Friday, March 26, 2010

everything and nothing

"You're precious."
I met his eyes, and look away.

You're crazy, or
you're lying, or
you're biased.
Regardless -
you are wrong.
There's no piece of me that's precious,
no piece of me worth saving.

"You're the best part of my life."
His eyes met mine, looked away.

I'm not crazy, or
lying, or
Regardless -
I know that look,
and I know he doesn't believe me.

We are so much the same.
Equally damaged, our broken pieces align.
It's beautiful; we are everything to each other.
It's tragic; we are nothing to ourselves.

I can't deal with being average. In anything.

I couldn't sleep last night.
I started trying to figure out why I'm such a perfectionist - which is something I've tried before, and made some progress at, but recent therapy sessions have pointed out some factors I hadn't considered before.

I started filling pages and pages of my tiny writing, scrawling out the things that made me what I am.

It's a time line, it started early on in my life, but it's so interconnected that it's no longer linear; the reasons overlap. The reasons reinforce each other. There is no changing it. I will always be this way.

It's so much a part of me, you might as well ask me to amputate a limb, as ask me to stop trying for perfection.

I cannot do it. I will not do it.

It is who I am.

And waiting for that letter is driving me mad...

Wednesday, March 24, 2010


Right now
I am perfectly,
The self-destructive part of me, ever present,
is a perfect match
for the drunk part of me, which I'm afraid of indulging too often.

I am neutral.

And so
I will gently fall asleep,
instead of self-destructing
instead of over-drinking.

And I will forget
for a few blissful hours.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

waiting on the verge of panic

I've been away for awhile, up and down, up and down.

I'm waiting for a letter in the mail, one that may or may not come. I've been waiting for 23 days and it's wearing me down.

It's a letter, but it's more. Reassurance that I can still do something right, reassurance that other people believe in my abilities even if I don't.

And still more. The freedom to leave home whenever I feel like I can't live there anymore. The freedom to start a new life away from the past, a life where I can work on fixing myself without the constant daily reminders of why I'm broken to begin with.

But the letter hasn't come yet, may not come ever, and the longer it takes, the easier it is to believe that I have failed.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

love and trauma

So last post...I started talking about my first really serious relationship. It wasn't my first relationship. I'll probably write about them all eventually...but here's a quick summary:

I had a "boyfriend" / playmate when I was in grade 2, and although that hardly counts as a "relationship", we did call each other boyfriend and girlfriend, we did kiss (on the cheek), we spent Valentine's day together and we gave each other small gifts. I am actually very grateful that I had this relationship before I was molested. It gave me a reference point to compare with my later relationships. At age 7, I was comfortable holding hands and kissing on the cheek; at age 13, I was not. Obviously something had changed.

I had a boyfriend when I was 13, that lasted about 2 months. We met on vacation in the summer and lived in different cities; after the summer, we drifted apart. I didn't mind drifting apart; I hadn't really been comfortable with him and was just starting to realize that I had some issues to work through around relationships.

I met a boy with beautiful eyes over a staring contest when I was 15. We dated for about 6 months, but he was too intense and wanted to kiss me too soon and basically scared me away.

I dated a friend of a friend for about 5 months when I was 16. I felt more comfortable with him. I was able to tell him about being molested when I was younger, and he understood that he needed to be careful and go slow with me. Although I did feel like running at the beginning of that relationship, I was able to kiss him eventually, and able to actually enjoy it. I was just starting to wonder whether I wanted to take the big step of saying "I love you" when he stopped returning my phone calls. Apparently he had found a new girl and didn't feel it was necessary to inform me. It hurt at the time, but I don't regret the relationship and now we're friends.

Up to this point, I had a childhood sweetheart and three relationships where I struggled with my feeling of wanting to run away.

And then I started my first serious relationship about a month before I turned 18. I think this was the first time I was really "ready" for a relationship.

There was a lot of good and a lot of bad in that relationship. It healed some parts of me and wounded others. I left him 5 years ago, almost to the day. I don't know why the memories feel so fresh this year. I think it might be because I'm starting to realize how much of my past I've dissociated and fragmented, and I'm trying to resolve the painful memories instead of just burying them, and I never actually resolved the bad parts of that relationship. In fact, the point where I went numb and couldn't feel anything anymore in the relationship was probably when PTSD set in. And so I never dealt with those memories.

My team does know about it, but not the whole story, not yet. There's just so much of it to tell, and there are other things I'm trying to work through at the same time. I'm talking to my main doctor (Dr. Z) on Friday, and looking forward to sorting some of this out. I'm pretty sure I'll cry...but that's not necessarily a bad thing. I always feel better after I cry in therapy.

Interesting tidbit from last week's therapy session: I told Dr. Z about my new doctor (Dr. F), and how she told me that I have symptoms of PTSD and that had taken me by surprise. Dr. Z asked what surprised me about it, and I told her I hadn't really considered my life as being traumatic. She asked how I would define a traumatic event. I didn't have a hard answer for that, but when I thought of 'trauma', I thought of something more violent and sudden, like a car crash where someone dies or surviving a tornado or something. So she pulled out her copy of "Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders" and read the definition they use for a "traumatic event":

a traumatic event is a situation where both of the following occurred:
  • The person experienced, witnessed, or was confronted with an event where there was the threat of or actual death or serious injury. The event may also have involved a threat to the person's physical well-being or the physical well-being of another person.
  • The person responded to the event with strong feelings of fear, helplessness or horror.
Going by that definition, she said I had at least 3 sources of childhood traumatic events, and probably even more than that, and some of those sources are still active.

I hadn't thought about my life in those terms before, but everything she said made sense, and I'm starting to recognize some of the things I do now that are rooted in those past experiences. Friday's session should be...interesting...

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

the trick is to keep breathing

March 17, 2004. I was celebrating St. Patrick's Day with friends. My boyfriend at the time was in another city, where he went to university, celebrating with his friends.

He started drinking very early that day. He got so drunk that he woke up in the campus observation room; his friends had brought him there, worried about his health. He left the observation room semi-sober and continued drinking. As he drank, he got angry at himself. He cut. He'd never done that before.

March 18, 2004. He called me. Apologized for not calling the night before. Told me what happened. Told me he didn't know what led him to that. Told me it had scared him.

His words chilled me. I had hurt myself only once before that, two years earlier, out of sheer hopelessness and desperation. I knew the mental anguish it took to get to that point. I wanted to fix everything for him. I didn't know how.

St. Patrick's Day has been a little rough on me ever since then. It always reminds me of that conversation with him; of the sharp contrast between what we had together before that day, and what we slowly lost in the year afterward.

I met him about six months after recovering from major depressive disorder. I had learned to be happy again. I trusted that there was good in the world again. He was the first boy I ever felt entirely safe with. I loved him, intensely. I felt everything intensely. We talked about getting married, decided we would wait until we graduated university. The future with him seemed so certain.

Then that conversation, and things changed. He drank more, even knowing what it did to his mood, even knowing that he would likely wake up the next morning with new scars. He became suicidal. He would disappear for days without telling me, without telling his housemates, leaving me wondering where he was and if he was okay. I worried constantly. I hated the miles that kept us apart.

He was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, but refused to take his medication - he liked his manic phases and wanted to keep them. He wasn't honest with his doctors, eventually stopped seeing them. Which left me as the only one who knew it all, the only one he leaned on for support. It was more than I could handle; I started breaking down.

Months passed. I was always on edge. I had nightmares. My hair started falling out from the stress. I went days without eating.

More months passed. I stopped feeling. I was numb. I couldn't cry, I couldn't laugh, I couldn't even feel love for him anymore. But I was afraid of leaving him, in case that drove him to kill himself.

A full year passed. I realized I had to leave. For once, I had to put my own needs first. This was no longer the relationship it once was; it would never be that relationship again. It was tearing me apart, and I had to leave before I had been broken into pieces too small to be saved.

And so I left. He didn't kill himself. And I'm in a better relationship now. It was all for the best.

But I still have nightmares. I still don't take care of myself. I still don't eat properly. I still don't fully trust the future. I still assume anything good is only temporary.

I can feel again, but everything feels muted, like my emotions are being played in black and white instead of full colour. Sometimes I want to feel everything again; most of the time the thought of it scares me.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

yoga 1, panic 0

Thursday was an upsetting day.

I can't really go into details with what upset me, but it made me feel insecure about my financial security for the next couple of years, and it also made me feel like a failure. I started to panic. I started to feel like I wasn't good enough, that I'd screwed everything up. And my mind circled in on itself like vultures circling their dying prey. I felt awful.

I wanted to go home and hurt myself. But I didn't.

Instead, I went to yoga.

I had made plans, before the upsetting thing happened, to go to two yoga classes on Thursday with some friends. Once I was upset, I really didn't feel like going, but I didn't want to cancel with my friends, so I went to yoga anyway.

After the first class, I felt a little better, but still jittery. After the second class, I felt calm. I didn't want to hurt myself anymore. I felt good, actually, good. And very, very glad that I'd stuck with my plan to go to yoga.

I'm new to yoga - those two classes are the third and fourth time I've gone, ever. But I think this is the start of a good thing. I know that when I'm stressed out and in a panic, I deal with it badly and usually self-destructively. And I know I want to change that. I usually don't care, at the time, about how I deal with feeling bad, but afterward I usually regret what I've done. Not so much for my own sake, but because it makes people I care about sad and worried. Which makes me panic again; it's a bad cycle.

But yoga isn't self-destructive; far from it. It's definitely a healthier way of dealing with bad feelings, panic and stress. It might be the key to breaking that bad cycle.

I saw one of my doctors yesterday morning, and told her about what happened to upset me so much on Thursday. She said it was a confusing situation and it seemed like someone else had made a bad decision that wasn't fair to me. At the same time, she said she could understand how easy it was for me to misinterpret it as being my fault, and that it was important for me to keep a logical perspective on it. My first instinct is to feel like a failure; if I take a logical approach, I can see that I'm not.

Then she said, "you seem pretty calm about it today." So I told her how I went to yoga and essentially chose that over hurting myself. She said that was a really good step on my part. Then we talked about yoga and what style of yoga might help me best.

I found a yoga studio not far from school. They have a lot of classes, and they offer the option of either paying for classes in packages or buying an 'unlimited' pass. I think, once this school term is over in May, I'll sign up for an unlimited pass. That way, if I start to panic or start wanting to hurt myself, I can go and drop in on the next  available yoga class. I think that flexibility will really help.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

overwhelmed...but determined

I haven't been sleeping well this week.

I've reverted to sleeping with a stuffed animal ever since Mom was hospitalized, but even he hasn't been able to keep me calm the whole night through, not this week. Sometimes it helps if I turn on the blue LED lights strung over my headboard.

I feel like a child again, afraid of the dark.

Afraid of my dark.

But I've done some thinking; what else is there to do at 3 a.m. when you can't sleep but are too tired to do anything else?

And I've realized that none of this is new.

Nothing in that pit I've opened up is new. Nothing in it is foreign to me - it's all happened to me, in the past, which means I faced it once and survived. I may not have dealt with it entirely at the time, but I survived, and this time I won't be facing those things alone. I'll have a lot of good, experienced people helping me sort through and empty out that pit. And teaching me how to keep it from filling up again.

It's still a scary thought.

But running away from it won't make it go away. I know that pit is there now. I know it's not healthy to leave it there.

Mom started seeing a psychiatrist recently too. Mom has never had a peaceful life, and she deals with it all the same way I deal with it - burying it, going on, always the strong one. She asked her psychiatrist if that stress, over all those years, never vented, could have contributed to her streak of cancer and autoimmune diseases. The answer: "More and more doctors are looking at it that way. We can't say that stress 'causes' cancer, but it certainly seems to aggravate it, maybe make people more susceptible to it. It seems to play a role but we haven't figured it all out yet."

It breaks my heart to see Mom so ill.

I want to have a family one day. I want to have a daughter. I don't want to break her heart.

I will be strong. I will face the things I'm afraid of. I will let people help me. And I will emerge, whole and stronger, in the end.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010


Sometimes I wonder if I could become a qualified psychiatrist based on personal experience alone.

I'm amazed at how much help I'm being offered. I will soon have a "team" of psychiatrists, all working on different parts of what's wrong with me. It makes me this is a dream, I'll wake up and I will go back to being the way I was in January, before Mom was hospitalized and before I fought with Dad and before I made the first step towards talking to someone.

I really didn't think I needed this much support. I feel like I've cried more since January than I've ever let myself cry before. It's mainly been in therapy sessions, but still, I'm not used to letting myself cry. It's like I've buried everything bad that's ever happened to me in a pit deep inside myself, and I finally took a peek at that pit when I started talking to someone in January, and now I'm absolutely overwhelmed by how deep that pit is and how awful the things inside are, and part of me just wants to snap the lid back on and forget about all of that and carry on as if that pit doesn't exist. It's like now, that I've let myself start crying, I'm afraid I'll never be able to stop.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

it's more productive...

and you might say it's self-indulgent
and you might say it's self-destructive
but, you see, it's more productive
than if i were to be happy...
-Bad Habit, The Dresden Dolls

I met a new psychiatrist today. Her specialty is mood disorders related to reproductive life cycles, including pre-menstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD). The doctor I see at school said "it's clear to me that your mood is being affected by hormonal and situational triggers, and I think it's important to see someone with a knowledge of the hormonal effects on mood," and so now I have two doctors. One for situational triggers, one for PMDD.

Except we didn't really talk all that much about PMDD today.

This new doctor was incredibly thorough. We talked about everything...being molested when I was 8, feeling like I was never good enough to make Dad happy, the 6-month-long period that had me suicidal by the end of it, the various health problems Mom has had to deal with, the bipolar boyfriend who first triggered my restricting, the way I deal with things now by pretending I'm someone else, the cutting.

And this one said "You definitely have at least some of the symptoms of PTSD." The acronym threw me off for a moment. "What's that?" "Post-traumatic stress disorder."

I wasn't expecting to hear that. I was never involved in a natural disaster. I haven't witnessed a murder. I haven't fought in any wars. I was molested, true, but it wasn't full-out rape. My life hasn't exactly been calm, but I never thought it met the criteria for 'traumatic'.

I'd told her, at the beginning, that I wanted to be able to handle my PMDD symptoms without needing to stay on zoloft forever. And she said that would likely be possible, but that I need to be realistic; that point is at least 3 or 4 years away. There's too much going on right now for me to go off the zoloft. I'm constantly being triggered by my everyday life, and I need to deal with the situational side of things before I can really tackle the hormonal triggers.

And she came up with a long-term plan. I'm getting a referral to start trauma therapy, with both individual and group sessions. And I'll continue seeing her once a month to check on things, and seeing my doctor at school every week. And once I've developed ways of feeling safe, even when I'm in a stressful situation, then I'll work with her more to develop techniques to deal with PMDD.

I'm a little overwhelmed. I really had no idea I was so messed up. I don't let myself feel things. I'm afraid of feeling things.

She also said she'd recommend increasing the zoloft, that studies have shown that trauma patients benefit from the use of medication like zoloft to allow them to cope as they begin to deal with their trauma. She said that might be hard for me, because 'hyperarousal' is a symptom of PTSD, and some patients don't want to give that up because they feel like they're losing their 'edge.'

And that does scare me a little.

I am defined by my edge.

I hate a lot about me. But I love that my body and mind are constantly on alert, ready to do whatever I need to do at a moment's notice. It's exhausting, sure, but I love that I can function perfectly well in extremely stressful situations, on little to no sleep, with little to no support. I work well under pressure, I thrive on stress. I push myself incredibly hard because I know I can get away with it; my mind will still function and my body will still hold me up.

I really think most of what I have accomplished, I have only been able to do because I haven't had a calm life.

Can I be happy and keep my edge? Can I keep the adrenaline that stress gives me without succumbing to the panic attacks that crop up every now and then?

Monday, March 8, 2010


Last week's goals:

1. I will not hurt myself. - check. Though that mostly reflects the fact that I had a fairly calm week, not that I'm any better at handling panic. Still, a goal met is a goal met right?
2. I will destroy my midterm tomorrow. - jury's still out on that one. It wasn't what I expected. I'll get it back in class's hoping...
3. I will spend 28 hours in the lab, being productive and maybe making something cool. - mostly check. I did make something kinda cool, but I still could've been a bit more productive.
4. I will get at least 7 hours of sleep every night. 8 would be better, but I'll start with 7, it's better than my usual. - not quite check. I probably averaged about 6, 6.5. Not awesome but not too bad either.
5. I will not throw up. It might mean I spend an hour at the gym every day and stick mainly to eating vegetables, but I will not throw up. - failed on 3 days. But on the bright side, it's now been 4 days since I last threw up, which is the longest I've lasted for a very, very long time. So it's still progress.
6. I will give myself a pedicure, because I like the number 6 better than 5, and I want something relaxing to look forward to.- fail. This should've been the easiest one to do, but somehow I didn't manage it. I need to take more time for myself, spend more time relaxing.

Goals for this week:

1. I will not hurt myself. This will stay a weekly goal until I find myself in a situation where I really want to hurt myself, but manage not to.
2. I will not throw up. This will stay a weekly goal until I go a solid 3 months without throwing up. So it'll be up here for a looong time. But not forever. That's the important part.
3. I will get at least 7 hours of sleep every night.
4. I will clean the cages of my various pets. It's not a job I look forward to, but I've procrastinated long enough, and this week I will do it. And I'll transplant my seedlings too.
5. I will start working on the presentation I need to do for a class I'm taking. It's not due for another couple of weeks, but if I put in about 5 hours/week starting now, that should make things easier on me later.
6. I will go to yoga class - twice.
7. I will give myself that pedicure. This puts me over 6 goals, and I like 7 less than 6, but I want that pedicure and I need to make time to relax.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

i can't say it

Sometimes my boyfriend says "and..." and then pauses. It means he's trying to get me to repeat what he's going to say, one word at a time. One word at a time, because it's usually something I need to hear, especially from myself, but don't want to say, and so he waits patiently as I fight against each word before I'll say it.

Last night, as I was talking about something I was working on, he said, "and..." And he waited.

It was my turn. "and" "it's..." "it's" "okay..." "okay" "if..." "if" "it's..." "it's" "not..." "I'm not going to say it. I can't say that. I can't."

"It's okay if it's not perfect."
"No, I can't say that. I can't."

"It's okay if it's not perfect....because..." "because" "you're..." "you're" "already..." "already" "great." "great."

"There, see, that wasn't so hard, was it?" "No, because it's true, you are great."

"No, that's not what I meant....let's try this again...because..." "because..." "I..." "...I" "am..." "" "already..." "...already" "great..." "...great."

"Easier said than done, thinking that." "Well, you didn't even say the whole thing, not really, so that must mean it's really hard to do."

I don't think he really realized just how much I needed to hear that, even if I couldn't say it myself.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

jealous of normal

I had an appointment with a dermatologist this morning. It's a routine, once-a-year thing. Mom's side of the family has horrible luck with various types of cancer, so once a year, I get checked over for any signs of cancer - including skin cancer. No bad signs this morning. In fact, he commented on how "great" my skin was, "even colouring, pale, no sun damage." I've given up on tanning once I realized how much cancer runs in family; just seems like a good idea not to tempt fate.

He also noticed the red spots on my face, from the last electrolysis treatment, so we talked about that briefly. He asked if I'd had my blood tested to see if there was a reason for the hair growth, so I told him I was diagnosed with PCOS in November. He was surprised at that - "Well," he said, vaguely gesturing towards my stomach "it's just that you don't fit the usual PCOS case." Meaning that I'm not obese or particularly overweight.

That's the third doctor to have that reaction now. It makes me want to laugh. I have no idea what my natural body shape should be; I haven't eaten normally in years. Take a syndrome that causes weight gain, add an eating disorder, mix it up in the same person, and what do you get? Someone with a body in between. Someone like me.

Speaking of eating disorders...

I've had nothing to eat but cauliflower and carrots today. I'm afraid of eating, because it always seems to end with me throwing up. Sometimes, I think the only way to stop throwing up every day is to stop eating, and this is one of those times. It's simple; nothing in, nothing out. Of all my not-so-healthy tendencies, I hate throwing up most of all. It's the most pointless, self-destructive, embarrassing thing I do. And even knowing that, I can't seem to stop it.

There was once a time when I went years without throwing up, without even having to think about it. Most people live like that. Every day I go without throwing up is a constant fight. I have to plan out my day to avoid triggers, I have to eat certain things, I have to be active, I have to constantly remind myself that I am trying to break this cycle. It's exhausting, and more often than not, I lose the battle at the end of the day anyway. Then I look at the people around me, and I realize that they're doing exactly what I want to be doing - going days without throwing up - with no effort at all. It's frustrating. That's just normal for them, and I'm jealous. I wish it were normal for me too.