Used books.

There are few things in this world that bring me more joy than used books. Something about the soft pages and sweet scent bring me back down to Earth from the chaotic place in the clouds that my head survives in. Not only do they contain the epics tales of the past, but the physical books themselves tell their own stories.

Circled words.

A forgotten bookmark.

Scribbled notes in the margin.

Dog-eared pages.

Coffee stains.

A taped spine.

Mystery symbols penned in seemingly random places.

I was recently browsing the local used book store and I came across a book that had a business card tucked between the pages. It just so happened to be a business card that belonged to a case worker from the same organization I work for. The book it was tucked into was a very worn copy of I Hate You-Don’t Leave Me: Understanding the Borderline Personality. So many questions came to mind after I inspected the card even closer. It was a blank appointment card for a case worker that I’ve never met from a program I had never heard of.

How old is this card?

Did the person whose card this is put it here?

Was it a client?

Did they finish the book and find the answers they were looking for?

How many hands has this copy been through?

I was sidetracked by the resident bookstore cat that was sitting and staring up at me, so I put the book back on the shelf and moved on in my search. I still think about that book from time to time. I still ask myself those questions that I’ll never be able to answer.

Part of the allure of a used book, aside from the soft pages and sweet scent, is most definitely the mysteries and secrets put into them by all the hands they pass through.

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Crowd surfing versus Stage diving.

Picture this:

You’re in a crowd. You’re surrounded by everyone you know. On the outskirts are acquaintances and closer to you are your closest relationships. You’re just another person in the crowd, but then you feel like you’re starting to drown. So you reach out to the people near you for help. As you spread your reach as far as you can, you start to rise above the crowd. The people around you are lifting you up so you can catch your breath. At this point you’re crowd surfing. Your weight is distributed across several people, ranging from close friends to acquaintances. No one person is bearing your entire weight. The crowd carries you to until you’ve caught your breath and then they lower you back down to the ground.

Now picture this:

You’re in the same crowd, but you haven’t talked to any of these people in a long time. They’re still close friends and acquaintances, but you’ve been busy and now you’re too anxious to really talk to anyone. The same thing happens. You start to struggle for air. You don’t feel comfortable enough to ask anyone for help, but you’re still suffocating. No one notices because you’ve been avoiding everyone all night anyway. Finally, in a last ditch effort to live, you climb up on the stage and jump off into the crowd. You come crashing down on one or two people. They’re severely injured and now your relationship with them is damaged, too. You continue to do this until the crowd gets smaller and smaller over time. At some point there’s no one left and you’re just struggling to breathe.

The first analogy is what I believe to be a healthy way to cope with struggling. I feel like that’s how most people get through life and tough times.

The second one is what living with depression and anxiety feels like.

9.9.19

I’m having a hard time writing this down, but if I don’t, it’ll probably just get worse. Over the last few weeks, I’ve reached out to some dear ladies in my life that I’ve noticed have been struggling lately and I’ve tried my best to provide emotional support and lift them up the best I can. I’ve been pouring my heart and soul into an event at work that has turned into my metaphorical child and the impending doom of it being birthed in a few days is making me so anxious. More so anxious in a “I want to see how this unfolds” rather than “Oh God why?!?!” type of anxiety.

With this event, I’ve been looped into hundred of emails that have to do with everything from booking a speaker, down to “do we need cans or boxes to collect surveys?” Every minute detail has been scanned over tenfold by my tired eyes. I’m pretty sure my supervisor is tired of my obsessive checklists. The voice in the back of my head is screaming at this point, but on the outside I’ve managed to maintain relatively cool, calm, and collected. As a last minute detail, I was forwarded a piece of writing that will be shared at the end of this event and I spent bits and pieces of my workday reading it.

For reference, this event is a suicide prevention educational forum. This is the type of event that has been brewing in the back of my brain ever since I returned to school from inpatient psychiatric treatment. I wanted to shove this information down the throats of anyone that crossed my path. It was(and still is) a priority in my life to make sure no one had to feel like I did right before I checked in, or if they did, to make sure that they knew they weren’t alone. Or to make sure everyone knew what it looked like when someone they knew might be on their way to rock bottom. My superiors at work are surprised at how passionate about this event I am. And damn right, I’m fucking passionate about it.

This piece I spent my day reading was from the young man that will be our keynote speaker. A young man that is a suicide attempt survivor and mental health advocate. Without spoiling it, his message was central to this: speak up. No one will be upset that you did.

It made me think back to when I had to be brutally, painfully honest with myself and a group of then strangers each and every day. I said how I felt about five times a day. I took time to check in with myself to see where my head was in that given moment. And most of the time it wasn’t good, but I still shared so we could talk it out and talk it over. I used to write so honestly and blunt. It wasn’t that I didn’t care, but that I did care. I did care about being as transparent as possible to show that sometimes things aren’t ok, and that’s ok, becuase they’ll probably get better. Things don’t get better if you don’t(or won’t) face them head on.

And what that all beings me to is this: I checked in with myself today for the first time in a long while and I am not okay. I’ve been filling my time to the brim with “stuff” in order to avoid feeling. People ask me how I’m doing/feeling and all I can muster is “stressed, but it’ll be over soon haha” or “I’m good.” The occasional “I’m losing my goddamn mind”, but followed promptly with a smile and a laugh as if I’m joking. I don’t know if it’s the exhaustion finally settling in from maintinging such a high level of functioning or what, but I’m crashing and all I can do is cry about it.

I’ve been reminiscing about my time in treatment. Although it was hard in several ways, I was allowed the time to rest and heal my heart. My only concerns were making sure I woke up on time to get my meds and had all my shit in my bag for a fun filled day of group therapy. I didn’t have a ton of options for distractions. I had to sit in my feelings, work them out, and move the fuck on. I was on a tight schedule and my life was generally contained to the property the facility was on. There was excitement in going to the grocery store once a week. All in all: Things were simple.

I need simple in my life, because at this point my life is anything but simple and it’s driving me into the ground.

Although I feel like I’m headed for a nosedive into the concrete, I do feel different than before. Like I’m spiraling, but I know it’s going to get better. I want to stay in bed for days to cry and sleep, but I know that tomorrow moring I’m going to prop myself up out of bed, slam some coffee, and head on my merry way to my 365th day at the job I love so much.

I guess I’m writing here for some form of accountability, because I haven’t said shit to anyone and I feel like that isn’t going to get me much farther than where I’m at now. Putting it all out there in the open helps me stay honest with myself. That’s all I’ve got.

S.O.S. Help, please.

Toxicity.

Sometimes I get restless and look back a few chapters in my book. I look back a few lifetimes. Back to when things were unpredicatable and fun and dangerous and exhausting and exciting and almost fatal. About a year ago I cut off the last tie I had to one of those lifetimes, but somehow they keep surfacing in the cosmos before me. This person was like my heroin for the better part of my teenage years and I only started to sober up and look at the wreckage around the time my son was born.

I still get that sickly sweet taste in my mouth when I think of this person, but it’s quickly replaced with bile. I’ve burned all I have from this person except for one book which I hope to part with someday when I’m feeling a little stronger. There are so many shreds of consciousness that are infected by that face, that name, those places. Sometimes, I still hear them calling and the fire in depths of my soul rises. And then I cry until the flames go out.

Ten years of their fingers ensnared in my veins and one year clean from their shit and I’m still trying to rip them from the cozy place in my skin that they’ve been embedded for so long. I can still taste the chaos whenever I see their name walk across my screen.

In my head, each person I meet is tied into this giant web. People that associate with each other are strung together and larger groups have their own branches. I thought I had cut off this monstrous web of interconnections, but a couple people slipped through and they brought everything else up to the shitty, murky surface with them.

I think one of the hardest parts of getting my head on straight has been dealing with the “before” people that I have either forgotten about or forcefully shoved out of my brain. Each time I accidentally stumble across one of them, it sends me spiralling. It makes me want to run fast and far. It’s happened a few times recently and I still have no idea how to deal with it. I feel so weak for having such a strong reaction to SEEING a person I used to know.

I don’t know if I’ll ever reconcile the chunk of my life that I lost during that long, sickly period, but I can try. I’ve been working hard on accepting those things I can’t change, and it’s getting easier, but I don’t think it will ever BE easy. I just have to keep pushing forward. Keep trying. As much as I want to indulge in that sweet, sweet chaos, I know it’ll kill me if I ever go back. And I don’t want to die anymore.

Chemicals.

It’s always so strange when life comes to a screeching halt and it’s not until that point that you’re able to look around and ask yourself “What the fuck is all of this?”

I’ve been here before. It’s not an unfamiliar feeling, but its equally as jarring as the first time. And the second time. And the third. I have a love/hate(how ironic) relationship with psych meds. I’ve been through so many at this point. Brands. Doses. Combinations. Antidepressants. Antipsychotics. Antianxiety. Mood stabilizers. Some have almost killed me(Lithium) and some have made me want to kill myself(Lexapro). Some have done their job well(Wellbutrin). One I’ve had a long, exhausting love affair with(my sweet, sweet Ativan). One made me essentially narcoleptic(Latuda). That’s not even all of them, or the worst of it all.

I had been taking my current cocktail (Welbutrin and Trileptal) for close to two years when I switched medication managers. A medication manager is basically a doctor that prescribes my meds and checks in with me every few months, but isn’t necessarily a psychiatrist. So, I switched people close to three months ago and in our first visit she doubled my Wellbutrin dose. Great, right? A little extra boost? Wrong. So, so fucking wrong.

She warned me. She said there’s a slight chance I would become more paranoid or manic. She said the other possibility would be that my anxiety would go down immensely and my mood would improve with that. I took the chance because I could feel the slippery slope of depression coming on.

The outcome has not been in my favor and I didn’t realize how damaging the results have been until today.

In retrospect, I’ve lost all sense of impulse control or mood regulation over the last few months. Impulsive spending. Impulsive self harm urges. Impulsive word vomit. Unsafe behaviors. Larger than life emotions that I have no semblance of control over. A mood that swings between ecstatic to loving to anger to rage. I’ve been doing things that I know are out of the realm of normal and reasonable behavior from my self.

The last few days have probably been the worst of it. I realized tonight that I haven’t taken my mood stabilizer since Sunday night. I had skipped a few nights the week before as well. I’ve created a recipe for disaster at this point.

So at this point, the plan is to cut back on my Welbutrin and call my med person as soon as possible, and to get back on my Trileptal consistently. In my attempt to keep my head up out of suffocating depression, I put a fire under my ass and have been sprinting ever since.

Time to put out the fire and slow the fuck down again.

Nothing can prepare you for losing a pet. Even if you think you’re ready, you’re probably not.

Over the last few years, I’ve been preparing to lose my dog Winstan. If you’ve ever met me, you know that I have an ancient, blind, three-legged, bulletproof pug at home. Winstan is very old for a dog of his breed, let alone for a dog that has underwent the amount of physical trauma that he has. With his aging, I have been trying to mentally prepare myself for the day I wake up and I find him in his bed, cold and breathless. It’s morbid, but every day I wake up and I check to see if he’s still breathing. Throughout the day I will pause as I walk by and hold my breath until I see the rise and fall of his body.

I was not prepared for Vespa to be the first one to go. I was not prepared to be the one to find her dead on the side of the road, a mere hundred yards from my house. I was not prepared for my son to ask me where his dog is. I was not prepared to deal with a panicked Winstan, frantically searching the house for his best friend. I was not prepared to lose one of the few beings that has been there for my day to day for so long.

I’ve lost family members. I’ve lost a best friend. I’ve lost other important people in my life. But nothing compares to losing this dog. She was so sweet and loving to my whole family. She was Winstan’s guardian and companion. She had been my guardian and had come to rescue me countless times. I don’t feel safe without her here.

I don’t know how I’m going to cope with this. I feel so helpless and powerless.

Little Words: Patti

A few days ago, I went to work. Anymore, getting out the door to my job is a difficult task. I hate my job. I get berated by strangers for things out of my control, I’ve been doing the same thing for 5 years now, and I just don’t feel like I’m properly compensated for the work I do. About a year ago, I had the same opinions and decided that going back to college was the only way I was going to get out of working retail. I had been to college before, but dropped out and that’s how I ended up in retail in the first place.

So now here I am at my day job playing Russian Roulettle. Who is this next customer I’ll be matched up with? People from every possible walk of life come into my work day to day. Lawyers, Poly students, homeless people, Joe Schmo and his five kids, artists, angry people, happy people, techies, and people that “don’t know what a WiFi is”. I’ve been offered jobs and have had my physical wellbeing threatened. I’ve been invited to participate in fundraisers and join a Renaissance guild. I never know what I’m walking into when I walk into work.

A few days ago, I met Patti. She’s a regular at my work, but I had never helped her before. I got set up with her and through our interaction, she told me she had bought a few things for school from us. I had to ask her what she was going to school for because that’s just what I ask everyone.

Paralegal.

Patti had grown up traveling the world as a child. An Army brat. She grew up to also join that Army as an adult and rose through the ranks to Colonel. After leaving the military, she acquired a doctorate in Psychology. She spent many years working with Veterans with PTSD, depression, substance abuse, and other mental health problems. She has since worked for many mental health organizations in the area. She is a patient’s rights advocate and wants to become a lawyer specializing in Veteran legal issues. She’s been a student over the last fifty years. She turns 70 this year.

We spent several hours of my shift talking about school and careers. I gave her a bit of my background and told her I was studying Psychology.

“What do you want to do?”

“I don’t really know exactly. I do know I want to work with at risk teens and/or the homeless.”

We spoke on different aspects of mental health and theories of psychology. She gave me a few book recommendations and her business card. She gave me a better pep talk than most guidance figures in my life. It was really refreshing and a great boost of confidence. She said to give her a call if I need help finding volunteer work or getting a foot in the door at any of the organizations in town that I might want a job at.

“You like learning and know how to talk to people. You’re going to be a doctor.”

I had almost called out of work that day. I’m glad I didn’t. I’m really looking forward to speaking with her again someday.