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.

I Am Not Going Anywhere.

I am not going to kill myself.  I may be darkly sad. I may have consistent thoughts about suicide, but I am not going to kill myself. I just have to get through this time and find a way to change my life for the better.

Right now, I live a pathetic life.  I drag myself out of bed around 10 am, have a bowl of cereal most days, catch up on Facebook, and then wonder what to do with myself for 7 hours while I wait for my husband to come home before we go to the gym and then watch TV before we go to bed.  And then the cycle repeats.

I am lonely. I have never had a situation that made it possible for me to make friends with folks in Chicago, so I have no social life here to fall back on… no friends to call on or hang out with. I’ve tried Craigslist musician ads, but no one ever answers them.

I am totally bored. I have no ambition. I am desperately over-educated.  If I do expend the effort and try to get a job through the Ticket to Work program before mid-March (which I don’t even know if I could do, to be honest), I will have to pay back about $150,000 in law school loans. That’s a disincentive to work if there ever was one, but I feel like if I don’t get a job or something else to fill my time that I’ll simply lose my mind… and there are worse things than repaying a debt that is owed.

Frankly, I feel trapped in this hollow existence.  I feel like I have nothing to offer the world, but I know that simply can’t be true.

Adam suggests looking at this time as a vacation — but a vacation from what?  I feel like I’m in some layer of hell.  Our TV doesn’t even pick up stations for more than a few minutes at a time. I can only stream Netflix, so I have to have a particular show in mind – and honestly, there’s only so much marathon TV show watching a person can do.

I wish that I could enjoy MMORPGs or other games and lose myself in gaming, but I’m not that kind of girl. It just seems pointless.  And music, while it used to make me happy, now just makes me angry and upset because I’m not any good at it anymore and I don’t have the patience with myself that is necessary to get good at it again, despite the fact that I certainly have the time.

Everything just feels bad… like I’m wearing a suit that’s too tight… like I’m suffocating in my own skin.

Today, I haven’t even been able to get myself to eat, let alone shower or brush my teeth or any of that.  I’ve been out of bed for over an hour, and self-care is at zero… and that’s not acceptable.  I know I have to do things to care for myself to be okay, or this is only going to get worse… though, to be honest, I’m not sure how much worse it can get.

I’m going to call my therapist and see if I can move tomorrow’s appointment up to today.

And I’m going to eat some cereal, because without food, I will feel bad. Maybe after that I can convince myself to shower, wash my face, brush my teeth, and to put on non-pajama clothes. Fuck, anything can happen when you give it the old college try.

 

Depression At Its Worst

I have spent the majority of today in bed, not because I was tired, but because I lacked the will to do more.

I can’t get out of my head.

I managed, at one point to eat a bowl of cereal. At another point in the day, I managed a shower.  I know I need to make myself a sandwich and eat lunch so I can go work out later, but I can’t motivate myself to do it.

I’m not weepy. I’m not hurting physically today. I have no good reason for feeling so damned melancholy. I certainly have no reason to continually be thinking about suicide, but it doesn’t stop the thoughts from occurring. They’re like a boomerang. The more I shout “No” to them, the more they come back. It’s like ending my life is the only thing I have motivation to do, and I have to actively do nothing to stop myself from self-harming or starting stupid fights online.

My mind keeps trying to come up with a plan and then I start arguing with myself about how I need to not have a plan and need to not kill myself.  Planning always trends towards poison or medicine overdose like when I was 8 (which was the first time I attempted suicide). I just want to go to sleep forever. I feel like I would be doing the entire world a favor… like somehow it would be selfless, instead of the truth, which is that it would be selfish, and hurt people I love dearly.

I don’t know how to stop the thoughts, when I know that everything about them is wrong.  I know that dying is a bad idea. I don’t know why it seems like a good idea when I know it’s not.  I’m not sure what it is about life that I’m running from.  I would hate to think that without “orders” or a “life plan” that I default to suicide. I know that I long for structure, but death doesn’t give you that.

I know that just by having the thoughts and acknowledging them, I hurt the people that I love and who care about me, and I’m genuinely, deeply sorry about that. I feel so trapped in this cycle and so stupid for feeling this way – so foolish and ungrateful and alone.  I hate knowing that I’ve been here multiple times before and not knowing how to stop it anyway.  I feel like I never learn anything truly useful from therapy.

Maybe it is just obsession… but it feels dangerous and delusional today. Hell, today, I wouldn’t say no to institutional incarceration.  I’d make new friends and have a reason to get dressed every day, though I’d miss my husband.  That’s today’s level of fucked-uped-ness.  But the fact that I know that the answer is not death and that I can keep myself from hurting myself means that I do not need a rescue wagon.

I just need to make it to Thursday night and another fine opportunity to talk with a therapist… for whatever that’s worth.

Today’s game is “life” and I win by not dying. So far, I’m playing the game ok. My self-care chart has a lot of checkmarks on it.

A Couple Of Very Good Reasons To Live

Today, I attended my niece’s 5th birthday party over at my in-laws’ house.  It was My Little Pony themed. We ate pizza. But more importantly, me and the little one played together, and we had a good time.

It occurred to me, somewhere between playing make believe with the shark cookie jar and catch with a plush puppy, that Dottie looks up to me, and that even if we don’t spend tons of time together — I have an effect on her, and I want that effect to always be positive.

Committing suicide, or even maintaining a suicidal mindset would not be a positive influence in any way shape, form, or fashion. She would think that I didn’t love her or her baby brother, and that’s the farthest thing from the truth. It would be a terrible example to set.

So even though I was fully committed to going to therapy and to not killing myself and to beating my obsessive thought pattern with suicide before — my resolve has been further strengthened. I thought, for the longest time, that I was doing this for myself, for Adam, and for our future kids… but I had forgotten about the children who already exist who I love and who care about me, and they matter in a very real way.

I’m intensely grateful that I am an aunt, and that life led us to Chicago, so that Adam and I could actually be a part of Dottie and Alex’s lives, and they could be a part of ours.

Children are a blessing.

In Memory of Elwyn and in Tribute to the Future

In Memory of Elwyn, a sweet foster kitten who will be missed.

Yesterday, I lost a foster kitten.  She was barely 6 weeks old. No idea why she stopped eating or why she died.

Elwyn was the only daughter of Arwyn, and she was born in our second bedroom.

Arwyn had to be taken from us only a day after she gave birth to her three kittens because she had tears in her uterus and masticulitus (an infection of her milk gland). I had bottle fed little Elwyn since her second day of life.

Many things occurred to me yesterday, as I held her, tried to keep her warm, and forced fluids…  I wondered why this tiny creature was suffering.  I wondered why I couldn’t do anything to stop it.  I wondered why nature took her and not me.  I thought about how badly I wanted her to be able to live, and live well — and how this must be an inkling of how my mother feels watching me suffer with MS and seizure disorder and suicidal compulsion issues.

A Bit About Suicide

I want to make sure that everyone knows that I want to live.

I talk a lot about suicide.

I’m open with how suicidal ideation and compulsion fucks with my life, and how dangerous sometimes it is, just being me, dealing with the delusion as it pops up in my head — and how I fight it with all the strength I can muster at the time.  But the truth is, always, that I cling to life with everything inside me, even when bawling my eyes out and talking about how I feel — venting the distorted bullshit that the voice in my head screams through me.

The truth of the matter is that I very much want to stay alive and live a very good life.  The truth of it is that I know that I belong and that I have a very loving family and group of friends who make me feel loved and that I belong.  I am blessed in ways I can never be thankful enough for.

Coming off of SSRIs is sometimes like walking through a hall of mirrors that distorts even the most beautiful scene.  Having MS with cognitive fog on top of it can make it seem like you don’t even remember who you are or whose life you’re living.  You get trapped in this chemical loop of “What the fuck is happening to me, and how can I stop it?” that just doesn’t end without being at the ultimate point of frustration and tears.

It takes more than a commitment to living to get out of that. It takes a strong hand pulling you up out of it.  It takes my husband reminding me of where I am right this minute, as opposed to where I used to be. It takes remembering to be in the moment, and that life is something you build and create, not something you simply watch or experience.  That is why meditation is so important, because if you can hear your own wishes, your own words, “May I be safe; may I be happy; may I be healthy; may I live with ease,” sometimes you can drown out the wishes of the compulsion.

The only way to beat the Demon Suicide is to remind it that it has no power over you. You have to remind it that it is a liar, and that you are more powerful than all of its lies, and that it can’t do anything without you being complicit with it.  It’s not enough to not want to die. It’s not enough to not want to hurt other people. You have to possess the power to tell the “kill yourself” command, “NO.”  And everyone has that power. You have to tap into it, regardless of how weak you feel or how much you agree with the delusion at the time, because…

The Liar Demon Suicide cannot touch you. It cannot harm you. It can only tell you to do things. It can only whisper or yell suggestions. It is not your friend.  It is the devil on your shoulder, begging for your demise, wanting another soul.

And this is where I get very Taoist:

You do the greatest good by doing nothing.  It is a very rare circumstance that you can kill yourself by choosing to do nothing. More often than not, suicide requires an act of harm against yourself.

So, if you’re like me, you can piss your demons off repeatedly by simply choosing, when they are at their worst, to sit, to go to sleep, to listen to music, or to exercise… if you can motivate yourself that much.  I tend to run to the bed to sleep it off.

Anyway. Everyone’s life path is different. I just doubt suicide is the way most of us were intended to end our journeys.

Fighting Old Ghosts

One of the hardest things for me with coming down on Cymbalta is when old ghosts or tapes or whatever you want to call “old thought patterns” pop up for me.

One of the most damaging old thought patterns for me is the one that goes like this:

“I am not doing enough to be deserving of the resources that I take from the world. Someone else could be living a more virtuous life than me and making the world a better place using the same air that I’m breathing, water I am drinking and using to bathe, and other resources I am taking from the land and money I am using. I don’t deserve to live, being such a selfish, lazy person. I deserve to die.”

This thought pattern was the one that landed me in the hospital in early 2003, the first time that I was fairly certain I was going to commit suicide. It has resurfaced since hitting the 50 mg mark of Cymbalta. And hard. It runs through my day like a CNN ticker.

But I know it’s not right. It’s just a thought, and thoughts are not truths. If anything it is a call to action: a call to service in the name of my fellow human being.

It is not a great big neon sign above my head blaring that I am not worthy of life, rather one above my heart saying that I am compassionate and giving to everyone but myself.

But it troubles me that it resurfaced. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. I’m chemically hardwired for depression.

So what do I do about it? How do I cope with this type of messed up suicidal thinking?

  • I remember that animals do not need to prove their worth to be alive — they simply live, and that at my core, I am an animal that thinks, like all humans.
  • I recognize the dark thought for what it is: not a reason to die, but a reason to do community service.
  • I remind myself that I am already in service to others, waiting for kittens to foster, and that I am putting together a Zazzle store for the Ovarian Cancer Society in Memphis and am making them a website, and that I am not a bad person.
  • I rationalize against the thought to wrestle it to the ground. I prove myself wrong about being selfish by showing how kind I can be.
  • I admit my lack of control over my thoughts and over when I will die and allow myself to feel that vulnerability in its fullness, and then the thought can pass.
  • I give thanks to God for what I have through Gratitude Rampages and prayer, and I show my thankfulness to those in life by being a good friend
  • I forgive myself for the abusive, bullying thought that I should kill myself. I cannot control my thoughts, but I can control what I do with them.
  • And then I move on with my day, repeating this process as many times as necessary until it stops.

I will not be taken down by self-judgment. If anything, it’ll just give me reason to become a better Rae.

Just another day

Well, officially, I’m having an MS relapse.

My left big toe is keeps going back and forth between pins and needles and totally numb. Walking is tough. My whole body is aching like crazy, and I’ve been having tons more seizures than usual. (Actually, about what I was having before Topamax.)

Dr. J really impressed me today. I called and left a message at his office just before they opened, and he called around noon. It was only 2 p.m. before I had a medrol dose pack waiting for me at the pharmacy. I have an appointment with him on Monday.

I spent most of my morning on Facebook, and I honestly don’t know how I would have made it through the morning without all the love and support of my friends there.

Right now, I’m watching an episode of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition where a child committed suicide, and they’re making over the home of that child’s family, in part so they don’t have to continue living in the house where their family member killed himself.

I thank God every day that I wasn’t successful in my childhood suicide attempts, and that as an adult, I was given the psychiatric treatment that I so badly needed to help me get past that inaccurate desire. I never wanted to die. I always wanted to stop hurting and to communicate the level of my pain and frustration.

Please, please, please, talk lovingly with your children, and help remove them from situations where they are being consistently bullied. You may save a life.

I think the most important to teach, though, is how to not be a bully to yourself, also. I’ve been waiting more than a week to call the doctor, and there’s no good reason for that. Once a symptom sticks around for 3 days, it’s not a pseudoexacerbation. I’m just stubborn. I stick to things until I have to change, and that’s something I’d like to change about myself.

Earlier this week, a few friends on Facebook were talking about the importance of language in our inner monologue and I couldn’t help but be struck by that truth. “I will not be negative” and “I will be positive” are not the same. When you use “not” language, you force yourself to think of the very thing you’re trying to avoid. When you use positive language “I am/will be,” you are sending yourself a positive affirmation.

Everyone has an inner monologue, and yours can be your best friend or your worst enemy. Sometimes both! Mine’s kind of a bitch, and I would like her to be more friendly, so for the past year or so, I’ve been working on word choices. I no longer wake up to, “Get up, you lazy sack of crap.” I decided that I deserve more self-respect as a person. Now, I wake myself up to, “Rise and shine! Time to make the awesome!”

I decided I was tired of being a victim, and that I was, from that moment on, going to live my life as a creator – spending more time thinking my way through situations than worrying about what got me into them in the first place. I was going to empower myself, regardless of how dire the situation seemed.

Besides, living in the here-and-now is a lot more engaging than living in the past. And now that I’ve dealt with my past, the present is much easier to deal with.