Catastrophizing is a Catastrophe.

So, this week, my therapist gave me a task that’s been really difficult to endure, but that’s shown me a couple of consistent errors in my thinking.

The Daily Mood Log/Thought Chart For The Win

The way the daily mood log/thought chart works is that you first write the thought you had (preferably without judgment of that thought), then you write the intensity of feeling, then you identify the error in thinking (the kind of automatic negative thought it is), and then you write out a rational thought to replace the negative thought.

There have been times this week that doing the exercise has caused me a great deal of grief because I was busy judging myself for having the negative thoughts to begin with, and further was annoyed that I noticed the repetitive nature of the kinds of ANTs that I was having… but today, I see the point of the exercise.

I consistently overgeneralize, catastrophize, and use emotional reasoning to tear myself down.  Because I feel embarrassed about my current condition, I put myself into panic mode and believe that things are as bad as they can be and use those negative feelings as evidence for why I “should” kill myself. (“Shoulds” are another automatic negative thought!)

Looking over 2 full pages of automatic negative thoughts from the past week, it’s clear as it can be that what’s “trying” to kill me is intolerance to my own sense of shame. I hold myself to some ridiculous, unattainable standard of who I believe I ought to be, and because I am not living up to that standard, I tell myself that I ought to die.

The Real Shame Would Be Dying.

A few days ago, on Facebook, a friend of mine nonchalantly offered $1000 to anyone who would be willing to shoot him in the head because he isn’t able to kill himself.  My response to him was “Fuck you” and unfriending him.  That lead to a really good talk over messages and re-friending, when I was able to convince him that he didn’t really want to die yet.

The hardest (and probably best) part of the conversation we had was when I had to read some of the exact same things that I say to myself consistently, and realizing how totally full of shit we both are when we’re in the thick of suicidal ideation.  Seeing someone you care about talk about how they push away the people they love because they think it’s for their own good makes you realize how backwards that thinking is.

Trying to push away people who love you doesn’t make those people love you any less. It just stops you from accepting their affection into your heart because you don’t feel as though you deserve it. And when it comes to love, you don’t get to choose what you deserve and what you don’t. The people giving the love choose whether or not you’re deserving.  So, at the end of the day, pushing away people who care about you is just another form of self-harm.

Everything Is The Worst Thing Ever… But Not Really.

Earlier this week, on this blog even, I overgeneralized. I said that I never leave the apartment, when in reality, I make it my business to try to leave the apartment at least once a day, at least to go to the gym, and if not to go to the gym, then I go to Walgreens or the grocery store or *something* so that I don’t go absolutely stir crazy.  But the fact of the matter is that I catastrophize and overgeneralize till the cows come home.

To illustrate my point, I think the silliest thought that I wrote on my log that shows how badly I catastrophize and overgeneralize, that I’m willing to share is this one:

“I’m too fat and ugly to exist.”

Now, I’m willing to share this one, because I’m pretty sure every person has had a similar thought to this at one point or another, and when you think about it, discreetly, it’s actually really amusing.

First, I exist exactly as I am.  If I were actually too fat and ugly to exist, I wouldn’t be here. So that’s 1 very clear logical inconsistency. Secondly, I am not that fat or ugly. Overweight? Sure. I work out consistently because I know I’m 70 pounds above my goal weight. (And oddly, I have no problem admitting that to the world. It’s honest. I own it.) I could be fatter and guess what — I’d still be alive. Am I ugly? Not really – in fact according to OkCupid, more people than not think I’m hot. That’s objective reassurance I could never have asked for, but love that I got. So the thought was, in actuality, total bullshit.

I say all this not to suggest that I’m some kind of hottie, but because I think it’s important to recognize that when I wrote the thought down, I was, momentarily, sold on the idea that I was so fat and ugly that I should kill myself. And that’s just silly. 

(Re)Learning to Be More Reasonable

What I’ve noticed, as I’ve read through things, is that with every insult I give myself, I inevitably end it with, “I should just kill myself.” or “I should die.”  And I realize, I’ve been through this before.

The first time I checked myself into a mental health hospital for suicidal depression, in 2003, I was ending almost every thought with, “I should just kill myself.”  Like, “I burned the eggs; I should just kill myself.” or “Fuck, I have to fold clothes – why don’t I just kill myself?” And that’s where I learned the term “suicide addiction,” and learned that the truth of what was going on was that thinking that way gave me some kind of sick feeling of control over my life, when I felt like I had none.

I am sad, noticing that I’m right back in the same place I’ve been before… but I’m glad for 3 things: (1) that I got help and powerfully chose to stop this way of being (2) that I am certain that I can can overcome it, and (3) I didn’t let it get as bad as it was the first time before I chose to stop it.

Addiction, regardless of the type, is never an active choice, but ending the behavior always is. I’m strongly considering joining a Suicide Anonymous Skype meeting on Monday.  I figure it can’t hurt.

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Oh, hello.

It’s been a few days since I’ve last updated my blog, so I figure I ought to do that.

I am sick.

I have a virus of some type. I’m sneezing a lot, having to blow my nose, have aches all over, and want to sleep constantly. Yesterday, I woke up at 10:30 a.m., was up til noon, then slept til 2:30 p.m.. Today, I slept til 11:30 am. If Adam hadn’t started pinging me with Words With Friends moves, I probably would have kept sleeping. To give you some perspective, bedtime is 11. That’s a lot of zzz’s.

The thing is this: I have my second audition with the band tomorrow night.  I don’t know, at this point, if I should email them and see about rescheduling. I don’t know if I should hold out hope that I’ll be better by then, or if it’s a pipe dream.  I’m better today than I was yesterday, and I’m sleeping loads, so I think it’s conceivable that I could be better…  I feel like I’m gambling right now.

Whenever I get sick, my MS symptoms kick up… so I’m dealing with a lot of fatigue, cognitive fog, pins and needles in my feet, and neuropathic pain in my legs and back. It doesn’t make for the best mood.

No therapy for me this week.

So my awesome therapist, K, is sick this week too. She woke me up at 8 a.m. to cancel tonight’s appointment. I think we have the same thing, only she has a high fever. That means that it’s up to me to celebrate the accomplishments that I’ve made this week on my own. I get to pat myself on the back for basically silencing the voice that’s been telling me to kill myself.

I’m hesitant to be too proud of myself.  The voice has only been gone for a few days, but it’s been good to not have to fight it. I like not thinking awful things about myself.  I like not giving my self-doubt the power to run amok. I like remembering that aside from being in control of my actions, I can be in control of what I do with my thoughts.  I may not be able to be in control of what thoughts occur, but I can be in control of what I do with them.

Sitting in the Dark is a Bad Idea.

I know better than to be doing what I’m doing right now. I’m sitting in a completely dark room, with only the light from a single window to illuminate the room. It’s depressing as hell, since, like most days in winter, it’s gloomy and grey outside.

I’m upset as I can be right now, after finding out that the Chronic Disease Fund accepted my application but is out of funds, and that the Assistance Fund never even received my application but still is out of funds – meaning that I have no copay assistance and still cannot afford the nearly $600 copay for 1 month’s worth of my multiple sclerosis medication. Copaxone is too damned expensive.  So, I have to reapply with the Assistance Fund, and then begin the fun-fest that is calling both the Chronic Disease fund and the Assistance Fund on a daily basis to check for funding.  There’s nothing quite like a daily dose of begging and rejection to remind you of your worthlessness – financially speaking, of course.

Fuck this noise, I’m going back to bed.

Seriously. Today can eat a big old bag of dicks. I don’t feel like learning the songs I need to learn for the audition. I don’t care about anything. I don’t want to do the laundry or the dishes or take out the trash. I kind of hate everything because I’m hurting all over. I can’t even be bothered to make myself food. I had a protein shake for breakfast and called it art.  I think the fact that I’m able to say, “Fuck it, I’m going back to bed.” as opposed to, “I want to die.” is progress. At least right now, I don’t think any of this shit is my fault.

Still Here = Winning

I have to keep reminding myself that the goal, every day, right now, is to just make it through the day.

I keep getting distracted by questions like, “Why am I here?” and “What am I any good for?” or “What is my purpose?” — questions that serve no purpose other than to leave a wide opening for Automatic Negative Thoughts.

Yesterday’s “Fun”fest

Yesterday, I saw my psychiatrist. He was not pleased that I am doing so unwell that I’ve stopped wanting to have a child, but neither am I! He put me back on 5 mg of Abilify and put me up to 50 mg of Nortriptyline. I have to see him again in 3 weeks.

In other news, I found out yesterday that I can no longer see my new therapist because she is not Medicare qualified. That blows. So, I am going to go see the therapist at my psychiatrist’s office who I saw about a year ago, so that I don’t have to go through my entire psychological profile for a third time.  I really don’t like that therapist much, but I know she works with my insurance, so I’m biting the bullet and am acting like an adult to get the care that I need so that I can move forward with my life.

I also saw my epileptologist yesterday, and we’re still working on weening me off of Topamax, as though the baby plan were still in motion. Right now, we’re dropping me by 50 mg increments every 2 weeks to see how low we can get without seizure activity starting up again. I see her again at the end of May.

So where does that leave me?

I still am home, alone, depressed as all hell, charged with the responsibility of keeping busy to keep suicidal thoughts at bay for 6-8 hours a day.

Why am I suicidal?  Because I am painfully lonely, trapped in the apartment because I cannot even get on public transportation alone because of anxiety after years of seizures, and I have no idea who I am anymore or why I should keep living aside from the fact that I don’t want to hurt the people I care about and who care about me.  I am often paralyzed to do even simple things, and I deeply loathe myself for it. I spend an inordinate amount of time trying to convince myself I’m really not as terrible as I think I am, and that my life is really worth continuing to work so hard to save.

I hate myself for being a drain on my family and on society, and I feel like I give almost nothing back.  This blog is something, but it’s not much. Doing dishes and laundry is just part of the human condition, so it doesn’t count. I spend a lot of time on Facebook being a supportive friend because it’s the only outlet that I have that allows me to be kind to others and to foster any kind of loving environment. I was told from an early age that I was special and that I was meant to do great things… but I don’t see anything great about me. I want to make a positive difference in the lives of others. I just don’t know how I can.

Why don’t I just get a job?  I would love to, assuming there’s work available that I could do, and someone would want me as an employee.  But if I get a job, it’s got to be through the Ticket to Work program, or I’ll lose my Medicare insurance, which means I’ve got to find a way to get to the Department of Human Services and talk to a vocational counselor who would help place me somewhere.  And in order to get to DHS, I’ve either got to be driven there or get on a series of buses. And I can’t get on a bus yet. So I’m sort of trapped for the moment.

I suppose I could take a taxi, but I don’t know what I ought to wear when I go, and to be honest, I’m really frightened of the whole thing.  Even if I went, and even if they could get me a job straight away, I don’t know how I would get to that job.

So I’m really trapped by anxiety.

And that’s why I’m taking medicine and am seeing a therapist.  I just have to keep going.

Patience has never been my strong suit.

 

Keeping Busy

It’s 11:45, and I have 5 hours until Adam comes home, and we go to the gym.

I know that it is my responsibility to fill that time with things to do so that the ANTs (automatic negative thoughts) don’t get the chance to drag me down. The only problem is the ridiculous anxiety I feel all over, as I try to convince myself there are things to do.  I haven’t even eaten breakfast yet today.  It’s so silly that I’m actually afraid of being alone with my thoughts. I mean, what’s the worst that could happen? I feel bad. I cry. Not like I haven’t been living through that scenario consistently for several weeks now.

I think it would be easier for me to give myself tasks to do if I had any goals at all, aside from staying alive and not harming myself – though, to be fair, those are important goals that require vigilance and real work on my part right now.

Detaching from the Sofa (and the Computer)

For the last 5 years of my life, or so, I’ve been basically chained to the couch or the bed because I had so many seizures throughout the day that leaving them seemed like an unsafe idea.  That has meant that I’ve spent the majority of my time surfing the web, being on Facebook, blogging, meditating, and listening to music.

Prior to those 5 years, I was in law school for 3 years, which meant sitting on the couch studying… and prior to that I was a web designer who sat at a desk, working on a computer.  Sitting on the couch, working on my computer honestly feels like the only thing I can do.

The hardest (and probably most important) thing for me right now is learning to just get off the couch and to recognize other activities as valid uses of my time.  I know that right now, just sitting here creating this blog entry is the opposite of that… but at this very moment, I’m more concerned with eating away at that 5 hour chunk of time before the gym than I am at immediately breaking habits that have taken my entire life to create. (Let’s be fair – before I was a web designer, I was a child who chatted on BBSes for endless hours while her parents were at work. I have always used sitting at the computer as a way to make time pass less painfully.)

So what can I do?

That’s where I’m stuck today, and to be really honest with you, I’m having to seriously brainstorm as I’m writing.

The only things that I can think of to do are as follows:

  • Make the bed
  • Fold the clothes
  • Do the laundry in the bathroom
  • Vacuum
  • Take the dog for a walk
  • Dust
  • Mop the kitchen and bathroom floors
  • Practice guitar and piano
  • Create some Spotify playlists (which puts me back on the couch and on the computer)
  • Create business cards for Mom (which puts me back on the couch and  on the computer)
  • I should probably eat sometime today too.

I wish I understood why these tasks feel punitive… as though my inner-Mom voice is ferociously yelling at me to do them, as though I’ll be in serious trouble if I don’t.  There’s some kind of childlike, rebellious, whiny, “I don’t wanna” thing going on inside of me.  Keeping busy is how to escape the terrible pain of wanting to kill myself… so how is that a punishment?  I feel genuine, earned pride when I see what I’ve accomplished… and that’s good for my self-esteem, so clearly doing these things is good for me, and on an adult, mature level, I know that.

I think the hardest part of making myself do these activities is that my brain is repeatedly telling me to just go back to sleep, as opposed to doing anything at all — and really, what that means is “lay in bed and let the ANTs attack you.”  And I know that’s the worst thing I could do.

Something’s seriously wonky with my attitude if I can’t get myself to buck up and do at least some of these chores.  Then again, it’s now 1:00 p.m., I still am in pajamas, haven’t eaten breakfast, and am sharing my struggles with depression, MS, and seizures with the universe-at-large.  There’s a cogent argument that my attitude is wonky as it is.

At least, I’m trying.  I got out of bed this morning.  That was difficult, but I did it.  If I could do that, I can make myself some cereal, and take my morning medicine, albeit several hours late.  And if I can do that, I can make the bed. And if I can make the bed, I can fold some fucking clothes. I just have to take the steps.

Less thinking, more doing.

Starting now.

Saving My Own Life (And Maybe Yours?)

First and foremost, I have to say that I love my new therapist. Last night, she put it to me that when I called her initially, I left a message that essentially sounded like this: “Hi! My name is Rachael. I’m a very happy person who is chronically suicidal. Please help me to not kill myself. Have a great day!”

If that didn’t ring with truth, I don’t know what does.

We’re only on our second session, and we’re already getting down to the nitty gritty of what’s got me in an existential choke-hold.  I figured, I can’t be the only person in the world who is dealing with this kind of stuff (in fact, I’m sure of it), and I wanted to share what I’m learning with the rest of the world for a few reasons: (1) typing all this stuff out helps me reinforce my learning (2) typing it out keeps my mind active and off of my automatic negative thoughts about myself and (3) I genuinely want to help other people who are suffering too.

Automatic Negative Thoughts (or ANTs)

There are thoughts that occur as a reflex in your brain when you’re not doing anything. They happen all on their own. You don’t want them to happen, but they happen anyway. They’re automatic! And they’re negative.  And they happen to everyone.  It’s natural. We’ve got to fight them in order to be healthy and okay.  Your ability to fight them determines your level of okay-ness.

What’s happening with me, with my suicidal thoughts, is that I’ve not been fighting my ANTs, and they’ve been taking control. Fortunately, a person is always in control of his or her behavior, and because of that, I have been able to control my behavior and make the choice not to harm myself! And that is a good thing! Something to be celebrated! 🙂

Here the ANTs come marching…

  • All or Nothing Thinking – Sometimes called “black and white thinking” If it’s not perfect, I am a failure
  • Over-generalizing – Seeing a pattern based on a single event or being overly broad in the conclusions we draw. Nothing good ever happens
  • Mental Filter – Only paying attention to certain types of evidence: blocking out the good and noticing failures but not seeing your own successes
  • Disqualifying the Positive -Discounting the good things that have happened or that you have done for whatever reason
  • Jumping to Conclusions – Mind-reading (imagining we know what others are thinking) or Fortune Telling (predicting the future)
  • Magnification (catastrophising) & Minimisation – Blowing things out of proportion or inappropriately shrinking something to make it seem less important
  • Emotional Reasoning – Assuming that because we feel a certain way, what we think must be true. I feel embarrassed so I must be an idiot.
  • Using “Should” and “Must” statements – Critical words like “should”, “must”, or “ought” can make us feel guilty or like we have already failed.  If we apply them to others, the result is often frustration.
  • Labeling (or name-calling) – Assigning labels to ourselves or others.  I’m a loser; I’m useless, etc.
  • Personalization – Blaming yourself for things that are outside of your control. Taking responsibility for thinks that aren’t completely your fault, or conversely blaming others for something that is your fault.

Ways to challenge Automatic Negative Thoughts (ANTs)

Below is a list of questions that can help you to challenge the negative thoughts:

  1. What evidence do I have for and against this thought?
  2. If a friend was in a similar situation and asked me for advice, what advice would they receive from me?
  3. What’s the worst that could happen? How terrible would that be?
  4. Is it true that I really “should?”
  5. Am I overgeneralizing or explaining my thinking with experiences from my past?
  6. Other than blaming myself, is there another explanation for this thought or situation? Am I really the one to blame?
  7. Can I find another, more positive way to look at this situation?
  8. Does thinking this way help my situation or does it make it more difficult?
  9. Do I really have control of this situation? Am I really in control?
  10. What meaning will this situation have tomorrow, next week, next month or next year?
  11. I’ve been in a similar situation before. How did I handle it then?

An Idle Mind Is the Devil’s Playground

This is where my work gets hard.

I have a lot of “free” time. When you are idle, that’s when ANTs creep up on you. So it’s my responsibility now to not sit around and let myself think too much.  It means that I’m going to have to challenge my desire to sit on the couch. It means that I’m going to have to make myself do things, regardless of how sad I’m feeling and consistently remind myself that I am in control of my behavior.

It means no more 3 hour naps, trying to while away the hours until Adam gets home. It means cleaning when I don’t feel like it, and practicing guitar and piano, no matter how awful I sound on either of those instruments. It means opening the blinds even though it is grey and cloudy outside, taking Brisco for walks around the block even though it’s colder than a witch’s titty in a brass bra.  It means forcing myself to be busy.  Because busy doesn’t let the bad thoughts creep in.

Life is Hard

I saw a video today by a motivational speaker that was addressing a high school after one of their students had committed suicide, and it had a very important message for everyone in it – something that I had forgotten after all the years of just trying to cope with seizures and being happy that I had gotten to the point that I was able to just be okay with them… and that is that life is hard. It’s supposed to be.

So, I’m okay with the fact that it is going to be challenging to keep myself busy and mentally engaged, when the easy way out is to let myself sit and ruminate with negative thoughts.  Am I looking forward to doing the dishes, making the bed, doing the laundry, vacuuming, or practicing my instruments?  Not particularly. But I’d rather not break down crying again and think about ending my life either.  It’s a give and take.  I can tell you this much.  I’m going to try my best.  That’s all I can do.

I Don’t Have An Option

When nearly every moment of every day is a fight not to kill yourself, you don’t have the option of whether or not to be on an antidepressant. You need to be on one.

Whether or not it causes me to have seizures becomes irrelevant. The question is, “Do you want to die?” and the answer is “No.” So I need to get back on something that is going to help me stop constantly thinking that I need to end my life.

Do I want to have a child?  Sure.  But that doesn’t matter.  What does matter is making the thought “I NEED TO DIE RIGHT NOW”  go away — and talk therapy isn’t gonna do that in a few days.

Does that thought have any solid, rational reasoning behind it?  Absolutely not. That’s what makes it scary and wrong.  I know — know — that the thought is pervasive and incoherent and trying to take over for its own sake. I know that Suicide is a delusional liar.

I know, when I’m giving myself reasons not to kill myself like, “Think about how much money the funeral would cost your husband,” and “Imagine how much pain it would put your family and friends through,” and “Your funeral would totally suck because even your best friend has told you that she wouldn’t attend if you killed yourself!” that I am way, way, way beyond the point of needing basic non-medicinal help.

I know, when I notice myself trying to convince myself that Adam could ever love again and eventually have a family of his own with some other woman, when I know that he’s the one who would find my lifeless body, that I’m fighting for the wrong team.

So, I’m going back on meds, even if it means that I start having seizures again.

I simply cannot cope.

To Have A Child???

At some point or other, I forgot that the whole reason that I came off antidepressants was in order to make my body ready to have a child.

This concept makes me shake my head. It makes me furious.

I am at the cusp of ending my own existence because I stopped taking medicine that helped me with depression, because I wanted to make my body ready to create new life.

That is just ironic.

I feel ready to die because I wanted to have a kid.  THAT IS SO WRONG!!!

Now that I am not on any antidepressants, I am no longer having seizures.  I just lack the will to live.

NOT A FAIR TRADE.

I want the pills back. I’m willing to take the seizures with them as long as it means being out of this hell.

And screw me for even thinking of creating someone who might have to suffer like I’m suffering. That’s not love. That’s selfishness.