physical therapy already for my C spine arthritis. The stretches and massages helped a great deal; but didn’t entirely alleviate my symptoms. l couldn’t sleep, I was overtired, in pain, missing my daughter,wondering about my dad, if he would respond, the list went on, and I honestly didn’t know how I would keep going.

The whole time I was in therapy twice a week, as I worked through my different parts, personalities and triggers that surfaced with all that was going on. The rape traumas and EMDR was put on hold right before my sister came. My therapist thought there would be enough going on, and she was right! I also decided to not confront the possibility of my father’s abuse at this time. I had no memory of it and now my sister wasn’t sure either. Therefore, I said to my therapist, “Unless of course he dies, I think that I’d like to put this aside.”

My father died three weeks later. It was a cruel cosmic joke. He died the same day my daughter came home. It was extremely unexpected, He was in great health and traveling the world, living his life. Then one day, on his way to meet his sister for their weekly coffee date, he lost control of the vehicle, ran off the highway and tumbled. He was dead when the EMT’s got there. They say he didn’t suffer. He had no seatbelt on but he was sober, which means a lot, because of his alcoholic history. They think he may have had a heart attack or stroke. In which case, my father would have probably wanted to not survive. He would rather die than be invalent. He was a very proud man.

My sister was settled in her new apartment in the building next to mine. When I came home with the news, we clung to each other desperately in hysterical tears. Only the comfort of my sister could help me confront this unbelievable reality. For my sister and I, it was even more unbearable with the open wound from confronting him and not hearing back from him. The only thing that brought us comfort were the words our Aunt, “Your father was just talking about you both a few days ago, and said how beautiful your hearts are.”

My system shut down and I was on auto pilot. On the outside, I appeared untroubled. I smiled and remained calm. On the inside, I was screaming, crying, frustrated, and clawing away at my skin.

It would take all I had to get through the services. My sister and I got into arguments all the way through; but, I figured we all grieve differently and I tried my best to just let it go. I knew that I’d be processing the loss of my dad for a long time. We all would be.

A month later was my sister’s birthday. I wanted to throw her a belated welcome home/birthday party. However, we got into another huge argument. Something snapped in me. I’d been on thin ice for awhile. I ran to my room, slammed the door, and couldn’t stop screaming and crying. The worst part of this meltdown was I felt unsafe. I wanted terribly to hurt myself. I picked up a pair of manicure scissors and contemplated where I’d cut myself. My mind was gone. Though there was a small voice telling me not to. I absolutely couldn’t cut myself after my daughter struggled with self harm. I dropped the scissors and fell to my knees and prayed. I hadn’t had that strong urge of hurting myself since my teen years. I helplessly cried and prayed for what seemed like hours. The cleansing brought relief; but, I was aware that this had been a major meltdown.

Luckily, I had therapy the next day. She saw it as progress. She said that this part of me surfaced because of the work we’ve been doing. This part of me obviously felt safe enough to show itself to be healed. It was hard to believe that darkness and desperation was progress; but, I went along with it.

My meltdown was a month ago. I am not only better; but stronger and wiser. I am relieved it happened because for years I’ve been fearing another breakdown. Now, I know I’ve come to far to let it tear my life apart. I have been working with this part of myself that wanted to self harm. She is where all my anger and rage has been stored. She is what I considered my dark side. I am learning to balance this and will write about it in another post.

Since this meltdown, my other sister moved to NH as well. She was struggling with grief and addiction; but, she is doing better now. My family has seen some hard times. The loss of our dad was the loss of our last parent. Both our half siblings and us lost our mothers before this.

It’s a strange point to be at in life. An adult orphan. All we have is each other now. Our family will continue to persevere, because our love for each other is stronger than any resent or blame, and our parents are smiling angels shining down on us.

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Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID)

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After ten years of therapy, I was taken by surprise with a new diagnosis. I was expecting to begin my EMDR therapy for rape trauma; but instead my therapist diagnosed me with DID, formerly known as MPD, multiple personality disorder.

She explained that there are three phases of therapy; 1) Stabilization, 2) Dissociation and 3) Trauma. Reassuring me that I’ve done a wonderful job at stabilizing; Once stabilized, we then started to delve into trauma, using EMDR therapy. This is where the disassociation presented itself. First as a frightened child, then an angry teen, then later two different aged self beaters. One ten years old, the other in her twenties.

With my prior therapist, we had sessions embracing my inner child and my inner teen. Therefore, I thought the appearance of these other selves was the same kind of therapy; but, technically DID is the appearance of two or more personalities.

My first reaction to the diagnosis was relief. It made sense to me, and I was accustomed to working with different parts of myself and welcomed more of that thinking. Learning that there are parts of me stuck on some traumatic event and I needed to heal and integrate them into myself as a whole.

I spent the next few days in tears. It felt like parts of me were grieving and they were relieved to be acknowledged as they released the trapped sorrow.

Then I had a denial and disbelief phase.  I couldn’t wrap my head around it. How could that be? How could I have different personalities? I binge watched United States of Tara on Netflix to try to pick up clues. It’s a show about a mother with DID, and her alters/personalities, vary from Alice a perfect domestic housewife from the 50’s, to Buck a foul mouthed, gun shooting male. Her alters dressed up differently and went out and got into all sorts of trouble. I am not like that, I thought to myself. Shoot, my personalities don’t get to dress up and do what they want!  I  remembered my therapist telling me she dislikes having to use the diagnosis because of the way Hollywood portrays it. I stepped back from the theatrics of the show and did some self analyzing.

I looked back on my life and observed how many times I easily shifted gears from one personality to another and how I have chunks of time I don’t remember, or how I’d be doing one thing and an hour later be doing something else and not remembering how I got there. I thought it was ADD, but could it be, it was DID?

I googled and found that DID is a disorder characterized by identity fragmentation rather than a proliferation of separate personalities. My therapist explained it this way too. That there doesn’t have to be full blown personalities, some are just fragments.

At first, I was frightened that I’d be taken over by someone; but, it has actually been entertaining and useful to let parts of myself come forth and express the individual emotions and thoughts of that self.

The diagnosis threw me for a loop; but, in reality, it feels like progress, and I don’t think it will be too long before I can integrate all my parts.

I plan to deal with this information the same way I’ve dealt with learning about depression and all the other diagnoses since my breakdown, and that is to learn as much as possible, be non-judgemental of myself, and continue my healing journey.

 

Why I shouldn’t meditate

I have finally reached a point where I can actually start a routine for myself. For many years, it’s been all I could do to get through the day. After taking care of my daughter, I had no energy left for anything else.

I am doing better and want to create some routine things that are just for me. Writing, exercise, etc., I thought meditation would make a healing addition, until I discussed it with my therapist.

She explained that people who have a severe trauma background (PTSD) should avoid meditation, as they may not be equipped to deal with possible intrusive thoughts and/or memories that may enter their mind. She advised me to stick with guided meditations, rather than more traditional meditation.

“People with depression or past experiences of trauma, for example, may find themselves feeling increasingly anxious during  meditation, no matter how much they try to focus on the moment. Or they may be plagued by intrusive thoughts, feelings and images of the past during their mindfulness exercises” says Professor Sarah Bowen (who has studied meditation in treating alcohol and illegal drug addictions), that’s why she suggests that people with depression or trauma issues who want to benefit from meditation should try it with expert guidance.

Personally, I have tried to be still and meditate in the past; but it always became frustrating  and impossible to maintain a blank canvas in my mind. It becomes overflowed with thoughts and pictures racing until I just give up. I have always had to use guided meditations. I thought it was because of my ADD, and I needed the guidance to focus; but, maybe subconsciously I couldn’t do it because of fear. Maybe I was afraid of what horrible memories might appear.

Whenever my mind attempts to relax, it is quite a process. Particularly when I am trying to go to sleep. Talk about racing thoughts!! I have had severe insomnia at times, but that’s a whole other post! Sometimes I do use guided meditations to help me at night. I am kind of fussy when it comes to finding one I like and that relaxes me. The person’s tone may annoy me or not keep my attention, or their words don’t stir my imagery. Jason Stephenson is my favorite on youtube that I’ve found. He has a soothing voice and creative guided imagery. He also has a great selection. Here is one of my favorite sleep meditations by him.

He has many meditations that I want to try and add to my routine, and hopefully someday soon, I will be able to add a traditional meditation practice. One baby step at a time:)

Agoraphobic Flashback

At one point in my life, my illnesses took such a hold of me that I developed Agoraphobia.

I do not recall a particular incident or moment that triggered it, or if it happened overnight; but, before I knew it, I became terrified to leave my house.

I have always had panic attacks and social anxiety that would strike at any given moment.

Even before my breakdown, I can remember I would get sudden social panic attacks. For instance, I’d be cashing out at a grocery store and if the cashier started a conversation, I’d be okay for a moment and then…BAAAM…my neck would lock up, it felt like my head would start to shake,,and I’d wonder if it’s obvious, then my heart would pound loudly and my hands would tremble. I’d silently pray for the brief social encounter to be over.

I also had severe PTSD with going outside. Growing up I survived many horrific encounters just walking home. Men have exposed themselves to me, chased me, and attacked me.  I can clearly understand now why I would be afraid.

I think the PTSD combined with social anxiety and panic disorder just all morphed into a giant block of fear. No matter how I geared up to leave, once I reached the door knob I was paralyzed with fear. I can still vividly recall the image of that door knob in my mind.

Even though I felt safer in my home, I would jump at any sound outside. I pulled my shades down and sometimes I would curl up in the corner of my apartment where I felt safest.

When I started to work through the Agoraphobia in therapy it was difficult; because I defensively stated that the reality is that bad things do happen out there and it wasn’t my imagination. My therapist suggested taking a phone with me, or thinking of other ways to make me feel safe.

I also joined an Agoraphobic support group on Facebook. I always kind of giggled at the irony of it. Here we were all in our homes not having to leave for our group. I am very grateful for the people there and still touch base with them.

My life drastically changed because my daughter started cutting herself. A mother has no time for fear when her baby needs her.

I can’t recall a victorious moment when I finally could go pass that door knob; but I do think about it almost daily. I fight my fears and anxieties everyday and sometimes I feel I should be farther than I am. That’s when I like to look back on my Agoraphobia times and feel proud of how far I’ve come.

Agoraphobia is a terrible way to live. If you need help here are some links:

https://www.facebook.com/groups/hateago/

http://agoraphobia.supportgroups.com/

http://www.dailystrength.org/c/Agoraphobia-and-Social-Anxiety/support-group

http://www.adaa.org/supportgroups

http://www.mdjunction.com/agoraphobia

My Daily Basic Battles

 
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Recently my depression has been worse due to the separation in my relationship, being physically sick, and now having to find a new place to live.
Lately I can only get through a basic day.
No matter what level of depression or where one is in the healing process; there are daily basic battles to fight.
These are simple tasks to others; but, for anyone with a chronic illness, they are wars.

My daily basic battles:
1) Get Up

Waking up in the morning is the first challenge of the day. Sure, your eyes are open and maybe the coffee is on; but, the mind and body are fighting all the way. Depression physically and mentally cripples. A few days ago, I woke up crying. I had to fight to get up and out of bed.

2) Get Active

I’d like to say that this is where I exercise or do some great act of fitness; but getting active simply means that after I am up and out of bed, and after I have brought my daughter to school, I cannot sit on the couch and give my depression time to take over. I must get active, move my body. This is when I do my housecleaning. It is mindless and it gets me moving.

3) Get Fueled

If I don’t eat and take my medications then everything else is futile. I make myself eat something, even if it’s just a piece of toast. I also set an alarm to remind myself to take my medications. These two tasks are directly related to my feelings of self worth and that’s why they are so challenging.

4) Get Out

I force myself to get in the car and go. Most of the time I have errands; but, even if I don’t I go for a drive just to get out of the house. At one point in my life, my depression transmuted to agoraphobia. I became terrified to leave the house for months. Therefore, I must get out everyday to prevent that nightmare from happening again.

5) Get Sleep

The last but not least battle is getting to sleep. Insomnia has wrecked my life at times, not being able to sleep for days. When I don’t have proper sleep, then depression and anxiety wreak havoc on my body. I try to lay down an hour before my sleep time and then play youtube sleep meditations to relax. Sometimes, I have to play them for 2-3 hrs.

When the daily basic battle is won, only then can other tasks and projects be added.

There are so many more things I want to do. I sometimes beat myself up for not being able to. I remember I used to move through my day without thinking about it. I used to live a very full life. I feel so broken.

I would love to be able to add exercise, writing/blogging, seeing friends, working, and other productive functions. However, at this point I am happy if I can add a few a week. The daily battle leaves me drained and exhausted. 

With therapy and perseverance, I will learn to move beyond the daily struggle and live a ‘normal’ and healthy life.

 

 fear and faith

 

 

Being Sick = Depression

 

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Being sick has always been a trigger for my depression. Growing up with severe asthma I was often sick and laid up for weeks, sometimes in the hospital. Missing large chunks of school and missing out on life.

I am just getting over being sick for a little over two weeks now.  A severe cold or virus that had me flat on my back in bed with a stuffy nose and head, sore throat, cough, body aches and chills.

This week I have slowly returned to the “land of the living”, dragging myself and feeling weak; I can’t help to reflect on the emotional and psychological toll being sick takes on me.

Many memories of laying and feeling helpless, not able to breathe, wondering why I had to be born with asthma. Though my asthma has improved some since childhood it always chimes in when I am physically and/or emotionally compromised. My asthma (or being sick)  has a direct route to my depression and vice versa.

It is clear to me that my emotions affect my health. After my mom passed, I was in the hospital with a severe asthma exacerbation. I had infection through my sinuses, lungs and even my eyes. It took me months to get better physically, but mentally and emotionally would take the rest of my life.

I have coped with these laid up periods of my life by having stacks of books, magazines, notebooks, etc., I will look around and imagine rearranging a room trying  to forget that I am physically unable, or I will list all the things I am going to do when I am better. This gets me through and make me feel I am still productive.

My depression by itself has had me in bed unable to move. Ironically, the same mind that can imagine myself being well when I am physically sick can actually paralyze me with fear. When I am having a depression relapse, my mind’s ability is blocked.

Those are the fears and blocks that I continue to work on. I recently read a quote that said, “When you are sick, you can check out of life, but when you are better you have to check back in.” It resonated with me. It feels like when I am sick, (physically or emotionally) it is a way of the body to slow me down in order to go within and nurture. When I am better physically I return to the world with renewal and clarity.

 

Always Healing….:)

 

 

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Mental Breakdown

 

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The term “mental breakdown” (or nervous breakdown) isn’t an official medical term; but it is often used to describe an acute emotional or psychological collapse. When an  individual has reached a point where they are severely and persistently distraught and are unable to function at a normal level. In extreme cases one can suffer from hallucinations or “catatonic posturing” where the individual is unable to move.

Generally speaking , a nervous breakdown can follow a long period of stress that hasn’t been dealt with appropriately.

What “mental breakdown” meant for me was a complete halt to everything I ever thought I had under control. I had been diagnosed years before with depression and anxiety disorders; but had learned to live with them under the care of my doctor.

I can’t recall a singular incident that I can mark as the moment of my breakdown. Three days after my mother passed, I started a new job. Shock kept me functioning for awhile. I grew increasingly dependent on alcohol because I was too afraid to feel. Then one day, I cried and couldn’t stop. I couldn’t think. I paced frantically for hours. I didn’t sleep for 2-3 days at a time. I just simply could not function, and three months after my mother died I had my mental breakdown.

According to my doctor, it was my mother’s death that triggered a “clinical depression” resulting in a “mental breakdown”. Severe loss and grief compiled with a troubled relationship , pressures of inheriting guardianship of my teenage niece, attending college, working a new job and raising my daughter while financially drowning, finally resulted in hospitalization.

The memory is a big blur. I lay there with tubes in my arms and oxygen in my nose. My asthma had severely exacerbated. My body was so worn and weak. I couldn’t breathe. I had an infection that went through my lungs, sinuses and even my eyes. My mind was blank. I looked around and recognized that I was in the same room my mother had been in. That reality hit me hard. This was rock bottom and I was going to die if I didn’t get help.

After a week and a half in the hospital, my doctor strongly suggested disability. I had to quit my job, end my relationship and move to an apartment that I could afford being on disability. It hurt my pride to be deemed disabled but I was grateful for the opportunity to receive the assistance I needed, both financially and medically, while I learned how to heal.

The truth is, we all need help sometimes. If you ever think you may be breaking down, please get help. It does not go away if you ignore it and it only gets worse.


Symptoms of a breakdown can be mental, emotional &/or physical. You can experience one or more of the following: persistent & uncontrollable crying, disorientation, confusion, feelings of worthlessness, loss of self esteem, agitation, restlessness, mood swings,violent anger, paranoid thoughts and hearing voices, diarrhea, constipation, disrupted menstrual cycle, difficulty breathing, &/or loss of vision or memory.

1-800-273-TALK 
1-800-SUICIDE