Six Months

Today marks 24 weeks since I tried to kill myself.

There are a lot of things that no one tells you about recovering from a suicide attempt. No one tells you that there are several stages of recovery and they’re not linear stages. No one really prepares you for how long and tedious recovery can be; or that choosing to stay alive doesn’t keep the suicidal thoughts away. No one tells you how deeply it will affect you when you learn of someone killing themselves, whether you knew them personally or not.

My perspective on life has certainly changed. The things I have to count as accomplishments are different than they used to be. Like one day a shower might be an accomplishment, other days sitting up and not going back to bed are an accomplishment. I’ve had a couple of jobs, none of which I’ve been able to keep. I’ve always hoped for bigger things in my life than this.

I’m still alive, though. I’m still trying. I’m still fighting. I may not be doing everything right, but I am learning how to care for myself, something I didn’t know how to do six months ago. So I guess I’ll give it another day.

From The Way Way Back

This is an honest look into my current major depression.

It’s like I’m sitting in the way way back of a car on a road trip. The scenery seems to pass in slow motion, sounds are distorted, and the unexpected extra movements make me feel light headed and sick to my stomach. The people sitting in the front seat try to talk to me, but they have to repeat themselves a few times before I can hear and understand them. It’s hard to reach the things I want. When I have to ask the people in the front seat for what I need it’s hard to say it so they understand me. It is almost impossible to get comfortable.

This bipolar downswing I’m in has the power to make me unrecognizable to myself. I don’t recognize normal human functions. If I do leave the house, I watch other people incredulously, wondering how they can just go about their day, knowing where to walk, what to say, how to dress. I don’t know any of that right now. I know that people care about me. People are worried about me. They don’t know how to help me, and that makes me feel like I’m doing something wrong. I should know how they can help me, and I should be able to tell them.

It’s unbelievable to me that at one time I had a job. That I had a social life. That I didn’t panic at the thought of responsibilities outside of myself. At one time I had goals, and I felt like I had a purpose. Now I see a series of failures. Among the failures are my psych meds. They trick me into having hope by working for a few weeks, but then suddenly leaving me here, in a low period, unable to imagine a way out. I no longer believe that medications are an answer. I’m not sure I believe they can even help me anymore. I’ve been on this ride too many times.

Thoughts of death, thoughts of hurting myself, making myself bleed in order to feel a little relief plague me every minute. Thoughts that I am useless, I am unattractive, I am worthless, I have no purpose. This pain is all I know right now.

Yeah, this will get better. It’s only bad for a little while then I’ll feel better for a while; I know how this works. Like I said, I’ve been on this ride before. I’m just ready to climb out of the way way back seat, and I feel pretty helpless to do so at the moment. This isn’t any way to live a life.

Mood Bear Traps

How do I stop living in fear of the lightening lows? Lightening low is what I call the depressive moods that hit hard and fast and without warning. I have experienced these moods almost every day for the past week, and they are scary. Yesterday I woke up feeling good, then around 1pm I started crying and couldn’t stop for the rest of the evening. I could barely talk or think, I couldn’t relate to anyone around me, and I couldn’t for the life of me figure out what to do with my hands. There was no inciting incident, nothing I could point to that would provide an explanation for why I suddenly fell into a dark depression hole and couldn’t find my way back out.

Today I woke up feeling better, mood wise, but scared. Scared that something will once again trip the invisible wire and catapult me right back into the darkness. I try to step lightly, stay busy, avoid stress (ha) in case that will save me from having to go through that again, but the thing is that all I’m doing is living in fear. As a general life philosophy I don’t believe in living in fear. I did that for the first three decades of my life and I missed out on a lot of life for fear that life might hurt me. Life hurt me anyway, and I missed out on a lot of joy. I could have saved a lot of energy by ditching the fear and just living, which is how I live now.

I don’t know how to avoid living in fear right now though. I’m not enjoying being in a lighter mood because I know that the dark one is waiting, unseen, to drag me down. Life is a string of moments, fun, scary, painful, joyful, hilarious, sad, boring. I don’t want to give any more of my peaceful moments to depression and anxiety. They’ve taken enough, and despite my best efforts, my mood continues to get hijacked. So I’m living in fear, especially after this week, but I am trying to remember to be nice to myself. The mood bear traps might be lurking around any and every corner, but I can at least give myself some credit for fighting as I walk into them, right? Right.

I am still alive, and that’s not nothing.

Eight Weeks

Today marks exactly eight weeks since I tried to kill myself, and it already seems like it happened in a different lifetime. I figured it was a good time to take an eight week life inventory.

Eight Weeks Ago: Heading to the ER after not having taken my insulin in two days
Now: Heading to boyfriend’s house to watch Superbowl (commercials) after not having eaten in two hours

Eight Weeks Ago: Called National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
Now: Called US Masters Swimming and renewed membership for 2017

Eight Weeks Ago: Sixteen tattoos
Now: Twenty tattoos

Eight Weeks Ago: Dating life – unsustainable due to severe depression
Now: Dating life – boyfriend, stable, happy

Eight Weeks Ago: No car, no money
Now: Great car paid for outright, no car payment, credit card debt paid in full

Eight Weeks Ago: Taking one psych medication that did not work for shit
Now: Taking five psych meds that provide functionality; learned that previous psych medication cannot be metabolized by my body

Eight Weeks Ago: Almost completely isolated, by choice
Now: Surrounded by people and love, by choice

Eight Weeks Ago: Stayed in apartment to escape from real life
Now: Only stays in apartment to sleep and do laundry, otherwise out and with people

It’s fair to say that eight weeks ago I didn’t think I would be here today. I wouldn’t have believed you if you had told me that I would not only still be alive, but I would be fighting harder for myself than I ever have before; that I would find more love and support than I have ever let myself feel before; that I would be slowly but surely making my own dreams come true.

There is no moral to this story. I’m not going to say that I shouldn’t have tried to kill myself two months ago. At every point in my struggle I made the very best choices that I could at that given moment. Past Allison Anarchy will always have my retroactive support and validation.

Genetic Psych Testing

At the risk of sounding like a human infomercial…

Attention anyone who has ever taken anti-depressant, anti-psychotic, hypnotic, or ADHD medication: have you had genetic testing done by your therapist or psychiatrist?

Did you know that genetic testing was a thing? I didn’t until about a month ago when I heard about it from my therapist. It’s a test they can run in a lab that will tell you specifically which medications will and won’t work with your genetic makeup. It is a cheek swab (no needles required!) that can be done in your doctor’s office.

The results are very specific and will even tell you why a certain medication won’t work. For example, for me, my body can only metabolize Trazodone in low doses. Higher than 50 or 75mg and it builds up to potentially toxic levels in my liver. There’s a green, yellow, and red category for each group of meds (anti-depressants, anti-anxiety, mood stabilizers, etc.) which is self explanatory: the green category will work without issue, the yellow will work but only under certain circumstances (like my Trazodone) and the red category won’t work at all.

Much to my surprise, my red column of antidepressants was extensive. So extensive in fact that I learned that I have spent years of my life taking medications that were never going to work in the first place. It wasn’t because I was broken. It wasn’t because I wasn’t working hard enough. It wasn’t because of a flaw in my character. It was because my liver doesn’t contain certain chemicals to metabolize other certain chemicals.

Yes, I grieved the years lost, where I possibly could have felt better and been more productive. But the validation that this test has given me is absolutely priceless. Never again will I have to play roulette with medications, or forfeit months of my life to wading through side effects only to find that the medication doesn’t help me. This is a huge step in mental health treatment.

Speaking of priceless, the test isn’t. It was $300 and not covered by insurance, but you have an option to pay it over time based on your income level. To me, it was worth every penny I paid that wasn’t in my budget. The test has been around for a long time, but it’s only recently been made more affordable and available.

It’s so recent in fact that a lot of doctors and therapists don’t even recommend it to their patients. That’s why I have taken it upon myself to proselytize the cheek swab. Ask your health care professionals about it, and think about never having to metaphorically throw a handful of meds at the wall and see what sticks. Scrape together some spare change from the couch, work a few extra hours, sell a kidney – if it provides you with even half of the validation it provided me, it will be worth every penny.

Visit the Genesight website for further research. (Note: I get no money for proselytizing)

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Cutting Myself Some Slack

Let’s talk about self harm and cutting.

There are a lot of us out there who have urges to harm ourselves as a way to cope with emotions that are difficult to cope with. These urges happen mostly, but not exclusively, to women, and a lot of us are teens. But there are many adults who do it who don’t necessarily ever talk about it. I do it. Well, not at this moment, but I have had bouts of self-harm urges periodically in my life. I hurt myself by giving myself bruises and scrapes a few times when I was a teen. I cut myself once when I was in my 20s, then never thought about it for about 10 years. Then the urges came back in full force while I was married. It was a toxic marriage, which probably had something to do with it.

Like any overwhelming urges that might not be healthy, like self-harm, alcohol or drug consumption, wanting to hurt someone else, it is possible to learn how to deal with these urges in healthy ways. It’s a lot of work, and it takes a lot of self-awareness and support. And sometimes despite our best efforts we still fall back on the old coping mechanisms that have worked in the past.

For me, cutting provides two things. First, it gives me visual proof that something makes sense. If I put a needle on my skin, it will bleed. It’s a direct cause and direct effect that I can see when everything else in life, relationships, illnesses, crisis situations, feelings don’t follow any kind of sensible pattern. Call it a desire for control if you want, but it’s deeper than that. It’s a need for understanding. I’m not saying it makes sense, I’m just saying that’s what I am seeking when I’m experiencing the urges to cut myself.

Secondly, cutting is a way to take the pain of my bipolar thoughts out of my brain and transplant it onto my body. Not only does it serve to relieve some of the pressure of emotional turmoil inside my head, but it gives me, again, visual proof that I am in pain. People can see my pain, I can see my pain, which isn’t always the case with mental illness. Physical pain takes away the strength of mental pain.

I cut myself for the last time (I hope) several weeks ago while recovering from my suicide attempt. I took an 18g needle and cut grid patterns up and down both shins. Recovering from a suicide attempt is a confusing time. I was trying to step back into a life that I didn’t plan on being around for anymore. All of the problems I faced before the attempt were still there, I had a new diagnosis and new medicines to get used to, and I had to make the choice to stay alive for all of it.

That was difficult.

But I made that choice. I am alive, I will not continue to be miserable while I’m alive, and now I want to take this experience and find ways to turn that pain into something positive and beautiful. If that means writing candidly about things I’d rather keep hidden for forever, being able to learn about all the wonderful people in my life that provide me with support, making someone feel less alone by being able to relate to what they are going through, or turning my physical evidence of pain into something beautiful and empowering.

Last night I got the first of four tattoos that will cover up those cutting scars on my shins. The pain of the tattoo was nothing compared to what I have survived and my determination to move forward with my life. We were not able to color in the tattoo because the scars aren’t quite healed enough, but from the picture below, you can see where the art will cover the pain. Some parts will still be visible around the tattoo, but that’s life. Life is imperfect, but there is something for all of us in it.

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National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 800-273-TALK (8255)

President Pussy Grabber

I did try and fuck her. She was married. I moved on her like a bitch, but I couldn’t get there. And she was married. Then all of a sudden I see her, she’s now got the big phony tits and everything. She’s totally changed her look. I’ve gotta use some Tic Tacs, just in case I start kissing her. You know I’m automatically attracted to beautiful – I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star they let you do it. You can do anything…grab them by the pussy. You can do anything.
– The President of the United States of America

Here is why the Women’s Marches on Washington today are so important to me. The man who said the above quote, when he didn’t know he was being recorded, is the man that is running my country. I am a woman. I belong to womanhood, a gender who, since the beginning of time, has been expected to carry the burden for men’s lack of respectability. You can’t focus because your dick gets hard when you look at my hair, and even though I didn’t do anything wrong, I’m the one expected to change? For you?

Fuck no.

We refuse to let this pussy grabber make us invisible props with fewer rights than he and his rich white friends, who take them for granted. Everyone who voted for this man knew he said what he said, and he has now been elected to run the country we live in. The country that 98% of us who are not rich white men are supposed to fucking survive in even though at any moment someone can take away our health care, or deny us the right to decide what to do with our own bodies, or threaten our rights as humans just because we were born women.

These women’s marches that took place across the country, attended by men and transgender as well as women, were our way of saying – this is the world we exist in, and you shouldn’t be allowed to take it away. We are the people you are representing, and there are a lot of us, and I fucking dare you to try and grab any of us by the metaphorical pussy because any one of us would kill you with our bare hands in retaliation. And there are millions of us.

There is nothing that will make us stop fighting. We’ve been fighting for centuries, and we won’t stop for centuries to come if that’s what it takes. So your disrespect, and when I say disrespect I mean your blatant disregard for lives that are different from your own, has been noted, but it’s just a flash in the pan. We women have been fighting people like you from the day we were born with vaginas.

You may have the title of President, but you have not earned my respect.