makeupaid3Two weeks strong. It doesn’t seem like much compared to my old method of posting multiple times a day, but I guess there’s a thin line between obsession and passion. I didn’t sleep last night (a cuppa tea too late in the afternoon is to blame) so I woke up, had an extra shot in my latte and have been on the move ever since. I know when I crash, I’m going down hard so I don’t want to commit to it yet. Brendan and I made plans earlier this morning to go see a movie tonight (since we both have off Mondays, I suggested we make it a regular date night). He isn’t feeling well which sucks but he’s willing to go…if I can stay awake. So, having cleaned the bathroom and vehemently avoiding the laundry, I am here, completely my weekly goal of blogging to the fabulousness that is the Internet. I’ve been struggling with a lot of intense anxiety lately, usually a result of my OCD. I have dermatillomania, also known as compulsive skin picking as one of my compulsions. It makes my fingers bloody and swollen and generally awful looking. It’s been harder to hide this week because of the extent of the damage. Every finger is raw and red. This got me thinking about self-image. I’ve never been one to love myself…like, ever. I’ve always been too something, too fat, too stout, too this, too that. Or, if I found myself lacking in a particular quality, it wasn’t a slight deficit. It was like a huge, gaping hole. You know, the typical thought distortion of someone with low self esteem. Well, on a drive out with Brendan, a song by Kendrick Lamar called “No Makeup” came on and it stirred up some thoughts.

In the song he’s saying his significant other puts on makeup, though she’s beautiful with or without it. I have always admired the level of skill it takes to apply makeup in basically any capacity. I can do the basics: eyeliner and mascara. I think my eyelids are too fat (see, there I go again) for eye shadow; it just never looks right. Anyway, with makeup being the biggest trend right now for everyone and anyone, you would think finding a tutorial online would be easy. Learning how to contour and highlight should be as simple as opening a new window on the web browser. The thing is, my self-image is distorted to the point that I don’t think even makeup will save me from myself. It might make me more appealing to other people. I am ashamed to admit that that does play a factor here, but I can’t deny that I would still find myself unattractive. Which led me further down the rabbit hole…

There’s a certain point when someone with major depression is recovering that professionals worry. Once they’ve managed to pull themselves from the bottom of the bottom, their energy picks up just slightly, they suddenly can do what they could only imagine doing before: taking their own lives. When you’re severely depressed, you feel it physically. But once you start down recovery, you get some of your energy back. And that newfound life may still be distorted by depression and exerted…unhealthily. Okay, where am I going with all this? Self-image can be like that. Once you think absolutely nothing of yourself: wake up, go through the motions and pretend that you’re some sort of gray, blobbish thing that doesn’t have distinguishing features so that people won’t see you, you’ve hardened yourself against opinions other than your own. When you open that door, believe that you can improve, you can change your perception of yourself, don’t you run the risk of feeling that sleight? Don’t you leave your freshly uncovered wounds open to criticism and others’ opinions, which will, undoubtedly, lead those wounds to reopen and you to retreat even further into your cocoon of self-loathing? Personally, I don’t know which is worse. Subjecting yourself to the psychological torture of needing others’ approval of your appearance, or not giving a single fuck what you look like and still knowing that people don’t approve of you. It’s easy to pretend you don’t care but it’s not always the truth. I see myself in pictures and regret my particular choice of sweatpants that day. Or my constant need to choose function over form, and ending up looking like a bag lady that’s visited every clothing drive she possibly could.

I guess that’s sort of what recovery is, though. Coming to grips with yourself, in whatever manner you may want to, and rising above the experience of others’ in favor of your own. I’ve always envied people that knew exactly who they were for that very reason. Other people’s opinions of them didn’t matter. They liked what they liked and they lived their lives. I, on the other hand, would loathe those people for being so comfortable in their own skin, for never going through the dynamic of change. But really, I was jealous. It wasn’t about their lack of change or the development of their character. It was about the fact that they were comfortable enough to not give a hoot what someone else said. I feel like I can circle back around to bullying right here, but for argument’s sake, I’m going to leave it alone. That’s another bag of worms that I’m pretty sure I’ve unleashed on here a few times before.

The point of this exercise is not to tell you to love yourself (although that should probably be what take away from this whole thing). My point is that maybe society’s standards don’t matter. Maybe we all care way too much or way too little but for no reason at all. I need to stop picking my fingers for my own health; I don’t want to lose fingers or even hands to infection or sepsis. Who gives a damn what other people think? I sure as hell don’t! But maybe that’s my very problem…

 

PSA: If you enjoy makeup, if you know you’re fierce with/without it, you rock! I’m just venting my own personal problems. It’s not with the makeup, it’s my perception of myself…and my fear.

Advertisements

*TRIGGER WARNING- body image and self-harm discussion*acinq-launches-lightning-network-android-wallet-eclair

This is going to be a regular thing. I have to make it a regular thing or I will lose my fingers…and my sanity. I’ve been picking the skin on my fingers to the point that friends, coworkers, people that didn’t know I picked are suddenly aware of this disgusting compulsion. My fingers are bleeding, catching on fabrics and I’m sure, grossing out people at work. I need to stop but I can’t. Why?

Anxiety has been a big part of this whole process called “recovery”. I think mental illness is a lot like lightning and I’m a firebender (pardon the Avatar: The Last Airbender analogy…it’s an awesome show, though! Haven’t watched it? You should!). Rather than control, possess and master mental illness, I’ve simply learned to redirect its energy. Now, that being said, that redirection is not always positive (haha, electricity pun!). My depression was overcome through Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. That was overcome by focusing on Borderline Personality Disorder. While that one, is arguably, insurmountable, my manifestation has presented itself once again in OCD and anxiety.

The lack of control I feel (not true to what I actually have) is so extreme that I’ve taken to obsessively cleaning, destroying my fingers, spending money in insane amounts (I’ll explain this one) and generally just hating myself, my journey and who I’ve become (and who I was, frankly. It’s not good either way).

Despite what I know, logically, are accomplishments, I feel nothing positive towards myself. I hate my body: my weight, size, uncooperative hair, general build, my bloody fingers, my voice. I hate that any progress I’ve made has come to a complete halt. I am simply existing in my dirty apartment, my dead-end job and my self-loathing. How do we fix this? I have the tools. I know what I’m supposed to do but struggle on a daily basis to do something about it. And any time I do manage to pull something off, other monsters come and plague my brain, unraveling the progress I made that day. I’m stuck.

I’ve started leaving the house in actual clothes, rather than sweatpants and leggings, in an effort to improve my body image. I wear earrings to work and I accessorize when I go out. While it doesn’t help my fingers, it sometimes does help me…tolerate…myself. Ugh, that word rolls off the tongue like a nasty pill. Are you supposed to tolerate yourself? Or are you supposed to love yourself unconditionally? If you can only tolerate yourself, is that the cap? Is unconditional love now impossible because you’ve set your own limit? I have sex with my clothes on. I count calories and worry about what I put my mouth and how it will affect my hips. I see other people, plus size or not, and am jealous of the effortlessness in which they carry themselves. How they know they’re gorgeous and it doesn’t take the slightest ounce of effort to be that way. They glow with self-confidence while I have shrunk so far into the shadows of self-doubt, I’m not sure I was ever in the light.

Another problem is that I don’t have an outlet for this…jumble of panicked emotion. Any sort of hobby I may have once had has become boring or uninteresting. My days consist of household chores and watching Netflix, or working. That’s all I do. I want to do so much more but I get stuck. The thought of reading a book, or learning how to play the ukulele is thrilling, in theory, but the second there may be some reality to it, I lose interest. Maybe this fear is what’s driving everything. Maybe this deep, unseated fear that I have that things will never be up to expectations is what is causing so much anxiety and intense emotion.

My life will never be what I wanted it to be, so why try to make it something else? Re-frame my future, and things might improve. But I would have to forgive myself for making those egregious mistakes, allow myself to move past them, and embrace the intense dread I feel whenever I start something new. So, you know, no big deal.

 

This is certainly a trying time. Mentally ill or not, the world seems to have turned on its head and retreated into one of the darkest times in human history. While rife with the triumph of the human spirit, it wasn’t always that way and we have to face that as a nation, as a world. But we’ll come back to the inner turmoils that may rip the world to shreds in our lifetime. I want to talk about something else.

I’m a psychology major. I hope to get into a school in Pennsylvania to get my Master’s so I can become a counselor. I’ve been on this side of the trench and want to let people know that there are ways out. There are ways to climb through the mud to get to the other side and enjoy life. It might not be the life you’d thought you would have (mine certainly isn’t) but I’m here. Self-care is a very important aspect of all of this; it’s the only buffer we have that keeps us from other people’s demons. But what are you supposed to do if the demons are already inside?

I have Bipolar Disorder and I struggle more with obsessive, irritable mania than depression. I also have Borderline Personality Disorder so the minor discrepancies between my actual personality and the illness are quite hard to detect, even for me. I’m a cynical person so finding the irritability as a symptom takes some skill. My psychiatrist recently classified my illness as “treatment resistant,” meaning there might be something wrong with the way my brain uses amino acids. I may take them in and store them (thanks to the medication I’m on) but I don’t necessarily use the stores I have. Which explains the severe dips I’ve been experiencing. While it’s kind of comforting to know it might be a physiological problem, and not some subconscious resistance, I still have to handle the symptoms. The people in my life still have to deal with the negativity, the irritability and the depressed thoughts and actions that I have. Being a psychology major, I can easily analyze and diagnose others. I have an unbiased perspective (usually) of their behavior and actions and can make an assessment. With myself, I’m too personally invested. I am like a child that needs constant supervision. That’s what that boils down to. I have to be constantly monitored with everything related to my treatment plan. If I’m not, I implode.

Right now, I’m living with my boyfriend. He is, by no means, an expert on mental illness. He tries his hardest to understand and empathize with what I go through but there’s only so much empathy can do. My symptoms definitely affect my relationship, usually in a negative way. It’s impossible to constantly explain what I’m thinking or what’s going through my brain when I struggle to grip reality myself. How could I possibly explain it to someone else? Explain that small, inconsequential thoughts fly through my mind at a million miles an hour and turn into these existential crises, each one greater and harsher than the last. They all end horribly and I can’t ever recenter the image. I can’t focus on the now and what I’m specifically doing. Suddenly, I’m a speck of dust in the cosmos that has no control over what happens. None of us do. Alright, it feels like I’m getting a little too far off the track. Let’s regroup.

When I’m having problems, I know what I’m supposed to do. Exercise, eat (my typical inclination when depressed is to restrict), leave the bedroom, socialize, be in nature, all of that. I know that’s what I’m supposed to do but it never works. Amongst the grand thoughts of our purpose in this universe, I become glued to my thoughts. I physically can’t break the cycle until someone breaks it for me. Today, it was Brendan coming home from work. I’d been wrapped up in the blankets, with my dog, watching Criminal Minds. Usually, these types of shows give me emotional excitement. It’s not the crimes that gets my blood rushing, it’s usually the relationships on the show that I admire. I want cohesion like that. Anyway, unemotionally watching an episode (spoiler alert) where a girl gets her head bashed in by her best friends, Brendan walks in the door. He’s flustered from work and muttering his grievances to himself. Suddenly, I’m caught! The realization that so much time has passed without me doing a damn thing, with me drowning in my thoughts, I jumped to my feet and threw myself in the shower. Wandering around for another hour or so, I finally left and attempted to do one task today. Just one. Get my laptop to the shop. And guess what? Through various dawdling, it wasn’t done. I missed my appointment. I’m actually sitting in the library now, thinking I should get some books or a movie or two to occupy my time instead of sitting on my ass when I get home. I have essays to write but the thought is too overwhelming. Plus, in my current state, I don’t think I would have anything positive to say about myself.

It just seems so ridiculous that I know the treatments, I know the science behind them, I know how this system runs and yet, I fall into the same trap, over and over again. I’m an eternal child that will always need someone to make sure she’s doing what she’s supposed to. I had two major fears when I was first hospitalized for this: that others would find out (it has served as my ultimate shame since) and that I would get stuck in this pattern. Others did find out, usually within my control so it wasn’t so horrible, but getting stuck was not in my control. And I’m definitely stuck. The parts of my brain that hold the should do information can’t connect to the actually do information. Like, I know I need to take my medications and keep my appointments on a regular basis. So what do I do? Stop taking my medications completely and miss two appointments in a row. That makes no sense. I had to download several apps to remember to take my medications and I still struggle with it. It’s shameful. I already feel like I’m living life the wrong way (we’ve talked about that before). To add the shame of needing a babysitter, to make sure I’m taking care of myself is so, so shameful. I can’t even think about it right now. I’m logging off to regroup.

I had therapy today. I wanted it to be meaningful, as some of my latest sessions have simply been voicing my complaints about daily life: the droll and dribble of work, my home life with Brendan, paying bills, etc. This session was certainly meaningful but not quite in the way I’d hoped. I follow someone on Instagram (I know, stories that start with social media never end well) that was diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder. They disagree with their diagnosis. Watching this person everyday has been like staring into a very clear mirror. As they explain the inner mechanisms of their mind, I can hear my own thoughts, my own words spilling out of their mouth. It’s completely terrifying. I am forcing myself to watch their story, to feel what they’re feeling because in truth, what I do is simply mask. I slide into this character that I think everyone wants me to be, but it’s not who I am. The truth is, I don’t know who I am. When I was first starting recovery, that was always a big question for me. Who are you, as an individual? What are your interests? I could never answer that question, and I still can’t. Borderlines usually describe feelings of emptiness and boredom. That’s exactly what my entire life is. Any semblance of pure enjoyment I got out of things was sucked out of me at a young age. I sort of think that’s why I can’t remember 99% of my childhood. I’ve blanked it out to make more space for anything else people might need me to be. I’m a hollow husk of an individual, waiting for someone to come along and suggest a new obsession. When I first starting working again, that was it. I poured all of my energy and time into my job. When I become friends with someone, I pour myself into a mold of that individual. I like what they like, I dislike what they dislike. I know all about the movies they enjoy, I’ve been to the same places, even if none of it is true, until they stick around. Once they’re stuck, the lie is forced to continue until a different husk comes along for me to mold myself against. I’m a pod person. The worst thing about it too, is that when I’m alone, as I am right now, there is no one to mold myself to. That’s why my free time is spent doing mindless activities like cleaning, or sleeping. It takes the reality away. I don’t want to know that I’m just the sum of an endless string of traits that are not my own. Being an individual is so important to me because I have no sense of self-identity. Most of the time, what comes out of my mouth when I’m talking to someone is a lie. Trying to explain to people that I can’t enjoy certain things because it will send my brain into a spiral of existentialism that I may never come back from is very difficult. I have to adapt, quickly and on the spot, and confirm that I know what they’re talking about. I’m the mysterious world traveler that has experienced everything and anything, because if I’m not, they’ll know that I’m a rock. And we don’t want that. That leads me to wonder if my relationship with Brendan is the only genuine one I have? And if it is, why is he still here? What makes him want to stick around with this Ditto of a girlfriend, that is so fake and cold? And he knows that. He’s called me out on it. He’s told me the absorption/regurgitation of facts picked selectively from conversations won’t work on him. He knows when I’m lying. I know when I’m lying and those obsessive thoughts, the worry behind the exposure is so terrifying it’s almost crippling. How do I convert from pod person to actual person? Is that even possible? Am I going to have to sit on the sidelines of social interaction forever, because you can’t retrain a person’s personality to understand the dynamics of friendship? This is why I think about death so much. Before, admittedly, I was depressed and wanted to die to end the pain I was feeling. A lot of the time though, the thought of death is sort of relaxing, as weird as that sounds. Almost like, I’m tired of being who I am and death would provide me the exit I need. It almost seems like the only escape. Sitting on the sidelines can be torturous, especially because life is a full-contact sport. Death is the only sport I’ll be able to fully participate in. My brain will finally stop. I will finally experience quiet, calm and the nothingness I feel. Don’t misunderstand me, I’m not suicidal. My brain is like a beehive, constantly teeming with thoughts, urges and insatiable questioning. My body is the tree, holding the beehive. It’s completely independent of the beehive but if it falls, so do the bees. While my body may be young and semi-functional, my mind is ancient, heavy and exhausted. Death seems to be the only reprieve to that. Scary, but true.

Having a keyboard under my fingers feels so normal to me. It’s weird and fantastic at the same time. I haven’t written in quite a while (as usual) but I am here to tell you a winding tale about a birthday, a nose piercing and a few ups and downs. There is some self-harm mentioned so **trigger** warning to everyone that may have an issue. I’ll let you know before I start talking about it if you want to skip over that part. Alright, here we go, my children…

My birthday was this past Sunday. Now, I have an easier time making a big deal out of other people’s birthdays. The spotlight is away from me and easily focused on another person. Plus, most people love celebrating their own birthdays. Anyway, hanging out with friends I met at work on Friday and a casual evening with Lily on Saturday meant I was just about spent. I felt the love in every ounce of my body and had such a fun time. When I went to my parents’ house though, that changed very quickly.

I share a birthday with my maternal uncle. It’s pretty cool, sharing a birthday, because it gives you a special connection to that person that no one else seems to understand or have. Maybe a bit to metaphysical, but still true! Anyway, he came to visit and brought along his friend, Debbie. Now, I love Debbie. I’ve known her since I was a little girl. She’s always bubbly and energetic and fun, albeit sometimes it’s a little much. But overall, she has a good heart…an honest and true aura, if you will. I also invited Ms. Dolores on a whim, thinking it would be enjoyable for her and my mom to catch up. They rarely see each other; Ms. Dolores sort of lives like a hermit and is very hard to reach by conventional means. I’m talking, a carrier pigeon might be easier than trying to send her an email. I also invited Brendan, obviously, but he had to work that day so he was going to show up later. The gang’s all here!

My uncle, Chris, wanted a dish called Chicken Kiev. It’s something to do with breaded chicken and onions…I don’t know. My father made it and it was delicious. The food was great. My problems started with my mom. I got my nose pierced as a birthday present to myself. I really wanted a septum ring and was happy with the outcome. I didn’t tell my parents because I’m now old enough to make most decisions on my own. I had cleared the acceptance of the piercing at work and even planned on buying enough rings that I could flip them up if I needed to look more professional. It was all considered and worked out. Except for my mom’s reaction. I had pegged both of my parents as being disappointed, as they are with most of my decisions, but not overly so. I was ready and armed with a prepared defense; this jury would believe me and would not convict an innocent man! Well, they did. They formed a mob and demanded his head on a pike. I had my back to my mom as she came over to give me a hug and I warned her I had pierced it. When I turned, she cried out and gagged, turning away from me. She shook her head and just kept saying she couldn’t look at it. My own mother couldn’t look at me on my birthday. Thomas and I had been planning a walk so we left for the trail after that. That moment was the beginning of the end for me.

We walked, Thomas dutifully listening to my sob story as I told him how much that hurt my feelings and how I was angry that everything I did was wrong to them. Towards the end of the trail, I started to feel better. We’d changed the subject, were talking about faire folk or something. Then, a jogger passed us. He was wearing a t-shirt that said “Rowan University.” That was where I was interested in going before I fucked up my life. That was where I could have made a decision and instead, chose to do nothing and idly watch my life crumble to pieces like sand through my fingers. Thomas was reassuring and full of brotherly love, but I couldn’t shake the feeling. I couldn’t shake that this was how my life was always going to be. Full of disappointments and a reminder of those disappointments flashing like neon signs every single day.

We left, went home and had dinner. It was really good. The conversation was more directed towards our guests, which was fine with me; I didn’t have many nice things to say. Brendan showed up just before it was time to open presents. I was thankful and smiling, but underneath the table, I was holding his hand. The conversation with my mom was still reeling through my head, like a warped record whose needle kept returning to the rim, driving deeper in until it couldn’t, and pulling back to repeat the process. We left, everyone scattering to their vehicles and off in different directions, the darkness swallowing the warm evening.

************************************

I bought razor blades a few weeks back in a rather desperate attempt to make myself feel…anything. I was depressed but not quite at the bottom of the pit. I wanted to hurt physically, so I could drain the white noise in my head. I bought them and promptly lost them in the depths of my car, only to find them shortly after restarting my medication. I got off track with it, something that’s rather usual for me, and was feeling the effects. I should have thrown them away but I didn’t. I kept them. I can’t explain why, I just did. I would idly twirl the little case at red lights, listening to the soft tink of them hitting the plastic, thinking. I got in the car the night of my birthday and knew, knew that I wanted the mental pain I was in to stop. I knew there was a way to do it but I also knew there were consequences.

When you cut, normally (at least not me), you don’t worry about scars. You don’t care who sees or who knows, you just want the urge to stop. That was true of this night but not entirely so. I was worried about the people that know my history seeing what I’d done, knowing that I’d relapsed and being afraid. I didn’t want to hurt anyone else but the pain I felt inside was unbearable. I asked Brendan if he’d be upset if I cut and in a rather neutral tone, he declared he wouldn’t be. I’m not sure if he was enabling but he was as supportive as he could be and I was thankful for it.

I drew a bath, sat in the hot water and splayed the four razors on the edge and chose one. I dragged it over my wrist and forearm. God, the rush was so what I needed. It was almost like a drug. I immediately relaxed. My mind was still whirling, thinking of all the disappointment, all the lines, all of it. But the pressure behind it was gone. The driving force that made me want to scream out and cry had disappeared. I was as close to myself as I was going to get that night.

I only ever seem to cut in rows of three. When I got to work the next day, my manager immediately asked me about them. I lied and blamed it on my cat, declaring that he’d scratched me in the process of giving him his daily medication. Whether or not he believed me, I can’t say, but I did feel the genuine concern. Another coworker asked me and where I could have been just as honest with her, I wasn’t and told her the same lie. I’m beginning to spin a web that I don’t want to. I want to be honest with my coworkers. I like them, I care about them, but this is something that I don’t think they can, nor want, to handle.

**********************************

I’ve returned to group, I’m seeing Craig once a week instead of once every two weeks. Things have started to spiral downhill again. I’m not sure what to make of it. But the keys under my fingers, having it all out and here definitely helps.