I could feel a panic attack coming this afternoon because all my assignments are piling up and I’m starting to realize how behind I am since all I’ve been focused on lately has been to deal with my emotional problems and mental health.
I haven’t been doing any Calculus homework and I’ve really just been slacking on that while I try to catch up with my interior design classes which are project intensive and trying to catch up on my programming class which is not only project intensive but also mind bendingly difficult for someone like me who is more artistically inclined than scientifically inclined.
Trying to wrap my head around how much I’ve been struggling while trying to do well in school has been adding to my already full plate. Since this blog is semi anonymous, I can’t really talk about the things I’ve been struggling with in a more explicit way without giving away names and identities so I’ve been struggling with just trying to connect with people as well. Overall, as you guys who visit my blog can see, life has just been haywire for me lately.
When I’m alone, negative thoughts spiral out and keep me in a constant loop of self defeat which leads to suicidal thoughts because I back myself up into a tight corner and leave myself with no options. When I can’t see options, I start losing grasp of rationality.
So I made myself walk to the Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) building, all the while, “mother” kept telling me that I was weak and that I was getting too dependent on the services. I self doubted all the way, as usual.
When I got to CAPS, D looked at me in an almost sympathetic manner whilst remaining her usual cheerful self. She gave me the BHM survey and as I entered my emotional state on the iPad, I continued to question my presence at CAPS.
Sure, I was starting to breathe heavily. Sure, I was starting to panic… But did I really need to be there? The rational part of me knew I should.
When J came out to greet me, I was somewhat relieved to know that the psychologist I’ll be seeing today is someone I had previously seen before for another walk-in session that I had come in for. I was suicidal and self harming then, I’m suicidal now but thankfully the self harming has stopped. He had also given me some amazing insight the last time, by pointing out that I’ve been in a self punishing loop so I knew that I was in good hands.
A few moments after we settled in, I explained why I was there and told him that I was feeling close to a panic attack. I realized that he was observing my physical symptoms, which I was not showing much of. He then asked me what I needed from this session today.
The first words out of my mouth was, “I don’t know. I guess maybe I just want someone to tell me that I’m not crazy… I feel like I’m going crazy! I’m losing it… Maybe I just need someone to talk to… Maybe it’s a combination of both…”
J responded, “Well, when someone says that someone is crazy, what they’re really saying is that they don’t get that person. That they don’t understand them… So when you say you’re crazy, you’re saying that you don’t get yourself. You don’t understand yourself…”
I nodded. I wasn’t sure where he was going with what he said but decided that I would push on with the venting portion of all my walk-in sessions.
I started telling him of how many emotional issues I’m going through right now and that all of them are affecting my studies and concentration. I lamented that it’s only today that I realized that I am behind on work, especially in Calculus.
In an effort to try and understand my pain, he asked that I share a little more of my emotional struggle. I had been pretty vague about it until now because I really didn’t feel like explaining everything all over again for the third time (first time was when I spoke to S while the second was with B). But I obliged because I knew that J was trying to understand why I was so distressed. So I listed off, in as much of a nutshell as I could, about 6 things that I’m currently experiencing – one with school stresses mounting as all final projects are now being handed out, two with all the things that S and I have recently been discussing that’s been triggering issue 3, 4, 5 and 6 and issues 2-6 are actually pretty serious things that could happen in a person’s life – things that would definitely rock someone’s world if even one had happened to them, but for all 5 to happen at once? I don’t even know how I’m able to get up out of bed in the morning some days.
After letting me talk for a while, I ended up talking about how my suicidal thoughts have been getting more intense. I told him that two days ago, when I was in a more stable mood as I thought about my recovery journey, I realize that I have no choice but to keep going in my recovery. It was a positive thing two days ago but today, my mind twisted it and harped on the “no choice” portion of the sentence. At the same time, I also thought about how I have no choice but to work since I needed money to pay bills and survive, I also have no choice but to finish school and get as good a grade as I can because I don’t have unlimited funds to retake classes which also meant that I can’t possibly fail Calculus (even though all I want to do right now is give up on Calculus). I told him that I just feel like I am left with no choice – and suicide is a very attractive option because it’s one way I can have a choice. One thing I can actually control amidst all the chaos.
He told me that he does see why I would feel that way. His voice tone and expression indicated that he shared my pain after I described what I’m going through emotionally. “From my experience, suicide is often seen as a way out when there is no other choice. So one way we can overcome that is by looking at what other choices we have. To present even one will help you overcome that feeling like you have none…”
I nodded. It made sense.
After that, I started to explain to him that I hear a critical voice in my head all the time, calling me names and telling me bad things about myself so much so that trying to self-validate is a difficult task because “mother” always would interject and negate anything positive that has been self-affirmed.
“Sounds like an asshole!” J said. I nodded.
He later, jokingly, told me that if I’d like to leave the critical voice behind in his office, he’d babysit it for me. We both laughed as he lamented, “If only it were that easy, huh?” I nodded, wishing that it really would be that easy.
As we talked a little more, he asked me what my plans were for the rest of the week and if I had anything big coming up. I told him that I have work and school – which really accounts for most of my life lately. He then asked me what my day would look like today and I explained that at 3.00, I would have Computing class which I couldn’t miss because I had to present an elevator pitch for my final project, then it would be Calculus at 6.00, and then a shift at the Math Assistance Center at 8.00 after which hopefully, home.
He looked thoughtful as he responded, “You know. You sound very rational. What you’ve shared with me today and what you’ve told me so far have all been coherent, well thought out and easy to follow. I remember the last time we spoke, you were very easy to follow and easy to understand. You would talk about your experiences, then explain why you think you felt that way, and then followed through by connecting those experiences with the other experiences you’re going through. Apart from a few clarifying questions, I didn’t need to redirect you or stop you midway or really help you much… You’re very rational. So I don’t think there’s any ‘crazy’ here at all…”
I didn’t understand it then that he meant that he was responding to the first thing I told him that I needed from him (which was someone to tell me that I’m not going crazy) so I said, “Yeah… I do sound rational don’t I? That’s what’s frustrating. I’m very good at hiding how I really am feeling. Most people won’t even know what I’m going through inside or even notice that anything’s wrong. If I died by suicide today, I can tell you that everyone would be shocked as to why – because I sound so rational and sane…”
“Yeah, you definitely don’t present as someone who is going through a psychotic break. So you shouldn’t worry at this point, Jules. You’re not ‘crazy’. And really, what does that even really mean, right?”
I started to understand that he wasn’t trying to dismiss or undermine all the pain I’m going through and that he’s not trying to minimize my problems by telling me that I’m so rational. At first, I thought he was. But I realized then that he was trying to answer my first request and to comfort me.
J then asked, “I know this might not be something you can answer… But what do you think you’d like to ask yourself through the rest of this week? What would you like to understand more of?”
“Now that you mentioned the rationality part… I’d like to ask myself, why? Why am I so rational when I’m with someone else? When I’m here? Why am I so rational when I’m in here with you? I wasn’t just an hour ago. I don’t understand this! I don’t understand why I would just lose it when I’m not talking to someone. Why I just get stuck in the rut and I can’t get out of it when I’m all by myself? Why can’t I self-validate and not rely on CAPS so much?” I blurted, almost all in one breath. I was somewhat angry at myself. Angry that I am able to be so rational (and so seemingly present as “fine”) when I’m talking to someone else but I can’t hold myself together to not do self-harming things when I’m alone.
As I hashed that out, I realized that whoever I’m talking to (lately it’s been the staff at CAPS), has been the anchor in which the rational side of me can reach out to, connect with and focus on to restabilize and organize my thoughts. I shared that realization with J and he seemed amused.
“Yeah all you needed was some organizing, Jules… Man, that was easy!” he said, jokingly and we both laughed. “That was so simple wasn’t it?” he said as he acted like he was putting things on an imaginary shelf. I laughed more, the first time I laughed today.
“Yeah, I feel like things were just a train wreck in my head. And after talking to you, I’m now able to organize them better. I’m now seeing that all the things are falling apart in my head and before I was struggling trying to grab everything before they hit the floor. But I realize now that Calculus is already broken on the floor, so what’s the point of saving that? But hey, I’m now able to grab a few more things and hang on to those…” I said, as I imagined in my mind, trying to grab a bunch of eggs that are falling from a basket on a shelf and seeing that all of them are falling all around me as I try to grab them all. I realized then that I can’t save everything. That some things have to break. “B said to me last week, ‘Isn’t it more of an achievement if you looked back at this semester and realized that you were able to fight to stay alive? Rather than fighting to get good grades?’ I guess she’s right. I think I’m giving up on Calculus. I can’t possibly do it all. Especially not with all the mental things I’m going through, right?”
J nodded, smiling in agreement at what B had said.
“Yeah… I guess, I just needed to come in and talk to someone so that they can be my anchor. I think this is why I need people so much. So that my rational side can have someone to reach out to and hang on to – or someone to focus on and walk towards amidst the storm that’s going on right now. You guys are my anchor right now,” I said, meaning the CAPS staff.
It was 2.45pm when I got to that point. I felt much calmer, my voice was no longer shaky and I started to feel better.
“So it looks like you’re at a better place… Is there anything else you’d like to add before I let you go to class?”
“Well, I just want you to know that I’m thankful for you. I’m so thankful for CAPS and so thankful that I’m able to come in as much as I can. In the recent survey that CAPS sent out, I gushed about how great CAPS has been for me and how differently life would’ve turned out had I not sought out help and gotten the great help that I have had from here!”
“Well now, you’ve just made my day a little better to hear that I’ve been such a help to you!” J said.
“Yeah you have been. Everyone has been here. I have never had a single negative experience here and I’ve seen quite a few of you here from how many times I’ve been in here for walk-ins…”
“I’m glad that you’re able to have some good sessions here… Especially since there are bad therapists out there…”
“Yeah I know. I feel thankful that I’ve been able to talk to some really good people here… And yes, I’ve heard of all the horror stories. I’m so glad that I have nothing but positive experiences here… So thank you…”
We ended there and with my spirits a little lifted and my mind in less of a panic, I walked out the door – certain that I’ll be ok, at least for the rest of this day. We’ll take one day at a time right? At least I know that I’ll be able to seek help whenever I need it and I’m comforted to know that. Tomorrow is group therapy; I hope I won’t withdraw from it like I’ve been doing lately.
I forgot to mention that J also said to me, “You’re not crazy at all and I don’t think you’ll go crazy very soon since you’re so clear and rational. You’re just as resilient as the last time I met you and you’re still the same person I knew. Not crazy at all!”
“Resilient… You’re the second person to tell me that… S told me that a while ago… And it’s so hard to believe but you’ve just said it again.”
“Yeah, I haven’t talked to S about this so this is coming from me. We’re not corroborating or anything. In my eyes, you’re still kicking ass. Yeah, there may not be kick-ass days sometimes, but you’re still here. That’s saying something considering all that you’ve been through – and it sounds like you’ve been through quite a lot!”
It was nice to hear that. It was nice to know that I’m kicking ass and that I’m resilient. If I really sit down and think about it, I know he’s right. I have been through a lot – maybe more than one person should really have to handle but I am still here. I hope to be here tomorrow. And the day after… And so on. We’ll see.