It’s my party, and I’ll… cry, alone, in the bathroom with the door locked.

I always wanted to have a party. One of those big parties that people went to.  Okay, let’s be honest here. I wanted a party that ANYONE went to.  Apparently I was such a miserable person to be around, and no one liked me that no one went to my parties.  No one wanted to come over and play, and no one wanted to be around me in general.  This was in elementary school, middle school, and high school.  By middle school I mostly gave up trying.  I had a few friends in elementary school, but they still never wanted to spend time with me outside of school.  Friends out of obligation? I suppose.  Okay this isn’t completely true.  I had one best friend. We lived not so far apart when we were little.  He was my world.  (I guess that sounds kind of creepy.) He was Jewish, but used to come over and decorate Christmas cookies.  But, hey! We’d decorate them in Hanukkah colors!  It’s one of the happiest memories I have in my entire life.  Middle school came around and other people became more important. Then his parents got divorced and he moved away. Okay.  It happens.  One of my other friends was a decent friend, her mom was good friends with my mom so we’d spend time together.  In middle school we’d sit together at lunch. Finding a table at lunch was next to impossible some days.  Each clique and group had their own spot, and empty seats were left empty.  You did NOT sit in an empty seat.  But, I’d sit with her and that group of friends. Which I guess were my “friends”.  One day, as I went to sit down, they all, in sync, said “We don’t like you. Go away, sit somewhere else.”  They had it perfectly down pat. They must have practiced.  I think someone took pity on me and let me eat lunch at their table that day.  I stopped eating lunch after that day.  I just took snacks and ate them between classes. There’s a reason sports were the only reason I breathed.

Let’s go past high school and into college.  I never tried to have or go to parties then.  Easier that way.  I had more important things to do.  High school: Art and SPORTS.  College: Not failing.  One of the biggest influences, mostly positive, but some negative when I was in high school died while I was away in college.  I couldn’t go to his funeral.  He killed himself while I was 2200 miles away. And I could not afford to fly back to his funeral.  And the guilt alone that I instilled on myself was horrendous, but what my “friends” gave me was worse.  He CHOSE to abandon us, and they made ME feel bad.

Fine. Moving on.  There’s an entire chunk of my life where I, ironically, had to abandon anyone I knew, because of someone I was with.  He had me convinced that I couldn’t do any better than him, and if I was talking to anyone else, I was automagically fucking them.  Amazing how that works.  Only one of those people are speaking to me to this day.  It took about seven years for us to “forget” what happened and start talking again.

I worked a LOT after college, because it was easier than dealing with just about anything in my life, especially emotions.  I met a group of people through an event that I somehow gained the courage to attend. (Ativan and a little alcohol goes a long way.) Awesome, new friends.  Got along great. Ended up dating one of the guys I met.  Meh. Long story short: I broke up with said guy, was depressed because it turned out to be a shitty relationship.  In turn, he sent an email to everyone claiming I’d threatened suicide.  Instead of actually verifying the claims, all of these people I’d thought were my friends started passing the email back and forth talking about my mental instability, and saying some pretty nasty stuff. One person–ONE–felt bad, and sent me a copy of the email.  I hadn’t felt like killing myself before.  But that email actually made me consider it.  I felt completely abandoned.  It was my party, and everyone showed up just to tell me how much they couldn’t stand me.  I’ve since started talking to a few of them again, but the trust isn’t there like it was before.  It never will be.  And my walls are back up higher than they were before.  They’ll never come back down.  Because of them.  But then again, if I was a better person, or prettier, or nicer, or smarter, or more normal, or smarter, or prettier, or fucking not so fucking broken they might fucking like me.

After that email, there was another group of friends I’d met that wasn’t part of that “IN” crowd, but knew everyone.  I’d kind of factioned off and talked to them.  I liked them. They were pretty nice people.  They threw me a birthday party.  There were people there. I had a BIRTHDAY PARTY. And there were PEOPLE THERE!  My FRIENDS!  Fucking BLISS.  Happy as could be.  Then the ex boyfriend who’d sent out THAT email sent one to the friend throwing me the party.  She showed me.  I know she meant well. I’m sure she meant well.  She meant well, right?  But it still dampened everything.  “I still care about her.  But I worry about her.”  Well fuck.  With my mood dampened, I can’t actually recall much about the party after that.  Brain tells me this is why people don’t like me.

I had a party a few months later.  Invited these friends, and a few others.  .. They eventually showed up. And sat over by themselves and wouldn’t talk to anyone, not even me.  Why am I getting blown off? Am I a horrible person? Do I smell bad?  Am I ugly? I am, aren’t I?

So let’s go to today. This sounds horrible. I’m sorry guys.  When people tell me they’re going to do something. And they don’t? It feels like I’m being blown off.  It feels like I’m having a party and no one’s coming.  It just feels like one of those events that I’ve catered where people RSVP that they’re coming and then don’t come.  That the poor sap has paid for WAY more people than actually show up.  And because I know EXACTLY how they feel, I end up eating the cost of a chunk of the food, because I know.  I KNOW. I know how they feel.   I don’t want to know. I don’t want to know what it feels like to have your hopes built up and then have people bail on you.  To be the person on that sinking ship that’s left standing there watching while the lifeboats are rowing away with plenty of extra room.  There’s plenty of extra room there, but they left anyway, because fuck you. I don’t want to know how any of this feels.  But I do.  And THAT hurts me more than almost anything anyone can say.

Aren’t you glad I gave you your daily dose of ammunition?

He blew the horn and the walls came down

When I was asked to contribute here I was at a loss as to what to write. That I WOULD write was never in doubt. I was given the suggestion to tell the story of how/why I finally got help, and I had to laugh because that story LITERALLY affected everyone at least a little.

What follows is very disjointed and for that I’m sorry. My memories of that time, and most times when my depression is at its worst, are like that.

It was my 32nd birthday a beautiful Tuesday morning in mid September of 2001. I felt great, well as great as I could having to be in work at 6AM, but still I felt good. At about 8:30, that started to change. A coworker said “A plane just hit the towers in New York.” I figured it was some small prop plane gone awry, tragic, but not the most major thing. Twenty minutes later I knew just how wrong I was.

The world changed and I broke into a million pieces.

I walked up to my boss in a daze and said I had to leave. He asked why, so I told him it was my birthday and he said “I am so sorry.” We all knew something massive had just happened; we just didn’t yet know the severity of it. That came later. After that brief exchange, I walked out to my car and drove the 15 minutes home. I remember nothing of it, not one thing. Not a single second until…

I walked into the house to see the South Tower collapse. I vaguely recall exchanaging some words with my Dad and climbing the stairs to put on green sweatpants, sitting in my chair and staring numbly at the TV for three days crying endlessly.

I was in a deep pit of dispair. I was so sad for all those directly affected, I found out later I knew in passing a few folks who perished, but also really feeling sorry for myself. I was broken; I had been for years, and I saw no hope, no way out. I didn’t want to die, but I had no idea how to live.

In the middle of this, some sense of reponsiblity kicked in and told me I should call work and let them know what was going on. That call made all the difference. I was refered to our EAP (Employee Assitance Program) and they gave me a list of doctors covered by my insurance plan. My very first call almost ended my journey; while she was very nice she was booked solid. She did however recommend the doctor I still see to this day. I got an appointment for the 17th (my Mom’s birthday), and I haven’t looked back. Well not TOO much it’s only natural to want to see how far you’ve come.

The important thing to remember is that getting better is a change to your life, not some “quick fix.” Better mental health takes commitment, and you will still have bad times, but they will be rare and short-lived compared to what you are likely dealing with now. If you’ve read this far I urge you to make that life changing call for yourself.

It don’t mean a thing… (If it ain’t got that swing…)

The best part about being bipolar is… alright it sucks being bipolar. We all know that.  That said, the advantage of being diagnosed as bipolar is one simple thing:  drugs.  Drugs are what make the world go ’round.  I don’t mean narsty illegal drugs. I’m talking prescription drugs that help balance and control the ups and downs.  Until I got my diagnosis of bipolar disorder, I was diagnosed with one of the “Standard Ds” as I call them.  Clinical, seasonal, moderate, severe, etc. depression.  Every time they tried a new fangled anti-depressant, I’d have a nasty response.  Especially SSRIs.  Turns out, there’s a reason for that.  Apparently anti-depressant meds, especially SSRIs in bipolars can cause an “agitation” response instead of your stereotypical happy-hyper mania.  OR, as I like to call it, Hulk Mode.  Who knew?

Now, not too long ago, someone said that we, (I) shouldn’t go into doctors with the expectation/diagnosis in mind, but to let them make their own assessment, decision and choices based on their evaluation. That’s great.  EXCEPT. Never. In my entire life. Have I ever.  Felt in one piece.  Until now.  I’m not 100% perfect.  I never will be.  But damn if I’m not ahelluva lot better than I was before I started my meds for bipolar disorder and other stuff.

But then again, when your diagnosis is the whole damn alphabet in acronyms…

I graduated from group therapy!

I graduated from group therapy!!!

And by graduated, I mean I quit.

It isn’t often that someone pushes me to the brink of snapping in public. As much as I complain that I feel like I’m losing control, I actually have quite a bit of control. I have, after all, been called a control freak.  Alas, today was that day of being pushed just beyond the edge of my limit.  The absolute saddest part of it for me, was that it was rather like a bug hitting your windshield in slow motion: I could see her baiting me, but it was just too late to curb my reaction.  Lesson the first.  I have a temper.  Normally it’s under wraps, tied up in tight bondage straps, chained to the floor of a way-too small cage.  Occasionally it breaks free.  Today it did.  I’m not sorry. I’m not even embarrassed. I’m.. rather amused.

According to the person who poked and prodded the bear, I’m a horrible person.  I suppose that’s what I think and feel on a daily basis anyway, so having that thrown out verbally is interesting. I’m sure she felt an instantaneous rush of pleasure with throwing that thought into my head, along with the knowledge that I have intense ruminating thoughts.  While I don’t doubt that she had at least an inkling, if not a purposeful intent of having me fester on the fact that I’m a horrible person (apparently karma’s her bitch and suckles the teat of her whim), I honestly have to say that I have zero fucks to give.  I wasn’t actually going to write anything about this, except for the fact that I’m truly impressed that I haven’t focused on this since I got home.  I’m over it.  I genuinely could not care any less than I do. Which is AWESOME. Can I have an extra side of THAT to take home with me for next time?  I discussed it with a few people, but it wasn’t a long discussion, just a few quick, “Hey,  here’s this,” and that was it. I am impressed.

The therapist that runs the group is super nice, though it would be nice if she was a little more assertive.  I kind of think her “everyone needs treated with love all the time,” mojo is a bunch of crap.  If you’re a dick, you should get called out on it, but hey, I call myself out on it all the time, so no one else needs to (feel free).  So, because she feels everyone needs to be more lovey, and work through their problems with each other, she thinks it’s a bad idea for me to quit.  I, on the other hand, am a firm believer that if you simply cannot tolerate someone in a civil manner, that it is beneficial to everyone involved (including the rest of the group) if someone removes themselves from the situation.  In this case, I feel it’s best for me to remove myself, I can only tolerate so much fabrication and drama.  Besides, that gives me an extra 2 hours back per week that I can do my work.

So, I guess it’s time to retire that group therapy tag.  Unless someone else needs to use it, because I’m done. Give me my gold star. Insert facetious grin here.

Causing a breakdown in someone with anxiety 101.

When it comes to brain borking, I won the lottery.  I have anxiety about going to places with lots of people.  I don’t like to go alone, and when I go with people I’m terrified of being ditched.  Why? Because people have done that.  Yes, people have actually taken me to big places full of thousands of people, in an unfamiliar city, and run off and left me alone to fend for myself.  And I don’t even mean left me, come back and get me later to go home. I mean left me to go off alone, then leave the venue and go home.  Being stranded alone at some random place hundreds of miles away from home is terrifying. If you’ve never done it, I don’t recommend it.

Every anxiety article that’s on Facebook, Buzzfeed, or whatever internet site that people read those “Everything you need to know about people with anxiety” articles have one item in common: being ditched at parties.  Yup. I’m pretty sure that’s part of the definition of anxiety.  “Yada yada anxiety definition, including being ditched at parties, yada yada rest of definition.”

Now onto the point.  One of the easiest ways to cause a breakdown.  Walk away from someone with anxiety.  If I expect you to be right next to me, and you’re 100 feet away? Breakdown.  If you’re 2 feet away from me, but around the corner and I can’t see you? Breakdown.  If you’re 40 feet away, behind a tree, so I can’t see you? Breakdown.  Seeing a pattern?  It feels like we’re being ditched.  You walked away without telling me you were leaving.  Now, if you tell me you’re going to get food? Sure, I’m fine with it.  Someone ELSE might not be, but I am (Assuming you don’t disappear for an hour).  The easiest way to avoid this is making someone AWARE of what’s going on.  “I’m going to go lean against that tree for a few minutes, it’s really hot out here, and I want to stand in the shade while you wait in line.”

Now, as I’ve said, it doesn’t work with everyone.  Some people can’t handle you walking away at all.  Some are fine with it as long as they know where you’re going. The entire concept applies (with me) when you’re going to be late coming home from work.  Walking away says “abandonment” but being late says multiple things, it says “abandonment,” “disaster,” “infidelity,” among other potential thoughts.  I don’t know that you didn’t get in a car wreck and potentially are dying/dead right now, when you are just leaving the office late.  I don’t know that you didn’t leave work on time, but go over to someone else’s house for a quick romping before coming home.  I don’t know that you didn’t just leave me.  Texting me “Hey, I’m going to be late, a meeting ran over,” helps.  That doesn’t mean you’re lying, but hey, that’s another problem for another day.

End point. Dealing with people with anxiety sucks.  We’re hard to work with, and especially hard to live with. We’re also super rewarding to be around, because we’re extra caring and respectful.  We want to be texted when you’re late, so we tend to do the same to you.  Which is a cool trade off.  Just one of the many perks. Cause, we’re awesome.

In which group therapy fries my brain.

My therapist runs a therapy group for depressed people. She was pretty adamant that I go.  Fine, fine, fine.  I go.  We learn skills on how to relax, cope, step back, assess, calm, etc.  Amusingly, meditation is one of the things on the list.  Needless to say, it doesn’t work for me.  Most of the “lessons” we learn in there, I can’t actually do.  Sure, I try, but it’s just not possible.  “Clear your mind.” Hahaha. No offense, but go fuck yourself.  “Focus on a color.”  Seriously? No. I think of green, and then I think about which shade of green I’d like, so I think of all of the different shades of green I like, and which ones I dislike, and then I think of why I dislike them, and events that relate to those color greens, and it goes downhill from there.

Ever notice how someone prefaces something offensive with “no offense?”  Yeah, me too.  I do it.  Often it’s because I genuinely say something in jest and mean it to be so.  “Please don’t take offense to this, because I’m seriously joking.”  Though usually, I don’t even bother.  Most of the time I open my mouth it will offend someone.  I’m aware of this.

There is a lady in my group.  I can’t STAND her.  For the first time in a very long time, I’ve found someone that I genuinely would like to throw in front of a bus.  She actually brings out the violent streak in me.  This is the real reason I actually go to group therapy.  No, you silly silly goose. NOT so I have an excuse to beat her with her drama cane.  So I can learn to NOT beat her with her woe-is-me-pity-me-stick.  Everything out of her mouth is, “my life is horrible, you should feel bad for me.”  Followed by, “the world owes me, YOU owe me.” Lady, I don’t owe you shit, everything said is something that starts or ends with “I can’t.”  Ironically, I’d go into more details, but I can’t.  What’s said in group, stays in group and all that crap.

Though I will say one thing.  Two weeks ago she made a comment. I’d made a quip about something and she exclaimed “Oh now we’re seeing the REAL Siobhan!”  I just glanced in her direction and said “Nope, I’ve been here all along.”  She started to argue, and I ignored her for whatever was going on at the time, I think someone else had been talking about one of their experiences.  But here’s what she is too self-absorbed to notice… Who I am doesn’t change.  Who people see doesn’t change. What they notice, does.  I watch. When I’m around people I don’t like, I’m much quieter.  When I’m angry I have several stages. One is, of course, yelling. One is crying.  One is seething silence.  That’s the scary stage.  If I don’t like someone I won’t tell them to piss off, or something.  I just won’t acknowledge them or to the best of my ability ignore them.  THAT is what she’s seen, that I’ve ignored her, that I’ve sat in silence observing everyone.  I have sat there mostly silent and absorbed who I like, who I don’t like, who I trust, who I don’t.  The thing that angers me the most? She crossed a line a few weeks ago, and I can’t pummel her for it.  And the fact that I haven’t shows that I’m growing.  … Or that I just can’t bring myself to beat old women with their pity-me sticks.  I haven’t decided yet.

Therapists On Parade

Fridays are therapy days for me, which means it’s supervised navel-gazing. I like my therapist. I trust her. If you need therapy or even just want it, don’t settle for less than that. And reach beyond what you think you want. I wouldn’t have chosen her at first glance. I mean, I knew there was no way I’d trust a male therapist, but this kid looks like I probably babysat her once upon a time. But she’s good for me. She was good at not making any sudden moves, she was good at settling my fears. She’s good at laughing at my jokes, and giving me space to cry.

Mostly she’s good about letting me tell her she’s full of shit, then chatting with me until I figure out she’s not full of shit, and never saying “I told you so.” So there’s that.

I’ve had other therapists. I’ve been aware for a long time that I’m fuckball nuts, that I have trust issues and that I tend far too much toward solitude. They weren’t all good therapists. There’s the one who, when I was a teenager, told my parents that I had sought out a therapist thus turning the drama in my life up to 11 when what I needed was just someone to vent to and with. She wasn’t licensed, by the way. She was a well-meaning “volunteer” at a teen crisis center, and she sucked ass. There was the therapist my parents took me to, the one I didn’t get a say in choosing. I have no idea if she was any good or not. I resented everything about the process (except doing inkblots, that part was cool… up until the shrink told my parents about it all and I realized I couldn’t trust her either). There were brief meetings, attempts at finding someone, but I never found anyone I could stomach. Eventually I gave up.

After my suicide attempt, they took me to the hospital in an ambulance. I honestly don’t remember much of that ride, mostly because I was still gorked out on pills I guess. I remember the moments of dark hilarity, like when they brought me lunch in the hospital. They had posted a guard to watch me, one that had a gun and everything. I remember thinking, what’s he gonna do if I try to kill myself? Shoot me? They took my clothes, took my shoes, took the drawstring out of the scrub pants they gave me… and then gave me a fork with my lunch. I couldn’t explain why I was laughing, though I was still crying at the time. The guard just chalked it up to me being fruitier than a nutcake, I guess, but I laughed my ass off. A fucking fork.

Anyway, therapists. There was a suicide counselor. Talk about professions named completely what they aren’t. She wasn’t there to advise me about suicide. She was an anti-suicide counselor. Why did you do it, how do you feel now. She was there to see if I was still a danger to myself or others. She was the one who got to decide if I got a 72-hour psych hold or not. Sometimes I wonder if I coulda lied my ass off and gotten out of there, but I don’t think so. I mean, I’m a good liar. I’m a really, really good liar.

But as it happened, I wasn’t in the mindset to lie. I was… To embrace the melodrama of a post-suicide hospital watch, I was In Despair. I didn’t want to be alive, I wasn’t happy to be alive. I wasn’t glad I’d been stopped. I was so angry that I had failed to kill myself, that I had fucked it up. I felt like I had blown my chance and now it would be just that much harder to do it right. I told the woman, calmly as I could while still crying, that she and I both knew that no one could stop me. The second they gave me an opportunity, I was going to try again and I’d get it right. I argued with her about why they stopped me, why they felt they could lock me up.

To what purpose, I wanted to know. What were they saving me for? It was my life to use or discard as I wanted. I hadn’t done anything massively destructive, I hadn’t even charged a police station with a gun to make someone else kill me. I had considered my options and chosen this path. It wasn’t up to anyone else to choose a different one for me. Naturally, she disagreed. Or rather, she said it was her job to keep me alive, not to debate the philosophy behind it, or even the morality of it. It didn’t matter if she agreed or not.

Yeah, so that’s how I ended up in the nut house. Enter my next set of therapists, the people at Snowden. I got lucky, y’know. I coulda ended up someplace worse. Here’s the thing about this facility: they weren’t there to make me better. They were there to give me a few days to come to my senses. If I didn’t get my feet under me, they would have transferred me to a more long-term facility. In line with that purpose, the therapy sessions weren’t real therapy. They were group therapy.

Group therapy in a psychiatric hospital, for those of you who don’t know, is the most pointless exercise in emotive bullshit one can experience, excepting group therapy out of a psychiatric hospital. We sat in a circle every morning. They’d go around and ask one by one how we felt, what our goals were for the day, and was there anything we wanted to say. Then we got to do nothing until afternoon group activity, which was as awkward as it sounds, and then we had evening therapy where we got the same routine as morning except they asked us if we felt we’d accomplished our goals.

Here’s the thing, though. Once I stopped fighting it, it kinda worked. Kinda. In 72 hours, I learned how to give up control and let someone else help me. This, right here, is major for me. My entire life revolves around maintaining control and what I think will happen if I don’t. What happens if I let someone help. If I let people in. If I am not always strong, self-reliant, and super-capable. Or better stated, what happens if I let people see or even think that I’m not strong, self-reliant, and super-capable.

The first breakthrough happened because of a nurse there. I don’t know her name. I couldn’t sleep and we technically weren’t allowed out of our rooms after lights-out, but they let us as long as we were quiet. My psychiatrist hadn’t prescribed any sleep aids for me (dur), and I was unable to let go and sleep. A nurse came out to talk to me. She had a Jamaican accent. She soothed me like I was a friend, not a child. She made me a cup of chamomile tea. And she talked to me with that lovely voice. She helped me. I let her. I slept.

She’s one of the many reasons I’m alive. She should’ve been my first therapist.