Tag Archives: loss

One Year Later

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A year ago I was back in the psych ward.  Fifty one pills of Lorazepam taken during a blurry three hour window and a 911 call from my roommate at the time effectuated my return.  And I was angry.  Angry to be back there less than six months after my first stint, angry because I felt like no one was listening to me, and angry because I felt like no one believed me.  And even though I wouldn’t admit it, I was probably angry at myself.

Looking back, it’s amazing how near-sighted I was.  The 911 call that my roommate placed probably saved my life.  But that was the last thing I was going to admit back in April of 2013.  Kicking and screaming all the way to the hospital, I was convinced she was the crazy one.  But in the year that’s elapsed since I took that ambulance ride, a lot of details about that night have come into a sharper focus.  A few months ago, when I was still in rehab, I remembered a detail about that night that night that my denial had conveniently suppressed.  When the cops came into my apartment to escort me to the ambulance I was in my bedroom, ready to call it a night.  My roommate and I had gotten into a screaming fight and I was ready to surrender to sleep and forget about it all.  On my nightstand there was a bottle of Nyquil waiting for me.  Not my preferred brand of cough syrup at the time, I preferred Robitussin because, unlike Nyquil, there usually wasn’t any alcohol added to it.  But that night all I had was the Nyquil.

When the police walked in I was sitting up in bed, in the dark, with the bottle in my hand.  And had I drained that bottle, as was my habit at the time, I probably wouldn’t be here today to write about it.  The dose of Lorazepam I took, fifty one milligrams, is pretty close to lethal by itself.  But add alcohol to the mix, like the alcohol in the Nyquil, and I probably never would have woken up.

Thank God my roommate cared enough about me to make that call.  She told me that she had decided she’d rather lose my friendship than lose me.  There’s no doubt in my mind that I’m where I am today because of the courage and strength of the people in my life that cared enough about me to save my life even if it hurt my feelings.  A relationship can always be mended in the light of day but I might not have made it to dawn if she hadn’t picked up the phone to make one the hardest phone calls of her life.

It’s strange to be able to look back on this night with the clarity of five months sobriety.  So many things in my life have changed, a lot of things didn’t turn out the way I wanted them to, and I lost a lot of good friends along the way.  But now I can look back on that night and be grateful for all the ways that I was saved. 

Looking back is certainly bittersweet, like a lot of things that have come with my sobriety.  The year between April 15, 2013 and April 15, 2014 hasn’t been an easy one.  And there are still a lot of things in my life that I have to make right.  For now, all I can do is pay it forward, and thank the people in my life who were stronger than me, by staying sober—one day at a time.

 

 

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The Fallout

I was released from an inpatient commitment at the psych hospital three days before my 25th birthday.  And after I got out of the hospital things didn’t get better. They got worse.  

After calling an ambulance, my roommate called my parents to tell them that I’d OD’d on my prescription medication and was back in the crazy house.  And from this, they inferred that I had tried to kill myself.  Not the case.  In spite of my explanation to the contrary, my mother insisted on driving 16 hours to spend my birthday with me.

And thank god she came up.  After I got out of the hospital I witnessed the mass exodus of my friends.  My roommate moved out.  Two of my closest friends– friends who had taken care of me and checked me into the hospital that first time, friends who I’d taken care of during their rough patches, friends who I thought would never leave me– left me.

Some left me because they “just couldn’t handle” me anymore. This was a line that became all too familiar to me but never lost its cutting edge.  There’s nothing like being told you’re a burden when you need support the most.  The things they said still hurt with the distance of five months.  And there are some lost friends that I still miss, whose abandonment of me I will never understand.

My birthday table was remarkably empty.  Usually filled with 12 chairs or more, this time we needed only a few.  Two good friends and my mother joined me for my birthday dinner.  No one else showed up.

In the end, I was grateful that my mother, who I had a history of not getting along with, made the long drive to come see me.  She sat beside me at my birthday dinner, drank champagne with me in my lonely apartment, and was surprisingly and amazingly supportive of me.  Famous for her righteous indignation, this time she channeled it towards my fight.  There was someone on my side.

This was the beginning of the fallout– the loss of good friends, an empty birthday table, and a lonely apartment– all of these were the beginning of some bad times.  Those days, the ugly ones, are still a part of me, attached to my ankle like a ball and chain, a bitter weight that I carry with me as I go.  I’ve learned that you can think you’ve hit rock bottom, only to discover that you’ve still got a ways to fall.  And that fall fucking hurts.  

This is the fallout.


Toxic. For those of you who missed seeing it as a guest post on BBW

Toxic.

I’m toxic. I’m a poisonous plant, growing slyly in the garden of my peers. I slowly poison anyone who unwittingly– or gallantly– sets down roots within reach of my coyly venomous vines. My toxicity leaks out of my bipolar brain and poisons the soil that I share with my plant-friends beside me. My disease makes me weak and so like a parasite, I feed on others. Below the surface and under the ground, my roots entangle themselves into the roots of my peers. I latch onto them, deep within the earth, because I need their strength, their support, to survive.

I am self-pruning: I cut myself. This scares the ones that grow beside me, as we thrive together and weather each other’s storms. While our roots remain entangled we hold each other fast, because at some point we all become weak. And although at times we all become weak, we are not all toxic. I am the toxic one. The one that makes late night, crying phone calls; the one that gets out of control; the one they are tired of taking care of.

I am bipolar, but I am not self-loathing. I leave the loathing of myself up to those who have the time to devote to it. I leave this up to those who I’ve poisoned, the ones that weren’t strong enough to survive my toxicity. They’re better at it than I am anyway, as true hatred of myself would be fatal.

I’m not a Venus fly trap– I know better than to frighten at first glance. I’m a daffodil, an oleander, an azalea– pretty to look at but fatal if ingested. I have to attract others to my side, to lure them in– unsuspecting– as coy as a vampire seducing a naive victim. Once they’ve planted themselves near my side I begin my slow, toxic attack. The poison works its way ever so slowly through their roots to their stems until they can’t take any more. And they die.

But of course they don’t really die. They simply leave me. They untangle themselves from my sick roots and move to a fair weathered climate, far away from me and my toxicity. My poison has zapped their reserves and they can no longer weather my storms. The storms that roll in, my storms, are big, dark and ugly. They are hard to weather. And after weathering too many, my friends give up and walk away from me and my poison.

But I’m not really poisonous, despite the warnings they issued to the world, they that uprooted themselves and fled to sunnier skies. Maybe they didn’t know that I needed them, and their support, to survive. I’m not poisonuos; I’m bipolar. And without the strength of their roots, I wilt in the hot sun and bend even in the mildest breeze. Without their strength my illness overcomes me, the sickness of my bipolar brain. Perhaps I’m a parasite, a sick and rotten one, living off the strength of my friends– but I am not poison.

And so, to my fair weathered friends– you who blame your abandonment of me on my toxicity, my poison, the venom of my disorder; you who left me on my birthday, fresh out of the hospital and struggling through my darkest days– I know why you left. You simply weren’t strong enough to survive. You allowed your roots, the ones entangled in mine, those roots that held me firm to the earth and kept me from being blown away by the storm of my despair and my disorder– you allowed those roots to shrivel and die. You became scared for yourselves and feared that you’d been poisoned. And the antidote you chose was abandonment. You forgot the times when you’d been toxic too. You forgot how my roots, the ones you call poisonous, were entangled with your own and kept you firmly planted during the gales of your own storms.

You may be gone but you will not be forgotten. Perhaps I do have some poison in me after all, your poison. The memory of you– you who abandoned me and branded me as toxic– is a sharp stab that still hurts, a thorn that can’t be pruned because it always grows back. I’ve managed to survive, mainly through the strength of those around me– those that didn’t leave me alone during the storm. These are the strong ones, the ones who are better than me, the ones that never believed that I was truly toxic– even when I thought I’d poisoned myself.

I’ve been labeled dangerous and warnings about my toxicity have been issued. It’s been said that I’m unsafe for public use. Nevermind the fact that my disease isn’t contagious; that I bark but do not bite. You have been warned, so approach me at your own peril and handle me with care.

After all, I am toxic.

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Itching

My arm itches, my wrist itches, so do my ankles, parts of my hips, and the scratches on my leg. My cuts are all itching and it’s hard not to scratch.

But itching isn’t a bad thing. It’s not from mosquitos or some other bug bite, not because I’m allergic to my detergent, not because i have some exotic skin condition. Itching means healing.

My cuts are healing, but am I? The last week has been mind numbing and full of studying, cramming, and endless outline creation. I peeked my head out from under the piles of books today for a short while for a much needed break and outing with friends.

I haven’t been thinking about my condition, or my feelings, or my personal problems for a few days. My brain just hasn’t had the room for it. Even now, an open, highlighted book haunts my peripheral vision although I’ve decided that I’m done studying for the night. But just that short break, being outside and not studying, brought me back to the weight of my sadnesses.

We went to the zoo. Great weather, fun outing, a “to-do” before graduation checked off the list. But even picking out what clothes to wear involves some sort of mental gymnastics. In spite of the itching and healing, I’m still covered in cuts. This means I have to choose among the following:

a. Putting massive bandaids on my ankles to hide the scratches (I think this looks almost as suspicious as going bare), wearing long pants, or going bare;
b. Wearing tights or long pants to hide the scratches on my legs and thighs, or going bare; and
c. Bandaid-ing up the scratches on my arm– there’s one that looks enough like a burn to get away with, so it doesn’t figure into my calculation–, wearing a sweater, or going bare.

Going bare. That’s what I choose. The weather is nice, low 70’s and sunny, and I just don’t feel like making the effort to cover up. And we’re going to the zoo. So who cares.

I get dressed, wearing a black tank with running shorts that go well above the knee, and tennis shoes with socks, no bandaids.

I didn’t realize how exposed I was, or that I even cared, until I took my second study break of the day, going to a friend’s to watch our weekly show. It was a little colder by then so I threw on a small cardigan, abandoned my tennis shoes for flip flops, and left the house, again bandaid free.

But sitting down on the couch next to the group of friends who had all come to watch the show, I started to notice how prominent some of my scratches really are. There’s a big one over my right knee. Seated, I felt like it was glaring at me and shouting to everyone else. I crossed my legs to cover it. I noticed the scratches on the top of my wrist. I pull the arms of my sweater down past my wrists, balling up the ends in my tight fists. I didn’t think about the big scratches on my ankles and luckily no one commented.

The itching is starting to subside. And that scares me. Because most of my scratches and cuts look the same, just without blood. I’m scared that this is how they’re going to look for a long time. These might be the scars I didn’t want to think about while I was cutting my way out of my pain. And as long as they’re there I’m going to have to decide between the following:

a. Bandaids?
b. Cover up?
c. Go bare?

The itching is subsiding but just because the physical itch is gone doesn’t mean I’m healed. When the itching started, this is what I was hoping for. But the itching is starting to subside. And today, after poking my head up from the piles of books that have surrounded me and distracted me for a week, I don’t feel all that healed. I’m still mad at the people who left me. It’s still lonely in my apartment and the white walls in there still drive me crazy. Some of my anger is turning into a bitterness that I don’t like. Maybe I shouldn’t have poked my head up from my books. Maybe if I’d just endured another week of frantic studying before looking up I would feel better. Maybe the cuts would fade, not just heal.

But I didn’t wait another week. And the pain, bitterness, and anger I feel towards the friends who have abandoned is still there. It hurts and I have to stop myself from clenching my jaw, grinding my teeth. Even numbed by my study coma, I am surprised that I still have the energy or emotion left to be angry.

But I am angry.

My cuts are healing, and for that I am thankful. But there has been no equivalent itching of the soul, mind, or memory to bring healing to those wounds. Those wounds that have briefly been numbed by studying. But after a few moments back in the real world I can see I still have a long way to go. Anger is a part of the grieving process and maybe the anger I’m feeling right now is a part of my grief for the loss of the friends who left me and cast me off.

Maybe, maybe, maybe. But for now I’ve got another week of studying to do, another week to wait for my self, my actual self, to start itching and heal on its own. But I’m afraid that even if the itching does begin again I’ll still be left with the emotional scars from the wounds inflicted upon me by abandonment.

So for now I guess it’s back to studying. Maybe, in a week, when I finally make it out of finals and poke my head into the real world, maybe some healing will have gotten done. Only time will tell and although they say time heals all things, I’m pretty sure a one week deadline is not enough notice for our friend, Father Time, to come and heal me. When I emerge from finals I imagine my choices will be the same: bandaid, cover, or bare.


Coming up for air

I come up for air and my head breaks the water. I’m nine years old and I wipe the salty sea out of my eyes as I stand up, feet sinking into the muddy bottom of the Mississippi Sound. I squint into the sun, looking out to Cat Island in the distance. The water comes up to my belly and I sink back under the water, unimpeded by the gentle waves of the Sound. You’re not supposed to open your eyes under water, but I do anyway. In this moment I break the rules and open my eyes under the warm brown water. You can’t tell from the beach, but under the water I see that it is brown, like the mud mixed with the sand at the bottom, but lighter. The sun makes it in through the surface, illuminating the brown gulf. There’s not much to see under there. I look down to the bottom, which I am afraid to touch. It is a mix of sand and Mississippi mud, encrusted with broken shells and bits of sea grass drifting through with the tide.

I come up for air.

The water is in my blood and has been with me since my birth. These last few weeks have been rough. Hardest in my life? Too soon to tell. But slowly, my days have been getting easier and my nights less lonely. I’m no longer drowning. I’m swimming up towards to the light. I’ve come up for air.

I’ve had to learn some lessons I never wanted to learn. I believed in the tolerance of my friends, in their loyalty to me, in their goodness. I believed that my friends would be impervious to the stigma attached to mental illness; I believed they were loyal; I believed they were my allies.

But I’ve had to learn that I’m not always right. A hard lesson to learn, especially for me in all my self righteous vanity. Friends really can vanish. They really can leave you. It doesn’t matter how many times you were there for them, how many times you’ve listened to them cry, how many times you’ve checked on them to make sure they were ok. It doesn’t matter, not in the end, because no matter how unfair it seems, you can’t make people like you; you can’t reason with friends who don’t want to hear the truth; you can’t change a mind that’s stubbornly been made up.

I’ve been sinking. But lately I’ve found the strength to swim. The outpouring of support from all you of you who are kind enough to follow my blog has not gone unnoticed and has not left me unaffected.

Water is in my blood and maybe I was born to swim. And swimming is what I’ve started to do. Although the emptiness of my apartment still reminds me of a friend lost, I’ve begun to accept the silence and grow in spite of it. You see, each night that I survive, each day that I fight off my loneliness and keep living, is a stroke upwards. These strokes add up and slowly but surely they are bringing me up from the depths.

The support of the few friends that have stood by me, the love of and acceptance of newly found friends, and the help of my family has increased my buoyancy. I’m no longer sinking. I’m no longer crying myself to sleep. The listlessness has slunk away, taking with it pieces of my depression. The support of true friends is beginning to chip away at my loneliness. I’m beginning to fight the undertow, the pull of my illness which wants me to drown in the depths.

I’ve come up for air. My head is above the water and the world around me is no longer so empty. Graduation is looming, and the stress of finals with it. But I am no longer afraid. My fight to swim from the depths into the light has strengthened me. I have energy again. And day by day I’m getting closer to the shore.

I’m still in the water. But I’m no longer sinking– I’m swimming, I’m fighting, I’m coming up for air. The shore is in sight and water is in my blood. I will weather the storm, the same storm that, days earlier, I wasn’t sure I would survive. But the water is in my blood and I still have the will to live. Every new found friend and source of support puts force behind my strokes and keeps my head above the water. Looking down into the depths, I see the ones who’ve left me behind. The ones that left me alone. The ones I burdened. The ones that betrayed me. They’re still at the bottom of the depths. But with each stroke I get closer to the shore and farther from the obstacles and undertow of failed friendships, each one trying to keep me underwater, away from the light. With each stroke and with each passing day, the scars begin to fade. And with each day, less painful than the one that preceded it, my strokes grow stronger.

I’ve come up for air. And I’m not going back down to the depths. I have the strength I need behind me and soon enough I’ll make it to shore. Having water in your blood doesn’t protect you from the dangers that water brings. But, when you want to, it does help you stay a float. And, when you’re ready, it does help you find the shore.

I’ve finally come up for air. And this time I’m not going back down.


Another day under the sea

There was a time in my life where a glass of wine and a chat with a friend could cure most of what ailed my younger self. It’s funny what a diagnosis can do. Not only are those days gone but they have been replaced, instead, by a bottle of wine, an argument with a friend who is only trying to help, and a handful of lorazepam. And even that is not enough. I cannot cure the pain I feel when I walk into my empty apartment. Empty because I have overstayed my welcome with my friends nerves, empty because I have overburdened my friends with my relentless despair, empty because I’ve made them scared of me.

I suppose I have become somewhat frightening. Tall, thin because I can’t eat, tattooed in ink and blood, and desperately unhappy. I’ve grown into a shade of my former self. I try to disguise the cuts and people usually have the decency not to ask. Sometimes I want them to ask. Of course I have my stories made up: I fell, I tripped over a cord, I scratched myself moving. The ones under my clothes are harder to explain. How does one explain five short, fat slices along one’s hip; obviously the work of a razor. I learned long ago to try to hide my cuts so they wouldn’t be visible even in a bikini. Naked, of course, there is only the dark to hide under. And that has not always been enough. I’ve had lovers notice, and ask “what happened here?” I usually do not respond.

But lately, in my loneliness, despair, and hopelessness I’ve grown careless. I want people to ask. And sometimes I want to tell the truth, just to see the change in their expression, trying to hide their disgust, shock, and maybe even fear.

In the midst of my unhappiness, courtesy of a particularly tough bout of bipolar depression, I’ve begun shedding friends like leaves. I lost five over the weekend and just yesterday two more fell from the tree. I imagine that even the friends I have are exasperated with me. I imagine that they can scarcely stand my company, that escape fills their minds, that they’d rather be in the light. Of course not all of this is true. It’s my illness, once again in my ear. The truth is that the friends I have left, the ones that have stood by me and watched my transformation, are good people. Better than me, but my illness poisons their good graces, convincing me that I’m a burden they are simply waiting to release.

I’ve had to accept the departure of friends who I thought would never leave my side. I’ve accepted it but I refuse to understand. To understand would be to give up on my cause, to fundamentally admit that I am not worth saving. And as long as I can hold on to that hope– that I truly am worth saving– then I believe I have a chance.

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