Let me be well or let me be fucking insane because hell sucks.
Today’s definition of hell. Hell is the most confusing, hypocritical mind-fuck that is my mental health state. Fucking purgatory. There is a conflict that exists in my mind. Being aware of irrational thoughts. I am an intelligent woman. And although I am aware of the ridiculousness of what I hear myself thinking, I cannot stop believing maybe it’s not ridiculous. I strive to be kind and compassionate to everyone, to be Christian. I don’t like people who are manipulative. And wow, do they manage to bring out a spiteful hate in me. I am not your fucking victim. And it offends me when people think they can use my head against me. My tiny girl-brain. I’m okay with the ignorant. It’s malice that enrages me. When someone makes a comment for the sole purpose to make someone else feel bad. Why? The only response is to not respond, sometimes impossible as you’ve hit a nerve. I don’t want to belittle anyone, but I don’t feel like taking the high road as often as I used to.
“You didn’t even come to your Grandmother’s funeral.” (Driving by myself 600 miles across a northern interstate in the winter for a person with anxiety, and of course, at the time you said you’d understand if I couldn’t make it.)
“Your son thinks you don’t love him.” (Total fabrication, discovered after I called him to talk about it. And why wouldn’t I? I never want them to question my love. “No mom, we were visiting and they asked why you weren’t there for Christmas. I told them we were disappointed cause we wanted to see you guys, but I know why. I know my mommy loves me.”)
“God forbid she have hurt feelings for a little bit so her cousins can see her.” (She’s upset and I can help her fix what’s upsetting her with 5 minutes of tech-talk. Then she can enjoy her visit.)
“You need to send your sister a card or something; she thinks you’re mad at her.” (I’m not talking about this with you, phones ring both ways.)
“You never call us.” (Again, phones ring both ways.)
“Why did you do this to me?” (Really? Well I guess I figured getting pregnant would be a perfect way to piss you off so I said what the hell. I was running out the door when I turned 18, and you couldn’t understand why.)
I almost left. I’ve never told anyone that in 23 years. I wrote good-bye letters, farewell. I didn’t leave, I knew I couldn’t make it on my own yet. But I would’ve gone far away, Boston was my goal. And I didn’t intend to contact them once I was gone. Is it any wonder why I never asked you for a single thing after we moved out? Will my punishment ever be complete?
“It takes tremendous strength and resolve to allow your kids to suffer the consequences of their decisions…”
We knew you were capable though. And now that you’ve proven it to yourself, by yourself, the world is yours. We are so very proud of the man you’re becoming. We will always be right here; with the same never-ending supply of compassion, love, grace, and forgiveness. Stand tall and proud – and we promise, we’ve always got your back!
Mom and Dad
The dictionary definition of depression includes this: sadness, gloom, dejection.
That is not My Depression.
My Depression has romance. It is alluring. It is seductive.
It feeds on isolation and it stays hungry. My depression is paralyzing.
It tells me I have nothing to say.
My Depression turns me away from tenderness, whispering in my ear that a tender touch or a soft word will kill me, will cause my house to crumble beyond repair.
It is avoidance and it is obsession.
Clutter & filth & unopened mail under piles of clothes and it is cleaning grout with a toothbrush. It is writing for eight hours and getting nothing written.
It is deprivation and punishment.
It is not showering, or eating. Holding off meals until this and that are done and not doing this or that. It is meals that consist solely of chewing gum. Or tea. It is nausea and headaches. My Depression fights sleep until my muscles ache and there are sharp pains in my neck. It is not being able to sleep because there are aches in my muscles and pains in my neck.
It is early mornings and not enough sleep.
My first answer. It worked for a while, until it didn’t. It worked until it needed something…extra.
Twenty years since I stopped taking two parts of this prescription and adding it to three parts of that one. Most of those years I don’t even think about The Depression… except when I do.
And then there was Buspar, Effexor, Paxil, Lexapro, Wellbutrin. There were meetings and prayer. There was gluten free, lactose free, de-caffeinated, organic, hydroponic, hormone free, free range, steam distilled and still, sometimes, there is The Depression.
(Compiled in June 2015 from various internet sources. Not original, not written by me)
Health care debate is a popular discussion lately. I don’t think anyone has a realistic idea of how it affects their customers though. I have been covered by some sort of Employee-sponsored health insurance plan since I was eighteen. What that means to me is as follows. I have agreed to allow my (or husband’s) employer to deduct a premium from my earned wages. In exchange, I show the appropriate membership “club card” to my provider. I do so as I’m writing a check for my copay at the time of my visit. Now, because I don’t know any better, my bill will be processed incorrectly because I have neglected to pre-approve my visit with my insurance company. That is because mental health services are “special” and are carved out of a regular health plan and handled by a different (yet branded similarly and in the same building as) entity. These bills get special treatment, if only that treatment were meant to result in better care. So, my doctor has submitted a claim on my behalf for the highest tier office visit. It doesn’t mean I’ve had any additional attention given to my diagnoses. In fact, my doctor’s office is usually a crowded place. That’s what happens when you give free health care to non-working people; naturally they have the liberty and opportunity to see our provider whenever as often as they please. I am limited by the time my employer allows me to take off work, availability in the schedule, and household funds available to pay for the visit.
I am now required to be seen every twelve months. If not, my provider will not approve my refill request from the pharmacy, and I get to spend a few days feeling like my brain is holding me hostage – but that’s a whole other issue. This requirement to be seen is not because it is recommended by the American Medical Association to improve my treatment outcomes. It is mandated by Medicare and having worked in healthcare, I promise you, it is only a concern so far as coordinating the IT department with nursing and billing staff to create a check box somewhere so they can show Medicare how much they care. For mental health purposes, it requires the completion of a form (by me) allowing my provider to assess my state of being. You may ask why I don’t just anticipate this and make an appointment ahead of time. Well, if it works out better for the doctors’ office, they’ll require me to come in at 9 months or eighteen months or not at all for three years. And if I can’t just drop everything and drive back to my home state (with 3 days’ notice for a 6-month review), well then we are just going to have to request that you transfer your care elsewhere. I think it’s shameful that a health care provider chooses to make difficult a process for treatment for a mental health disorder. These difficulties may be minor annoyances to most people. But to someone with F33.2 Major Depressive Disorder, recurrent severe without psychotic features, it is a huge burden.
So now the latest development, after two years at my present dosage BCBS has decided not to pay for my medication. I take 300 mg of venlafaxine (generic Effexor XR) 2 – 150 mg capsules daily. I can only assume at this point that they have a problem with my consumption of 60 extended release pills in thirty days. It should also be noted that it doesn’t matter that my provider has prescribed the medication; if my insurance company denies it, the pharmacy is not allowed to dispense it. So I will spend the night ruminating over and tomorrow morning procrastinating before finally calling the insurance company and beginning the process to prove to them that I am worthy of their mercy. This time.
(written in 2015, when I still had insurance)
Statistics time. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, about a third of all people experiencing mental illnesses and about half of people living with severe mental illnesses also experience substance abuse. These statistics are mirrored in the substance abuse community, where about a third of all alcohol abusers and more than half of all drug abusers report experiencing a mental illness.
The report goes on to explain their determinations as to why this relationship is so significant. I think they’re missing one. Dealers don’t judge.
I’ve been “medication-compliant” for about 6 years now. I have resolved to know that my depression will probably never be cured. But I also think I have the right to try different treatments that make my day-to-day existence more bearable. There was a point in time where I felt I was doing well enough. A doctor had prescribed tramadol in addition to my venlafaxine. I was also taking supplements/vitamins A, D and potassium to address my deficiencies and had my Xanax use down to once every few months. After about 6 months, I had dropped 25 pounds, my sleep schedule had normalized, I was working steady, I felt good and I felt good about myself. For a brief moment, my demon was not in control of my life.
At my next clinic visit, I was disappointed to find that this doctor had moved on. My new doctor would present new challenges. Any opiate use must be handled by a pain specialist, something my town doesn’t have. In order to continue use of the tramadol I would need to drive 2 hours roundtrip and add another doctor to my treatment circle. “Why, hello anxiety. Glad to see you’re back.” – snark. Long story short, I am not able to do what she needs me to do to continue the tramadol. Re-enter generalized body discomfort. Re-enter sleep issues. And of course, here’s my rope, demon. I kept your spot warm for you.
Within 6 months, the weight returned. I quit working again. Xanax is back every week or so. I had an acquaintance tell me they know someone who can get tramadol for me. Tempting, especially since I know who they’re talking about. Nice lady, works at the craft store. Says she understands what I’m going through, and knows how hard it can be to keep up the fight for yourself.
I ultimately decline. The bitterness can be overwhelming. So for now, I’m in a holding pattern; trying to continue my existence and build up some strength to go back and try again.
Let me point out for those of you who aren’t living this:
If you ask for something in particular, you are a drug-seeker. Nevermind that you were prescribed it previously, that you can articulate how it was beneficial, or how they can see from your chart how your use of it was not abusive (in my case, taking usually 3 sometimes 4 of the 6 available daily). I am very aware of abuse potential and I monitor my use of those medications extra close, erring on the side of caution, always. Can you please not make me feel like a degenerate? No? Okay, you win. No more asking.
Letting go is easy, forgetting is impossible. I think of cruel words that were spoken to me by people I really needed, during some critical times in my life. I have let go of the personal part, meaning I don’t think their intentions were for that moment of poor taste to still be in my head 25 years later. So when I hear of situations between parents/teens it kills me to hear the parental responses sometimes.
Recently a friend told me about how her ex-husband became aware that their 16 year-old daughter had been cutting herself. When my friend spoke to her daughter, she told (daughter) that she was really disappointed that (daughter) didn’t come to her and that this needs to stop now. My friend actually chose to make that about how her own feelings were hurt. Anyone else screaming inside their heads yet? She’s hiding something from you because she doesn’t trust that your reaction would be safe or helpful. And you just proved it to her, again.
I didn’t struggle with the self-mutilation demon too much. He showed up a few times but left without much damage. But I remember feeling so completely desperate and alone. The need to hurt myself, to feel this bad because of an outside controllable source, holding a hot curling iron a little too close a little too long, digging in with fingernails, anything to be in control of the root of the hurt. Feeling so out of control of everything in my life that I needed to hurt myself (to be in control of what was happening/how I was feeling) and I needed to feel the pain (to prove it was real? that I still existed, that I could rise above or check out?/maybe even to ground me and bring me back). It didn’t take me long to learn that if I didn’t share my vulnerabilities, they couldn’t be thrown in my face. And I am certain that my friend’s daughter will make damn sure her “secret” isn’t discovered again; she won’t stop. She will make sure no one notices though.
So how should she have responded? I don’t know. I’m so sorry I didn’t see that you’re hurting baby, and I’m going to help you through this?
I talk with my daughters about those feelings. About how lonely it feels when friends turn their backs on you, or a boyfriend is crossing the line too far too often, when you realize you’re in over your head but you think it’s too late to confide in someone. I’ve told them how that’s when they are the most important to me and I promise to be their rock. I’ll set his car on fire for you, honey. I don’t have many opportunities left to “mother” them, so I’m okay with a text in the middle of the day saying “I need to come home. Please come get me mom?” knowing it had everything to do with a new crisis in their life. It was usually news that a much-needed and cherished friend was moving, that happens quite often in Oil Country. Knowing how bad hurt hurts, walking them into that safe place, drawing the curtains, and letting her cry and cry, promising her that tomorrow always comes and eventually the hurt subsides. And until then, you’re okay and you’re not a freak because you’re feeling like this, you are perfectly normal, and I’m right here.
I’ve told them I know what it feels like to want to run as fast I could as far as I could away from everywhere and nowhere. I’ve driven daughters out-of-town with the music blasting, searching for the right place to stop so they can let it out. And I’ve allowed them to be sad and grieve (?) over things they’ve done that they’re not ready/able to talk about yet. But look at me first. I trust you and I won’t dig until you’re ready, if you promise me that you’re okay. “Or at least will be?” daughter asks smiling through her tears. Yes, baby, that’s enough for me today. And I promise you’re not a freak you’re flawed like the rest of us, you are perfectly normal, and I’m right here.
Their trust in us can’t be betrayed. Even in our moments of weakness it is, I believe, so essential to keep it together, that they know I love you and accept you unconditionally. There’s nothing you’ve done or can do to change that. Everyone does dumb things, we do our best to make it right and need to be graceful when others try to make it right with us because we know how humiliating this can feel. You are not the first and you won’t be the last to say or do horrible things and regret them later; and tomorrow always comes and eventually it will be okay.
And wow, when a sixteen year old girl comes home so giddy that she can barely form the words through her grin “He kissed me, mom; like a real kiss!” throwing her arms around me as she bounces and squeals. She runs off to her room. Comes back out in her sweats with her blanket and snuggles her way into her spot, and starts to tell me about love… She trusts me, and I get to be right here.