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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Wake Me Up When September Ends…

September is the anniversary of my mental breakdown.

My mom died in June 2005, and for three months, I was in shock. I worked, went to school, raised my daughter, the busier the better, until BAAAAM!!! Breakdown.

The song, Wake Me Up When September Ends (by Greenday) was released that year. It is about the singer’s (Billy Joe Armstrong) father dying due to cancer. The day of his dad’s funeral, he locked himself into the bathroom. When his mother knocked on the door, he simply stated, “Wake me up when September ends.”

I felt the same…just wake me when it ends. After my breakdown, I spent many days in a lawn chair outside, wrapped up in blankets, staring out to nature. I remember this song resonating with me as the tears finally flowed.

Today I begin my EMDR. I can’t think of a better way to honor this anniversary then to take the next step in my healing process.

“A Breakdown Doesn’t Mean You’re Broken”

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“Instead of heading for a big mental breakdown, I decided to have a small breakdown every Tuesday evening.”

 – Graham Parke in “No Hope for Gomez!”

 

Here’s some good advice on getting through breakdowns that I found by Billie Gardner on The Change Blog

 

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