Little bug

Tightness in my chest, shaking hands, and an adrenaline rush. After enough therapy, I am even more keenly aware of the various bodily reactions that come with the different emotions that I feel. I’m aware of what is happening. I am aware of why it is happening. I am also aware that people can pick up on these cues. Whether they can do it consciously or not is barely even relevant.

I realize that as my muscles tense, I am making myself smaller. I am folding my body into itself like those funny little potato bugs that roll up into a ball when you touch them. Protect the soft underbelly, you know? But then, unlike the bug who anticipates a predator, I make a conscious effort to go against my nature and mimic a different creature. 

I try to loosen my muscles. I try to regulate my breathing. I try to uncurl my body into a stance that portrays pretty much anything other than “please, don’t hurt me.” I try to remember what normal people do with their faces, with their body language. How often does a normal person sigh? Am I sighing too much? 

Has the threat passed? Was there even a threat in the first place and if so, what was the nature of it? Was it something I could have handled or should have handled? Was backing down the correct thing to do? 

Oh to be a bug. Because if I imagine a world that makes more sense for me, it’s one in which it is socially acceptable for me to curl up into a ball and go “no no no no no no no no” whenever I am poked. It sure would make a lot more sense than a world where in order to protect myself, I must pretend to not need my defenses. 

Almost 29 years old now and I still find myself feeling as if I am at the mercy of the people close to me.

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Realistic motivational quotes

“Love like it’s your last day on Earth… because I will eventually destroy any positive feelings you have for me.”

“Dance like no one is watching… because I’m too drunk and literally no longer able to focus my eyes therefore you have nothing to be embarrassed about.”

“Mistakes are proof that I’m trying… to systematically obliterate any potential happiness for myself because I am a self destructive weirdo.”

“Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how your damaged parents taught you to react poorly to undesirable situations.”

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Nothing like a long family shopping trip to make you question your sanity and/or which one you should push into traffic first. At least the toddler has an excuse. And at this point I feel like if her cognitive abilities were just a little bit higher than they are now that I could probably count on her to chill the fuck out if I just politely pleaded my case. I burn up so much mental/emotional energy with them every day as I constantly battle the urge to not scream in their faces “Fend for yourselves you fucking assholes!”. I feel like it’s a religious level miracle that I also manage to handle so many situations with endless patience, keeping my tone appropriate, my words kind and helpful, trying to think of each moment as a teaching lesson that will help me improve as a person and allow me to bring my family closer as we find a new understanding for each other…

What a naive idea. 

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A grown man smoking a bunch of pot and sleeping in a Mexican restaurant

IMAG2145Well there it is. One of the most stereotypical bipolar sentences I could have dreamed up. “He abruptly left at midnight without telling me where he was going, got high, and slept at an empty Mexican restaurant.” Have I mentioned that he’s on probation and could be drug tested at any moment? Then how about I mention that he left to go get high because I found out that he was getting high and he didn’t like that I was angry with him for it. Fucking ridiculous.

This was about two months ago. I should have been writing but I wasn’t because I’m an asshole. In that time I’ve cried a lot and done a ton of EMDR for my PTSD, started college and got a job that I start on Tuesday. Also kept trying to work at things with Randy which once again is a terrible fake name and I hate it.

My whole life has changed drastically in the past year. I’ve lost almost 70 lbs and I look fucking amazing. I finally got my GED, kicked the placement tests ass, and I have all A’s in my classes… okay biology is 89.9% I really don’t like lying.

And there Randy is… trudging along… just now computing that lying and substance abuse is bad… that hiding things from your wife hurts her…

I don’t know what the fuck happened to me this past year but though I still care about him, some days I feel as if I am sprinting past him while he twiddles his thumbs.

 Just… go faster, Randy. Stop sucking.

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A year of bipolar symptom remission and a rolled up dollar bill


I found this on the floor beside my husband’s side of the bed.

One year of symptom remission. He quit drinking, he quit smoking pot, he started managing money better and taking better care of his most major responsibilities and most importantly, himself. And last week I found a rolled up dollar bill beside his bed. I licked it because I’m a disgusting person and just so I could know that I wasn’t crazy and that he couldn’t try to say he was doing some kind of weird dollar bill origami and definitely not drugs.

It’s been a week of struggle. First we had to get through him admitting that he was abusing his prescription ADHD medication, then I spent several days trying to get him to admit that he had hidden the two remaining prescriptions he had left instead of “throwing them away” like he said. Once he came clean about that and flushed his medication in front of me, we moved on to the other things that he has been hiding from me (like smoking cigarettes again – which is both a money and health concern to me). He’s been let go from the best psychiatrist in our town for abusing his Ritalin and has not made an appointment with another doctor yet because he’s considering going off of his Lamictal (for bipolar) too. His next appointment with his therapist isn’t until the 8th at which point we’ve agreed that he needs to begin going once a week again.

I realize that over the last year, while Randy has been doing really great, he still has work to do. His primary tactic for wellness was to avoid making any and all bad decisions. The problem is that his tactic is shit and unrealistic. It’s okay for curbing negative behaviors but it does nothing for you by the time you’ve made a mistake that you didn’t plan for. No one plans to make mistakes. You don’t plan to go manic or hypomanic or have anxiety or even to be put on a medication that ends up triggering your inherent issues with substance abuse. You need to have more tools in your mental/emotional toolbox than simply “don’t fuck up”.

And what do I do? Who could possibly know what to do? I get so frustrated with him and tell him that I want a divorce and that I don’t want to live with these episodes for the rest of my life, that if this goes on it will be a bad example to set for our children. But he ups his therapy, he throws the abused medication away, he tries to make it right. Not only is he bipolar but he also struggles with introspective thinking and self-awareness. He’s not a terrible person but he is negligent as fuck and when I look back on 5 years of being with him, it looks like a war zone in my mind riddled with good times that helped take my mind off of the fact that I was living within a big fucking mess.

I think that sometimes people can try really hard and mean well and still not be able to get well enough to function properly in a relationship. I have no idea if my husband is one of those people and I have no idea how or when I will know if I think he is capable of making enough progress for this to work. It’s not that I’m not a patient person (I mean, I’m really not but that’s besides the point)… but rather that I know a person can only be screwed over so many times before they break and are no longer the same person. I feel like I’ve died and been reborn several times in this relationship and frankly it’s exhausting.

I can tell myself and others all day long that bipolar is an illness just like any other but the reality is that this isn’t anything like if he had cancer or diabetes. When my husband is unwell he acts like an irresponsible asshole. It’s an illness that can give you reason to completely mistrust your partner and question everything you think you know or expect. There’s no personality trait that can be mistaken for cancer. Physical symptoms are straightforward whereas mental health problems can make you question if your partner is sick or if they are just a bad partner.

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I left him ten years ago, but I’m just now trying to cut my abusive ex out of my life.

quote-on-abuse-35-healthyplaceI was 16 when we met, almost 17.  I was almost 19 when I left him. One of the only constants in my life for many years was the certainty that there would always be intense chaos. These two years were no exception and perhaps they were above my typical baseline too. When I met him I was struggling with severe depression, suicidal ideations, social ineptitude, self-harm, an eating disorder, and all while desperately yearning for a relationship with someone who would “get me”. Unfortunately I got exactly what I wished for. Little did I know that having someone “get me” was hardly a guarantee for a good relationship. Of course I didn’t know I’d be incapable of any healthy relationship with the state I was in at the time. I didn’t even know what a healthy relationship looked like.

My relationship with Tom was riddled with constant sexual coercion, sexual shaming and ridiculing, violence, and worst of all an emotional abuse that seemed almost systematic in the way it destroyed any positive feelings or thoughts I’d ever had about myself. It was a dark time. We had a baby together when I was 18. When I read similar stories from other women, the next thing that usually comes is “That baby was the light of my life!” or “Finally, something gave my situation meaning.” Sometimes I see “It was all worth it because now I have my child.” Honestly, I never felt those things. I knew that I didn’t want to bear the weight of screwing up another human being and honestly, it was a lot of pressure at that age and with how unhealthy I was. I was always desperately trying to make a good life for my son but always simultaneously failing at it… it wasn’t good for the self-esteem.

I left Tom when our son was about 6 months old. Tom had become so violent and controlling that I felt like I could not breathe anymore. I knew that the way I was living would be worse for my son than having his parents separated and so I finally grew a pair and left. Tom made several attempts to emotionally manipulate me into feeling responsible for his mental state after I left, even making a suicide threat. I responded to that by calling the police and having him involuntarily committed. It was the first time I had ever dealt with his bullshit in a healthy manner, it was a strong moment that I am still proud of myself for. I realized once I was on the outside that all of the things he’d tried to convince me that I was (crazy and weak) were the very behaviors that he was exhibiting himself. I wasn’t making him that way by being with him… I was being used as a scapegoat. The excuse he could use for being unstable.

Not surprisingly, his life spiraled after I left him. He began to drink a lot, lost his apartment, then his job, then began a pattern of crime and recidivism that led him to his current sentence of 7-21 years as a violent felon. He assaulted a young woman he didn’t know, held her hostage, and then attempted suicide by slitting his own throat and wrists in front of her in an effort to avoid going back to jail. That was probably the point when I should have dropped contact. At any point over the next few years would have been a great time to attempt to strip this man of his parental rights. But I was scarred from my own parents dysfunctional relationship and the way that they both attempted to alienate me from one another. I was so determined to give my son something different that I had a blind spot. I failed to see that encouraging communication between my son and this man was not the same as nurturing a normal father-son bond. It was better described as exposing him to a dangerous, manipulative, and untreated mentally ill person.

For years Tom has refused contact with our boy. I’ll refer to him henceforth as “Eric” because I’m not using his real name on the internet. Tom refused to speak to Eric on the phone and refused to write him letters, instead choosing to use his call time with me to insult my life choices and his letters to repeatedly ask me for photos for him to jack off to. In reference to the woman he hurt, he refused to talk about it to me stating that he was “so over it”. Looking back on that now, I cannot believe he would think he does not owe me an explanation for his behaviors if he had ever hoped to see his son again. However I was still so entrenched in my insecurities surrounding Tom that I could not trust my own instincts on the matter. I still believed at that point that I was doing work that was crucial to keeping an open line of communication between Eric and his father.

Time passed, though, and I fell in love with a much better man. My husband has been there for Eric since he was four years old. Together we have done our best to create a good life for our family with the resources at hand. When we ran out of resources, we entered therapy to find more. We both come from a background of mental illness but we live our lives in a vastly different way than Tom does. We take responsibility for our actions. We actively seek treatment. We are positive people. Our relationship is solid. Our communication is good. Our interactions are ones that I am proud to say are a good example for our children. Our life choices get better and better all of the time and everything around us appears to be an upward trend because we’ve worked hard to make it so. We value hard work, education, and being healthy inside and out. We do our best to instill these values in our children.

Two years ago I wrote Tom and asked him to give up his parental rights. My husband Randy kept running into issues in our day to day life because he was not Eric’s legal guardian. Doctors appointments would have to be cancelled sometimes when he took him and when it came to being involved in matters at the school, the attitude was “we need a real parent here”. It became offensive to me that Randy put in so much time and effort raising Eric with me, only to be told that legally he’s not even a real parent. I realized that if something happened to me, Randy had no legal right to care for Eric. I tried my best to explain all of this to Tom, to which he responded with intense venom, name-calling, and told me that he would spit in my face if he could be near me in that moment. Suddenly he was now interested in opting back in to the “father” title. Once again I was too fucking stupid to drop it. Trying to a fucking fault to make everyone happy – even an insane, violent criminal. I tried to keep contact over the last couple years.

Eventually I made the mistake of telling Tom about some of our personal struggles as a family. I made the mistake of telling him that Eric was starting to have some behavioral difficulties but that we were handling it to the best of our abilities. Randy and I have worked very hard to find the best treatment options in our town and fully entrenched our entire lives in seeking treatment and having a healthy, happy household. These efforts are time consuming and sometimes emotionally draining. Everyone you ask and everyone who you don’t ask seems to want to volunteer a radically different opinion on what’s “wrong” with your child and what the best treatment is. We were even coerced into hospitalizing Eric (which ended up actively causing more problems) and then had child services called on us when we refused to hospitalize him again a few weeks later (you know, almost as if the hospitalization didn’t fucking help at all). Luckily the social worker agreed that we made a GOOD call, but it was still an incredibly traumatizing experience for everyone involved. Tom took this opportunity to question and berate all of my decisions about a child he did not even know, and then accuse my husband of molesting Eric because “what else could it possibly be?” You know, because a genetic predisposition to mental illness couldn’t possibly have anything to do with it. When I took the time to write a long letter addressing his concern of abuse, he scolded me for talking about Randy so much in my letter… because nothing I do is right in his eyes, no matter how hard I try.

Since then he has taken an interest in communicating with Eric… except that much of it is centered around what seems to be an obsessive questioning/analysis of my parenting. He has repeatedly asked Eric (and then me) about his weight, what he eats, has tried to critique the amount of carbohydrates I keep in the house, and all other kinds of questions that feel super invasive from someone who not only abused and controlled me but someone who is basically a total stranger to my son. I have tried to understand his concerns and respond as appropriately as possible. I’ve even taken the time to explain that some of these things are difficult subjects to explain to someone who isn’t familiar with Eric or our family. What I get in return is, of course, not understanding but rather more pressure to hastily explain our personal problems in even more detail. Why he asks, I don’t fucking know, because everything I say is met with disbelief and sometimes he just flatly calls us liars. It’s as if he’d only be satisfied if I said “Well Wednesday is the day we all take turns punching Eric in the face and on Fridays we diddle him!” Nothing we say is good enough for him. I’ve tried my best to keep Eric out of this weird routine of questioning that Tom has, but he continues to question him during each phone call no matter how much information I volunteer.

Over the summer Eric is visiting his grandfather in another state. He told me that he didn’t want to talk to Tom during this visit because he wants to focus on Grandpa. Since I’ve relayed this information to Tom, the harassment has now intensified. He spent over an hour on the phone with Randy, complaining, questioning, demanding, etc. Even going so far as to demand that Eric must answer to him and “pay” (his word) for his choice to not talk to him. He’s fucking ten. This is crazy to me. And through this entire conversation not once did he even ask how Eric was doing. Though Tom has always expressed nothing but love and positive feelings toward Eric, it’s as if some freaky stuff is coming out now that he’s expressed disinterest in him. Of course he is also accusing me of keeping his son from him and lying about it which is just fucking delusional since I’ve always been honest with him and it was always me who was making the attempts to get the two of them connected.

Ironically, Tom is creating exactly what it is that he’s afraid of. There are two basic things that my husband and I must have in order to consider allowing our son to have contact with a violent felon who happens to be his biological father. Number one, he needs to have respect for us and the fact that we have raised his son for him while he opted out completely. I understand questions and concerns, but he may not blatantly disregard our opinions and choices as if they are some how not applicable to him Eric. Number two, he needs to have respect Eric. That means understanding that while he may be bio dad, he is virtually a stranger and it is hugely unfair for him to make demands and attempts to parent from a state prison when he is just now getting to know him. This also means respecting the importance of stability, routine, and consistency. Throwing a tantrum when we request that he works with us and compromises about things relating to our son does not indicate to me that he gives a single solitary fuck about how his actions might affect Eric. He wants what he wants, he wants it now, and he’s not going to take very kindly to a “no” no matter how nicely we explain or reason.

Not only is communicating with a person like that a detriment to my and Randy’s mental health, it is now becoming very clear to me that this is not the type of person that I would EVER suggest that my son spends time with. This man is emotionally stunted. He has zero life skills, does not seem to comprehend basic moral relationship rules like trust, transparency, examining your own flaws, and compromising. From what I can see he has not changed anything of real importance from the time that I was in a relationship with him or the time that he choked and bound a stranger and then tried to kill himself. He still has not learned how to cope with difficult circumstances without jumping immediately to losing his shit. That scares me.

That is not a person that I will present to my son as someone acceptable to associate with. He can choose differently for himself in the future, but I have decided that I am not going to put that in front of him as a choice that I condone. I have decided that no matter how afraid I am of Eric someday resenting me for not having his biological father in his life, that the thought of willingly handing an impressionable child over to a narcissistic piece of shit is much worse. It’s not something that I want to have on my conscience.

So today, I am going no contact with Tom. I fear for what this means for my family as I know he will not retreat without a fight and I know he fights dirty. I know that he will be up for parole in two years and I have no idea what to expect from him when he is released. But I’m going to fight for no contact as long as I possibly can because this is what I believe is right.

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Living with some kind of untreated chronic illness


Waiting, waiting, waiting…

I was going to write “unidentified chronic illness” rather than “untreated” but I stopped myself, in the spirit of being an obedient and submissive patient. For years I have struggled with feeling like I hate doctors and mistrust them. I remember it starting with my family doctor when I was a child. I would visit him constantly with severe sinus infections and every time I would walk out with what he called “the pink stuff”. Liquid Amoxicillin. Bright pink and absolutely delicious. Tasted like strawberry pudding with crisp overtones of antibiotic resistance. Mmmmm.

Eventually I found myself frustrated with the idea that my only option seemed to be chronic sinus inflammation and constant repeat doses of antibiotics… this was just my life. Though I was just a kid, it didn’t seem like “health care” to me at all. But what did I know? And still, almost 20 years later, what do I even know now?

I couldn’t have been more than 13 when my mother and I approached the doctor about my low energy levels, needing to sleep a lot, feeling tired all the time and experiencing depression. He checked my thyroid hormone levels and they came back abnormal in the hypothyroidism range. He explained that imbalanced thyroid hormones can cause all of these symptoms! After growing up watching my mother struggle with all of these things and obesity on top of that… I felt so lucky to get my diagnosis at 13. I was going to be happier! I was going to feel like doing things! I wasn’t going to need 12 hours of sleep to feel rested anymore and I wasn’t going to fall asleep in school!

But that never happened. I know now through my own research that it’s supposed to be a matter of dosage adjustments and blood work monitoring in order to tailor each persons Levothyroxine (or Synthroid – synthetic thyroid hormone) treatment. And the doctor tried. We went back for my follow-ups and I explained that not a single symptom had changed. I remember wondering if this meant we would look at other sources for my problems, but he upped my dosage. “Okay”, I thought, “this will be it”. Again, it wasn’t. He kept upping my dosage and my blood work was reading in the range for a healthy non-hypo person. I was still spending my life feeling like shit.

My mother always made sure I took my Synthroid. But  at 15 when I moved in with my father who I would affectionately call an insane, militant herbal medicine supporter, I went off of my medication saying “It doesn’t change anything for me so there’s no reason to take it”. I suppose I still feel the same way. My symptoms never changed and I am still living with all of the problems that I sought treatment for in the first place along with discovering even more things that I’d always thought were “just the way things were”.

All of this now compounded by the fact that I flinch whenever I think of Synthroid because every time I try to seek treatment for these issues, the doctors put me back on it telling me that the problem is absolutely my thyroid and Synthroid is absolutely the solution. In my adult years I’ve now had two experiences where instead of having no reaction to Synthroid, I actually reacted really badly to the point where my symptoms changed to a totally different kind of unlivable. I’m pretty much terrified of being asked to go back on it again. The symptoms I live with are awful and debilitating some days and the thought of taking something that might make them worse is too much to bear.

Once again, in the spirit of being a good patient I present the story of my hypothyroidism because it’s what science is telling me is the cause of my problems. I feel it would be dishonest to write an entry, as a layman, about my own ideas for a diagnosis while failing to mention what actual doctors have told me. But I can’t lie and say that I’m very hopeful or trusting at this point. I am trying my best to make sure that I follow all directions. I don’t stop any medication without calling and discussing with a doctor first. At my last visit with my PCP he was ready to resign to “I can monitor your thyroid but if you can’t take the medication then there’s nothing else I can do”, but I told him I was still concerned with leaving it untreated (as I know that there are other prescription treatments available, even if they are not commonly used). Thankfully with that said, he offered me a referral to an endocrinologist who I will see in October.

Over the years my symptoms have come and gone with what seems like no rhyme or reason. Sometimes they will disappear for what seems like weeks or months or maybe there will only be a few bad days sprinkled in between. During my worst times, symptoms have lasted for months with a few good days in between. Currently, I feel like total fucking shit. My two most debilitating symptoms are fatigue and body aches, which my legs seem to bear the brunt of. During these times I also get very dizzy and have to brace myself pretty much every time I stand up. Sometimes I forget that I’m going to get dizzy and attempt to move at a normal pace which leaves me with the sudden feeling that I’m going to collapse or pass out. I’m 28 years old and literally just getting up out of my seat is cause for concern some days. It disgusts me. I feel disgusted with myself.

When I’m feeling well I like staying busy. When I feel good my body wants to move and I like working out! Fitness has always been an interest of mine even when my body doesn’t want to cooperate. I like leaving the house and going on outings. I like taking my kids to do activities, I like taking the baby to the playground. Honestly when I’m feeling well (and maybe it’s just the contrast of knowing what it’s like to feel so awful) I even like housecleaning and organizing. It’s rewarding and fulfilling to feel like a useful human being. I feel good about myself when I’m meeting the needs of the people around me. And I feel like the scum of the earth when I feel like I’m failing them.

So what the fuck is this shit? Why does it come and go? If this was my thyroid, wouldn’t the symptoms have stopped during the times when my thyroid was considered by my doctor to be “normal”? Though these are the same symptoms that I’ve had for as long as I can remember, the consequences of them seem to be hitting me harder than ever. What started out as “some day we will solve this problem” is now turning in to “if I can’t be fixed, I’m not sure if I can imagine this being a life worth living”.

Of course since this is a blog centered around mental health issues, I would have to address the possibility that this is psychological (though the throbbing pain in my propped up legs feels very fucking real right now). There was a time when I wouldn’t have considered the possibility, but at this point of suffering, who cares as long as it’s treatable – right? Interestingly enough… every single SSRI that I’ve tried has actually intensified my symptoms OR has brought them back when they were previously in remission! Talk about depressing.

We still have medication options left but we can only do so much at what feels like a snails pace when it comes to attempting to treat my various mental health symptoms. I am currently trying a medication for my ADHD diagnosis because at 28 I am finally going to start my associates degree and I don’t want my inability to focus to hinder my progress in any way. You know, you’d think that being on a stimulant would have the added affect of better energy and a general not-shit feeling… but I still feel like I’m barely staying afloat. There isn’t enough Adderall in the world to make me feel good at this point and my ultimate goal is to find the root of the problem, not cover it up.

I like to try to end a piece of writing in a way that makes it feel whole or complete. But I’m hurting and I’m probably going to use the rest of my toddler’s nap time to compulsively research ailments while living in fear that everything I touch or put into my body is the thing that’s potentially causing me to feel this way. No happy ending today, no closure, just more searching.

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