Science!

I’m not sure that I’ve mentioned the medicine I take. Before yesterday I was taking Effexor, Gabapentin (for anxiety), and Seroquel (for sleep). As of my psych appointment yesterday I have added Wellbutrin. I think I can already tell some difference. I hope I can, at any rate.

Two years ago is when I started on medication for my anxiety, depression, and PTSD. I went to a primary care doctor and he prescribed Zoloft and Xanax. The Zoloft only managed to be effective for about six months. Several months after struggling with my meds not working, I finally decided to see a psychiatrist. It was definitely a good decision. I began therapy a few months back now, and even though I’m glad for the opportunity, I just don’t feel like where I am now is the right fit. Tomorrow begins my search for another location. The place I currently go will not allow a person to only see the psych for medication, they must also attend therapy there. So, now I need to get a new person for both. I have a few places in mind, fortunately.

When I take the Wellbutrin I do feel as if I have more mental energy and a bit more clarity. I still feel like I’m in a fog, but at least the heater is making a small hole where I can begin to see through. I’ll take just about any improvement I can get at this point, no matter how small.

Ending and Beginning

I have decided I will not be cunning the current therapy I’ve been participating in. I don’t feel that my therapist is the right fit for me, and need to find another. 

Everything seems to still be getting progressively worse. About the only positive recently in my mental state is that I suddenly abhor the taste of alcohol, so I have significantly cut back on drinking. 

The more time that passes, the less and less I feel. The past week has been the most feeling time I’ve had in awhile, but it’s been filled with sadness, aggravation, pain, and anxiety attacks. I am not sure which I’d rather experience, if I were so lucky as to have that choice. I haven’t even been able to listen to music in weeks without being able to feel myself falling deeper into the depression. Pop workout, rock, top 40, country (by far the worst decision), 80’s, 90’s, you name it. All of it. I had considered that maybe listening to happy music would help pick me up, or that indulging in sad songs would allow me to release some unknown thing I’ve been holding on to. Nada. 

I’m more and more lost with each day that passes.

“If you’re going through hell, keep going.” – Winston Churchill

Another Break

It had been much too long since I’ve written. I did go to therapy last week, but we did not continue my EMDR therapy. I just talked. 

And talked.

On April 1st I was out at Mulberry Mountain in Arkansas with some friends and we’re riding four-wheelers. Long story short, my husband and I flipped ours. We are both fine with no broken bones or major injuries. Just some bruises and scratches. This past week has been spent nursing us back to some form of normal. 

I think the thing that bothered me the most about our wreck was that I didn’t feel anything. I didn’t feel panic, or fear, or concern, or anything at all at any point. Even the days before the wreck I didn’t feel anything. Nature usually gives me a sense of calm and peace. This time there was nothing. There was even a beautiful rock face with the river running through and passing by our camp. I had a hammock set up between two trees, a comfy tent set up, the works. I’ve gotten so far down that even the things I have known could help me pull myself up aren’t working. I won’t give up, though. I will keep looking and keep trying.

An Interlude

I was supposed to have therapy this week; yesterday, in fact. I cancelled the appointment. After the anger from last week and me still dealing with some of it, I decided I didn’t want to go back into the lion’s den just yet. Next week I will not have an appointment either as I will be trying to get some family matters sorted out and will be out of town.

In lieu of yesterday’s therapy, a close friend took me fishing and drove me around on a four-wheeler all day. It was the kind of day I needed, only I need many more before I feel like I’ll be any kind of normal. I miss being connected with nature. I’m so glad summer is on its way.

This anger that I’ve been doing my best to manage is, at times, one of the most difficult things I’ve encountered in my life. Everything, literally almost every aspect of life, decided to go haywire last week (the past week and a half, really) and despite the most desperate efforts, I could not get my shift covered at work. It was a disastrous evening and I found myself hardly able to function at work. That happened two shifts last week.  I take great pride in any job I have and view it as another home, another family. I love my job, and I’m grateful because I know many people cannot say that. Although some nights I want to punch a lot of drunk people, I think my job helps keep me going and keep me sane.

Despite the fact that I have a job I love, an amazing set of close friends who love me and whom I love very dearly, and a husband that everyone is constantly complimenting and telling me what a great guy he is and how lucky I am (which I do know, and am so grateful for also) I cannot seem to pull myself up out of the depression I’m in. I feel broken. I know that people around me are starting to look at me with the question in their minds of, “What more could you possibly want?” And to that I have no answer. I don’t want anything but to figure out how to feel ok and have some level of happiness again. I’ve done much better at moderating my drinking since my last post, but I will admit that I have become very strongly reattached to caffeine as well. I had basically cut it from my life, along with a vast majority of sweets. I’m still not big on sweets, but the caffeine helps me seem more normal. It gives me the energy to accomplish things and people comment that I smile more and seem to be doing better. I don’t really feel any better on the inside. I still wake up and immediately have to tell myself to stop fantasizing about death or about taking a sleeping pill just to avoid the day.

My night terrors are back again, almost in full force. “Bryan” is the subject of most of them again, though they aren’t about the abuse. The latest one was that he found me and wanted to tell me how wrong he was and how proud of me he is and how he knows we could have a good life together. Panic hit immediately in the dream. The words I had always wanted to hear. The things I thought I could create. More panic. In the dream I try to talk to myself and remind myself that he’s only manipulating me and that none of those beautiful, positive things are possible. Then I remembered that I have a husband, and how can I explain what is happening to him, and what will happen between him and Bryan if they encounter one another. So much panic.

I had terrors about my grandmother last night. Always her asking for me to help her in some way or another but also criticizing me as I try my best the whole way through, only to end up losing her or disappointing her. I know it’s because I was unable to say goodbye the way I wish I could have.

My heart is just so heavy and I’m getting less and less able to handle the weight. I’m so tired of being strong and being responsible. I want to run away more now than I ever have before. Run away from all of it, everything. I know that won’t fix anything and I know that would leave me dealing with all of these same problems the rest of my life. I’m doing everything I know how to work on myself and heal myself and make the better choices and do good and be good. It’s so difficult. I feel like I’m climbing a giant sand dune while being weighed down with bags of sand to boot. I really intended for this to be somewhat of a positive post, but joy and hope are not things I feel in my heart today although I have tried to redirect my thoughts and actions to such. Onward I will walk down this path and continue to do my best to bring myself up out of this and smile again.

The Long Road

This post will be shorter than intended as I cannot seem to log on to WordPress on my laptop currently and am doing this on my phone.

The past few weeks have been very stressful, and I haven’t been doing nearly as well as I’d like. My depression has had such a strong hold on me I’ve not even been able to sit down to write. 

Yesterday was the first official EMDR therapy session using the light. We confirmed what we had previously talked about in going back through my selected memories. I was to pick one event and focus on it for the treatment. I actually picked a new one that I hadn’t previously listed, but had thought of after the last appointment. The memory I chose was from around first or second grade. I was a recipient of my school’s good student award for the month, early spring I believe. My grandma came to the assembly as she usually did, taking time off from work at the factory to be there. After the assembly was over the parents were all waiting in the hallway outside the auditorium. I ran up and hugged her, but as I looked around I saw all the other students going back to class. At the young age of eight I knew she had to go back to work and wasn’t checking me out for the day, so I knew I, too, needed to return to class. I was terrified of getting in trouble in any way in school. Never had a detention and only went to the office to tutor other kids or read the morning announcements. Anyway, asi watched the other kids leave I told her I needed to go and went back to my classroom. That evening she wouldn’t speak to me. When I did finally figure out why she was upset, she said I was clearly ashamed of her and didn’t value or respect her and my grandpa and that I didn’t want them around at school. I heard this for the rest of my life for almost any major event: prom, awards, graduation. My family did attend my graduation, but I was angry and in tears from an argument we had about the day’s plans as I was leaving the house. 

Anyway, you can see how it made an impact. 

Add I focused on this memory my therapist turned on a green dot light that played ping-pong across the bulbs on the stand. She would let it run for about twenty seconds before shutting it off and asking how I felt. She’d then turn it on again while I focused on the event. The light distracts your conscious mind so your subconscious can repair the damage done from past events. I was honestly very surprised at what a roller coaster experience it was. At times I felt relaxed and like the hurt was fading, but at other times the pain became stronger and more directed at myself. When I left I felt nothing but rage. Not the kind of rage where your head is hot and pounding because it has direction, but the general kind of deep, slow-burning rage that fills the pit of your chest. I beat my hands on my steering wheel and cried on my drive home. 

Since yesterday evening I’ve managed to find a numbness rather than the rage, though I don’t think one is better than the other. They are both miserable and have robbed me of my desire to even try to smile or breathe or exist. I don’t understand the pain and emotions that I’m experiencing at this point in my life, and I have been drinking it away a few times a week. I don’t know how to think about it or begin to fix it, and I feel like my brain is running at the highest rpm. Drinking let’s my mind quiet and allows me to have fun with my friends playing cards and Jenga. I hope it starts to make some kind of sense soon. 

Next appointment is a week from Thursday. Hopefully I can do this on my laptop by then. 

Two Weeks

I was sick last week and had to cancel my therapy, and was out of town this week so missed that appointment as well. I don’t feel like I’ve missed anything because of it. If anything I think it will have allowed me extra time to solidify the feelings I have about the scenarios discussed at my last session.

I am having difficulties though. It may be the time of year, or maybe just the changes I feel happening in my life, or maybe it’s just the cyclical nature of my depression. I wake up every day filled with rage. It’s becoming harder and harder to control. Yesterday it took every ounce of self control that I possessed to not land a solid series of punches on the solid steel door of our safe. Broken knuckles? Probably, but that would be satisfactory. I don’t have an explanation for why I need to feel physical pain when I feel emotional pain, but it is the only thing I can think about. It seems to be a family trait, so at least there is that explanation for some comfort. It is increasingly difficult to not want to punch someone just so they’ll hit me back. My therapist made a comment that having come from so much chaos in my life it would stand to reason that I will miss having it when my life is finally peaceful. A bit more comfort can be found in that.

Another struggle I feel as if I’m losing is my desire to drink. When I began seeing a psychiatrist last year for medication I had to tell them my stories so they could get a proper diagnosis. It was only then that I was faced with the understanding that I had been an alcoholic. It was a coping mechanism, though perhaps differently than how I’m feeling now. My dip into alcoholism began sometime in 2012 and continued until early 2015. Bryan, my previously mentioned ex, had his own emotional struggles and used fifths of pure grain alcohol to forget the pain. Many, if not most, days he would go through a half to an entire fifth. Some days it was vodka, some days tequila or rum. Sometimes he’d put down the majority of a 750 ml bottle. I was on duty to babysit and go on food runs, neglecting my family, my job, everything. Was I an enabler? Yes. Did I have much other choice? No. If I didn’t go myself or take him to the liquor store for restocking almost every day, he’d either threaten or follow through with physical violence or simply walk to the nearest liquor store. Not much I could do about either of those. I tried leaving once. He called me at 5:30 in the morning, at the fullest extent of drunk as usual, and told me he was going to end it. I heard the cocking of the gun. He had drank the usual quantity of ever clear and taken cold pills and god knows what else. We had ample knives and guns. You can talk to me about controlling those things all you want, but you can’t stop a crazy person from having things if they either won’t admit they have problems or if they’re crazy enough to take them from someone else. Anyway, I, like the idiot that I was, drove back to nurse him back to health, or some semblance of it. The drinking continued. Most days ended up in either physical altercations, shouting matches, or both of us passing out. It grew very difficult to handle, as it was a 24/7 situation, he being unable and unwilling to hold any job due to his fragile ego at that point. Rather than fight over trying to get him to stop drinking, I would start taking shots with him, challenging him to drink more, hoping to get him to the point of passing out quickly. Three years.

So, here I find myself. I have never had an addictive personality, even the occasional cigarettes I smoke are more of a social tool. I never think about them really, but I find myself day dreaming about drinking. I’m fun when I drink. I have fun when I drink. People let me act however my subconscious dictates and I have very little consequence from it. I don’t even have to think. I’m better at my job because I’m loose and friendly and have no social anxiety when I drink. I feel good because I can’t feel anything. My hands are sweating right now at the level of control I’m having to exert to not answer the call of the bottle of Bailey’s in the pantry. Perhaps, even without an addictive personality, there are some addictions that mesh so well with your demons that they test every fiber of your existence.

Fortunately, through my twisted form of upbringing, I have instilled within me too much of a sense of responsibility to give in. For now. I love my job for as much as I can love anything these days, and I maintain myself so that I don’t compromise that. I escape now and again in small ways, but never enough to harm anything, and only on really trying days. So, for now at least, I will continue exercising the muscle of my self control and continue swallowing down the rage I feel growing inside of me and hope that someday soon I’ll see some light at the end of this long, dark tunnel.

Step 1

This week’s therapy was the first step in EMDR. We identified a specific event to focus on. We followed a worksheet with a list of questions to help me recognize patterns throughout my life. I began with a current struggle I’m facing that I would like to overcome. Given that, I then went back through several instances that I could make connections to via the feelings and sensations I feel in my current struggles and in each of the past experiences. I then had to think on and discuss how this pattern and the feelings affect me on a day to day basis. Everything is connected.

I didn’t expect to really feel anything. I’ve done a lot of work on my own with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, reading self psychology books, and doing guided imagery meditation. The path we took back through these particular connected events wasn’t anything I hadn’t thought about before really, but I guess I’d never taken back quite as far as I did this time. I didn’t feel any particular amount of feelings during the therapy session, but I found myself angry and frustrated as time passed over the next few hours.

I don’t mind sharing with you the events we went through in this session. I’m always open to discussions on anything, and I would like to restate that I hold the greatest hope that my willingness to talk through all of this will also help others who are struggling with mental health or unhealthy life situations.

Most days I experience varying levels of guilt over everything from forgotten mayonnaise packets to customers at work to the same things I’ve been rehashing in my mind for as long as I can remember. This includes feelings of insecurity, that I’m constantly doing things wrong, and, of course, the guilt. This is all accompanied by a constant feeling of dread sitting in the pit of my stomach. Recently I’ve been trying to overcome these feelings just for simple things like balancing my time between my husband and my friends. It feels like a tightrope I have to walk sometimes, even though I’m really the only one putting any pressure on myself. The previous occurrence of these feelings that came to mind seems like a drastic jump from that, but my current feelings are the shadows left from these previous experiences. About three years ago I was still dating my ex, who we’ll call Bryan. I took him out to a dance club in Fayetteville, AR to meet all the friends I’d recently made at the new job I had. We get to the bar and are ordering drinks. A guy from work who I’m not really friends with came up and asked me to follow him. I told him no, and that I was with my boyfriend, Bryan, and we were getting drinks. This guy leans over to Bryan and says, “Hey, can I steal your girl for a minute?” Bryan says, “Sure.” I shrug, grab my drink, and walk away with the guy from work. Long story short, he turned out to be a major asshole and I was very soon returning to Bryan. He was sitting at a table on the patio while my friends (many of whom I’d introduced him to before we got drinks) were inside talking and dancing. I could immediately tell something was wrong. To summarize, he was angry that I walked away with the guy from work and told me that I should have done more to respect him and show everyone that he was important. We drank the next few drinks very quickly as we tried to move on. As would be expected, things got worse as we drank. We left much more earlier than intended and didn’t really interact with anyone we came to see. I drove us back to the apartment, which I really should not have done. I was in no shape to drive, though I was better off than Bryan. He refused to let me call a cab or have someone come pick us up or take us home. As I drove, he kept telling me how disrespectful it was for me to walk away with another man. I kept trying to explain that I only did because he said it was ok. He told me I was irresponsible and a liar for refusing to acknowledge my mistake and was just trying to lay blame on him to deflect my own responsibility for the situation. I tried to stand firm, but suddenly I saw a flash of light and felt the right side of my face burning. He had hit me. This certainly wasn’t the first occurrence of this, but it was the first time it happened while I was driving. He continued for several minutes as we pulled up to the apartment, me being stubborn and still trying to explain myself. I’ve never known how to keep my mouth shut when I probably should have. We got up to our apartment and continued arguing and drinking. Before the night concluded in us passing out I spent time screaming and running through the apartment to try and get away from him. He told me if I called the cops he would kill me, take as many of them down as he could, then let them kill him. I didn’t doubt him in the least. I know his knee was on my throat at some point, blackness fading into my vision. He, inches from my face, roaring at me with his deep bear-like voice. He was telling me how much I was a liar and a horrible person and no one would love me and he was the best I was ever gonna get, and I was getting exactly what I deserved. When he would threaten a new violence and I begged him not to he would merely say that if I wanted to show him that I love and respected him I would quietly submit to whatever it was he felt I deserved.

There was a very long road that led to that moment. It wasn’t even the last moment like that. I stayed three and a half years too long. The next instance in the regression was the very first time he hit me. It’s a very similar story that perhaps I’ll tell another time. The next event back was when I was younger, in elementary school. I was held up to nearly inhuman expectations as a child and teen. When I didn’t meet the expectations I was belittled, told I was disrespectful or embarrassed by my family, and was weighted down with more guilt than anyone should have to bear, much less a child. The anger I felt after my therapy appointment was largely due to feeling the depth of the connection between my earliest memories and seeing how that played such a part in me dating and staying with a man (I use the term “man” rather loosely here) who manipulated and broke me down to the lowest of the lows and how all of that now affects everything from my job to my relationships. It may not have been the most fun, but I’m glad to have made these realizations and feel very strongly that therapy will help me and I will get better.

Intake

Today was my first appointment with my new therapist. All things considered, it went very well. She said it was an “odd first appointment,” due to the knowledge I already have of EMDR and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). After going over pieces of my past and how I’m feeling about life currently, we discussed what to expect and the potential benefits I can look forward to.

Essentially, there are many ways to accomplish EMDR, but we will be using a specific type of light. It is a horizontal bar of lights, and , while I’m looking at it, the light will ping pong back and forth through each of the bulbs from one end to the other. The fundamental point behind what we’ll be doing is bilateral stimulation. It can be accomplished through moving lights, a waving hand, a “butterfly hug,” or even bilateral music through headphones.

I will be combining the EDMR with guided imagery and art therapy. There will be some CBT involved as well, so really it’s a very rounded approach. I’m very hopeful about my therapy plan and am so excited to be able to take such a strong step in the right direction!

Before we begin

Hey all! This is where I’ll be keeping notes and posts about my journey through EMDR therapy. For those of you who don’t know, EMDR stands for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing. It is a process that helps the brain heal from psychological trauma. If you want to learn more about it, you can visit this page. On any post, at any time, please feel free to ask me questions. I’m an open book, and I hope to help others realize they’re not alone and that there’s someone out there to talk to, and that there are so many reasons to keep hope alive.

Beginning in early 2016 I started going to a therapist and psychiatrist. Upon my initial visit I was diagnosed with anxiety, chronic depression, and PTSD. Most of my family, both on my mom’s and dad’s sides, deal with depression and anxiety. I had known for a long time that those were things I was dealing with also and had wanted to start therapy and medication long before I finally did. Why didn’t I start sooner if I wanted to? That would be where the PTSD comes in.

2016 was a bittersweet year for me. It brought to me some of the absolute lowest lows, but also some of the highest highs. January saw the last time I talked to the man with whom I had spent five and half years in a physically and emotionally abusive relationship. Shortly after that I lost my best friend and partner in crime when I found out she had been lying to me and using me to cover up her lies to other people. By March I had broken up with my boyfriend after a year of being with him. May was the month that tested every boundary of everything I’ve ever known. On the 17th of May the garage of my grandparents’ house in Northwest Arkansas caught fire due to an electrical short. My mom and I watched as we lost one of our dogs to the flames. I called 911 and took charge of getting everyone out of the house. My mom, my brother, and I did everything we could to get both of my grandparents out first, neither of whom could walk on their own. We were fortunate that a volunteer firefighter drove by as the black smoke busted out all of the glass windows on the garage doors. He helped my mom and brother get my grandparents across the street into the neighbor’s yard while I ran back in to save as many of our pets as I could. Smoke filled the house but the fire was contained to the garage. I managed to get both dogs, our bird, and two of five cats into my car after multiple trips back into the house. The fire department showed up and made me join my family across the street while they put the fire out. The brought a third cat out to us, covered in soot but safe. I knew one of the cats was safe under one of the beds, but the fifth cat was nowhere to be found. Several days later we found her. She had spent three days shut in the scorched remnants of the garage with no food or water, but she was fine.  The garage and everything in it was a total loss.

Prior to and including all of this, my mom and I were at home caretakers for both of my grandparents, and had been for about two years prior. My grandma was experiencing the mid stages of familial amyloidosis. She and I had been taking part in clinical trials up in St. Louis at the university to research a potential treatment. At the same time that we were assisting my grandma physically, my grandpa was progressing through the stages of Lewy Body Dementia. We had our hands full. It was very difficult getting them out of the house during the fire, and it was a cold day. They both became too cold, too long before I could get them into a neighbor’s house. When they finally were able to settle in there for awhile, I took over making the insurance calls and trying to figure out where we would all stay until we could go back to the house.

Twelve days later, on May 29th, my grandma passed away from heart failure. It was a part of the amyloidosis, but the trauma of the fire was too much for her to handle. The decline was rapid. She and I were very, very close. It was a very co-dependent kind of relationship, not really anything resembling a healthy, normal family relationship. I was raised by my grandparents, mostly my grandma and her need to control everything. Don’t get me wrong, I loved her very deeply and still do, but we had many tough times throughout the years. I was very sheltered and had a large and strict set of rules I had to adhere to in order to maintain peace. As my therapy continues, I will likely elaborate on this in more specifics.

2016 did end with many positive notes including me finally making friends who I love very dearly, getting a job that I absolutely adore, and, most importantly, finding and marrying my sweet husband, Kyle. I owe many of my successes the past year to him and his help. 2017 has started off on a much stronger and better note than last year. I’m excited to begin this journey to recovery and growth, and I’m so thankful to have such an amazing support system of friends and family who I love more than I can possibly ever express. Thank you all for going on this journey with me!