Monthly Archives: January 2014

The Nut House

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I liked my shrink. He seemed trustworthy, but I didn’t trust him. I couldn’t trust anybody. In our sessions, I held back. He put me on an antidepressant, which made me feel either flat or saccharine-happy all the time. Like plastic.

Most of my treatment consisted of group or class-type therapies. I felt so out of place in group. I was the youngest member, and my peers were SO much more messed up than me (in my mind, at least). Some came in during the day like me, others stayed at the facility. A twitchy bipolar woman kind of scared me. A big older man in recovery from drug addiction did too. But I liked the others well enough. I still wonder about them from time to time. I felt like God had placed me in that group to help the other people, the really messed up ones. I didn’t make much personal progress in group, didn’t talk about myself very much. But I brought my meager offering of compassion and God’s love. I hope that in some way, I did some good there.

My favorite part of the program was art therapy. I didn’t have to talk about hard things, I just got to express myself freely in a way that made sense to me. Some days we did directed projects with themes or a specific medium, but most of the time we had access to any art supply we could possibly want and could create freely from the heart. I worked some things out in art that I couldn’t express verbally.

My therapist was a pleasant older lady. Through her gentle, knowing questions, her shocking compassion and understanding, she became a maternal figure in my healing. With her I went deeper, but still held back. Inside of me I held deeply disturbing things that no one could know about. I pushed them deep down, a little ball of hurt in a dark corner of my soul. Those things belonged to me, to pull out alone in the dark of night, to consume. I knew my survival hinged on confronting the eating disorder, but I held tightly to anything I deemed unnecessary to getting out and getting back to My Life, whatever that meant. The skilled professionals on my treatment team did manage to pull a few other hurts out of the darkness, but I “graduated” from the program far too soon.

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Late Night Prose

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Calmly. I saw what you did.

“I know. I’m sorry.” I’m dead inside. Please, punish me. Just let it happen.

“Sorry does not even BEGIN to cover it! Do you KNOW what you’ve DONE?! All the work, all the progress, you’ve UN-done?! JUST so YOU could feel GOOD for a minute?! Well how does it feel NOW, wretch?! Failure! UNWORTHY! YOU’LL NEVER BE WORTH ANYTHING!”

“I know. I’m sorry.” It’s all true.

“No. Sorry doesn’t fix this. I don’t even know if you CAN fix this, you filthy burdensome rodent!”

BUT I. CAN. I. AM. BIGGER. YOU CAN TRUST IN ME. THERE’S NOTHING I CAN’T FIX!

A seed of hope…

“Don’t listen to Him. He’s nothing. He doesn’t care about you. NO ONE cares about you, and they never will! How COULD they when you’re so bad and disgusting?! YOU don’t even care for you, and why would you? Why should you? You don’t matter anyway.”

It stings. It’s true. But Hope. Hope. I can still hear His whisper. Hope. Can I trust Him? I don’t believe everything He says, but I know it’s true. I know it’s true. But I don’t believe it.

FATHER, FORGIVE ME!

Silence.

And light. Blessed, blessed silence. Freedom. Cautious hope. Light. She’s gone, and I am free. For now.

Just Write

I have been abandoned.

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My closest friend trampled me and kicked me off to the side like so much garbage. The one I trusted and loved like a sister, who was supposed to know me, has hardened her heart. I never saw it coming. It hurts. A lot. Like a bad break-up or a death in the family. Sadly, I know this pain well. My dad left us a lot. Mother was emotionally distant. Close friends turned and either left or actively caused damage, time and time again, until I learned to stop trusting. I shut down. I lived in books and daydreams, and I poured my heart out in music. Until high school, when God sent some amazing, beautiful, wonderful girls into my life. This girl. While God sent the others only for a short season, this one stayed. We loved each other through some deep, dark, dangerous woods. And when we came out the other side hand in hand, we partied hard, good girl-style. We prayed, we worshiped, we sang. We took long drives, drank too much coffee, borrowed and lent, and we LIVED. We were life-long friends, and now, suddenly we’re not. Though this SHOULD hurt more than those childhood wounds, because we shared so much for so very long, somehow this loss is different. Instead of crumbling in, I find myself reaching out, not to replace her but to build naturally on existing friendships. We cannot be who we’re meant to be without other people. We cannot minister effectively unless we let people in. We have to take the risk, time and time again, or miss out on fulfilling our God-given purpose. And God has proven to me that no matter the hurt, no matter the betrayal, He is bigger. Though I grieve and wonder how this could have happened, what went awry, I have a strange peace that only comes from the Holy Spirit living in me. I don’t know if we’ll ever mend, and if we do if we can regain what we had, but I know that whatever happens she is in God’s hands. I am in God’s hands. They are the only hands that can bind this wound, the only safe harbor for my heart. Sister, friend, I will always love you, but if our season together ends for good, this time I walk forward with my head held high, trusting my Savior to lead and to heal.

Phoenix Rising

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A thin veil shrouds the twenty-four hours after my stomach pumping (Food for Thought, Part VI). I remember a hazy snippet of green scrubs mumbling something; my parents, crushed, talking to a white lab coat. I signed some papers. Someone tried to explain them to me. What I can piece together follows: None of the private mental health facilities nearby could take me. In my parents’ minds, state facilities resembled giant prisons filled with neglect and rape. Out of the question, the hospital could send me there over their dead bodies. So my parents signed me out Against Medical Advice, into their protective custody and on the condition that I would enter an intense counseling program. I signed papers agreeing not to attempt suicide again and that if I did, nobody could sue the hospital.

I slept a lot over the next few days as my system tried to recover. My parents received instructions on keeping me as safe as possible at home: No internet, no phones, no visitors until my new counselor approved them. No closing the bathroom door. No driving. No preparing my own food. No belts. I found all this ridiculous, I didn’t want to hurt myself. Yes, I took the pills on purpose, but I didn’t do it to die. I don’t know why I took them. No, I’m not crazy (newsflash: I was.)

Mother finally found an intensive outpatient program (or IOP) at a nearby hospital for me. I understood that it looked like I’d tried to kill myself. I needed to jump through some hoops to get my life back. Piece of cake, I thought. I’ll show them I’m not crazy, I’m not going to try anything stupid. It never even occurred to me that I might need to investigate what caused me to take the pills so that it wouldn’t happen again. I pushed the whole thing out of my mind as something that had happened to me, outside myself. I didn’t really do it. I boxed the whole experience up neatly in denial and taped it shut.

I easily complied with all the rules, ate whatever I got. I spent a week or two high as a kite. I read an explanation once that when depression culminates in a suicide attempt, it sometimes resets the brain’s chemicals, resulting in a euphoria-like state. This state can end suddenly, resulting in another attempt, or wear off gradually. By the grace of God I experienced the latter. I felt kind of like a happy robot for a long time. I could do what I needed to without much thought or personal responsibility. Run the program. Jump through the hoops. No thoughts of what I’d do with the rest of my life after, just comply. Go with the program. Get life back, whatever that meant.

How fitting, I thought as I entered the cold, gray facility that cold, gray morning. The lobby seemed cheery enough: pale yellow walls and burgundy carpet, green chairs, art, cheery lighting, plants and polished wood. Large, beige steel doors with skinny windows, metal mesh between the glass panes. A card reader and number pad beside them. Looking through the doors, I saw a cold gray hallway with sterile tile floors and white hospital chair rails. People in wheelchairs, slippers, and drab robes, pushed by sterile white orderlies. Fluorescent lighting. I didn’t want to go there. It looked like the kind of place that eats you alive and never spits you out. I shuddered and looked away.

The receptionist looked pleasant enough. She smiled sadly at me and handed me a clipboard with several forms on it. Some of the questions confused me. Eventually I got through them all and returned them to her. I sat down and waited. Studied the billows of my giant white tee shirt over my stomach and sweat pants. Studied my shoes. A man with a clipboard came and called my name. He smiled, shook my hand firmly, introduced himself as Dr. Smith. We turned away from the big metal doors (OH THANK YOU JESUS) and went down a long, yellow hallway, around a couple of bends, and finally entered his corner office.

Food for Thought, Part VI: Turning Point

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I closed my eyes and started to drift away. But something inside of me, a male voice, not my own like before, said GET UP. My body shook. I pried my eyelids open, but most of my field of vision remained black. There was a small opening in the center, but it was dark and blurry and kept fading in and out. TIME TO GO GET HELP, the voice thundered softly. I tried to sit up, “OH,” my whole body groaned. I managed to stand and feel my way down the hall, one step at a time, one foot in front of the other, feeling like I would topple over each time I lifted a foot. It felt like something outside of me propelled me forward, down the hall, supporting me because I had no energy. I still didn’t want to die, but I didn’t want to live either. I didn’t want anything; emotions ceased to exist. I barely existed. I was compelled to do as I was told, and I was too tired and weak to resist. So into the stairwell we went, my angel or maybe even the hand of God himself and what was left of me. I should have fallen down the stairs, but I didn’t.

Somehow I stumbled into the lobby. “Hey, you don’t look so good. Is everything OK? …OK? …OK?” I tried to form a coherent thought, and words tumbled out. “Um, yeah, I think… I OD’ed on the painkillers… for my shoulder…” “OK, well let’s get you to the hospital, we’ll get you taken care of.” I don’t remember anything after that, until I was lying on a hospital bed. Nurses were strapping my arms down. “We’re going to put a tube down your throat to pump your stomach, and your body’s natural reaction is to try and pull the tube out. It will feel like you’re choking, but you’re not. It’s OK. We’re going to take care of you. Here’s some numbing spray. Now swallow.” I gagged as the tube went down. As the procedure began, the nurses’ faces changed. I heard a man say “Looooot of pill fragments there…” The room went silent, except for the sound of the various hospital machines, as more and more came up through the tube. It seemed to take a long time. I remember the feeling of my stomach walls touching. And then, I fell into a deep sleep.

Food for Thought, Part V

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Read the first four parts here, here, here, and here.

In my house, we lived out an emotional script. Sometimes there were limited choices, other times there was only one permissible emotion. If we expressed an inappropriate emotion, sometimes we were simply told not to feel that way, to feel this way instead. Other times we were instructed to express the prescribed emotion, and punished if we failed to comply.

I don’t remember being happy very much as a young child, but I know I was at least sometimes. In middle childhood, happiness rarely happened for me. I often felt confused, sad, frustrated, or angry. If I expressed those feelings at an unacceptable time, even non-verbally, I was ignored, belittled, or corrected. My emotional state defaulted to numbness. As I grew, the numbness grew. Eventually I stopped feeling happy almost entirely. I stopped feeling much of anything most of the time. Since I didn’t feel sad all the time, and people didn’t talk about depression, I had no idea that I had lived with clinical depression for most of my life.

I suffer from a disorder that causes my joints to dislocate extremely easily, sometimes in ridiculous ways. Like dislocating a shoulder while putting on a loose t-shirt. It happened that first semester of college, a few weeks in. I hadn’t even gotten my head to the neck hole, my arm got stuck in the air. When the triage nurse at the ER took my medical history and asked if I had a history of depression, naturally I said no. The ER doctor prescribed me Percocet, which apparently mixes poorly with mood disorders. I experienced massive mood swings while taking it. Lying in bed, I thought Well, I guess it’s time. I did not question what that meant, even though I hadn’t been contemplating suicide or self-harm. I just took every pill in my possession. I have no idea what happened in my brain, just that I had unknowingly been depressed for a long time and that, mixed with Percocet, almost killed me. I got back into bed with a smile on my face, feeling serene, high, sick… and I waited. Then, darkness crept into the edges of my vision and slowly closed in.

Another page in our new chapter.

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Just some odds and ends for you tonight. Everyone seems to have finally adjusted, at least somewhat, to our new life here. There have been some bumps in the road:

1) Lost our insurance unexpectedly, which really put us in a jam when we had a serious medical issue come up.

2) My best friend of half my life, who held my hand and prayed me through some really bad stuff, and for whom I did the same; who is like a sister to me; who knows my secrets; with whom I have shared more laughter and adventure than probably any other person in the world, is not speaking to me. I really don’t know if the friendship will survive this time. I am praying and will fight for this friendship, and I think she will do the same, but I just don’t know.

And some unexpected blessings:

1) Husband is doing some contract work that is turning out to be a much bigger project than originally anticipated, which translates to more money for our family.

2) Reconnected with an old friend who had some very good news to share.

3) Got a small windfall that will help us get by for awhile.

4) Family relations are going better than I would even have dared to hope.

I am working on Part V of the Food for Thought series, but this one is the most painful and challenging yet, so bear with me. Also working on a short story and some other projects.