Continue the Story

I wanted to write about the therapy session I had yesterday but a piece of news had shocked me so much last night that I feel it pertinent to address.

The mental health community has been rocked by the news that Amy Bleuel, the founder of Project Semicolon, has passed away from suicide. She had been an amazing advocate, a strong voice within the community against the stigma of mental health, a positive, and encouraging person to all those who struggle with suicide. So when the news came to me, I was shocked. Not only that she had passed, but that she had died from suicide.

I felt it ironic because just last night, when my temporary tattoo kit had arrived, I decided to tattoo my arm with a semicolon. When I have something tangible that I can see, touch, and read daily, it helps me keep going. So I figured if I had a tattoo of the semicolon, I’d be able to look at it and realize that my story isn’t over.

Then the news came.

It made me think.

I told my psychologist yesterday that sometimes I feel guilty for being an advocate, or for doing something contrary to what he and I have discussed because I know I shouldn’t beat myself up, I know I shouldn’t feel the way I do, etc, but I still end up in the anxious/depressed situation.
“S, sometimes I feel really guilty… I feel guilty because I hear your voice in my head saying, ‘Jules, these thoughts? They’re not your reality. They’re just thoughts. They’re fleeting, which means they won’t stick around for very long. But they don’t define your reality’ and I think to myself, ‘S’ is right. Why am I moping then? Why can’t I stop moping? Why do I want to just die?’ and I feel guilty,” I’d said to him.
He sat up. He always pays extra attention when I talk about something that relates to our therapeutic relationship. He’s always very conscientious of the fact that sometimes the things he says could affect me.
“Oh yeah?” He asked.
“Yeah… I feel guilty because I know that recovery isn’t a straight path upwards. That sometimes I may regress. I know that…”
As I said that, S smiled because I had answered myself. Recovery isn’t linear.
The news of Amy Bleuel’s passing gives a lot of clarity to the issue. It teaches me that every single day is a battle, and sometimes, you may lose but hopefully if you have a good support system, you’ll never have to consider losing. Or ever find yourself at a place where you could potentially do some serious harm.
 
It’s awful to lose someone to cancer, or a disease, or old age, or accidents, but how much more awful is it to lose someone to suicide? This is in some ways a wake up call because it’s telling us that if we don’t check in with the people we love or give them our support, we may lose them forever.
 
All it takes is for one person to say “I care” to the person struggling with depression, for them to realize that they are worthy of love, and life. All it took for me were people who cared. The staff at CAPS had been that for me, but since then, my support system has grown. I’ve slowly learned to start loving myself as well through that.
I know what it’s like to stand in the dark, feeling like I’m all alone and that my only choice is to kill myself. And now, I also know what it’s like to be in the dark, but then have someone reach out their hand to me to walk me back to the light. Knowing these two sides, I really want to encourage anyone and everyone who is reading this to reach out to their loved ones, to let them know how much you care for them.
If you’re hurting, afraid, or need someone to talk to, please reach out. Someone will reach back. Please stay. You are so deeply valued, so incomprehensibly loved—even when you can’t feel it—and you are worth your life. You can reach the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255, Trans Lifeline at 877-565-8860 (U.S.) or 877-330-6366 (Canada), or The Trevor Project at 866-488-7386. If you’d like to talk to a peer, http://warmline.org contains links to warmlines in every state. If you don’t want to talk on the phone, you can reach Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741. (**Note: I stole this from Facebook, from Dese’Rae Lynn Stage)
RIP, Amy Bleuel, you have made an impact to many – and I was one of them.

Still Fighting

So it has been quite a hot minute since I last wrote anything here, huh?

Well, I’m still alive.

I’m still anxious. Still depressed. And still ADHD. Those thing have not changed, and I don’t think will ever change. I think I’ve finally come to terms with that and have decided instead to take each day as it comes.

That said, I’ve been really busy with school, mostly because I am a such a slow programmer that the last time I had a Data Structures assignment, it took me an entire 2 weeks to finish programming it when it took my friend less than an hour to do the same thing (then again, C has been coding for a year more than I have, and he spends at least 60 hours of coding a week. While I spend maybe 10… Or less…). So really, my busy-ness is merely due to my lack of skills, and knowledge.

Due to that, I haven’t been able to log in to WordPress to write or read anyone’s blog. 😦 I’ve missed the mental health community here in the blogverse. I’ve been wondering how everyone’s doing – especially Q, This.Shaking, skinnyhobbit and PaperDoll. I think about these wonderful people often enough.

Not writing in my blog makes me miss my advocacy work – I have recently been way more active as a Peer Educator but since a lot of our programs lately have been on sexual health, and sexual violence, I haven’t really been talking about mental health as much. Also, I’ve been feeling guilty about my recovery progress – of the times when I’ve slipped up and regressed, of the times when I’m less than a model Peer Educator, or the times when I don’t seem to embody the message I want to share.

Other times, I feel guilty for being better. I think I feel that way because then it’s like others see me as somehow “more successful”. But then again, I’m pretty sure I’m just projecting.

S and I have been continuing our work, and lately, I’ve been getting paranoid about termination, merely because I feel like I’m getting better, so that must mean I don’t need therapy anymore. The child is still in there, still scared. Despite realizing that she has the capability of being strong, and moving on, she’s still scared. She still wants S.

On that front, therapy has been going well enough. I am still dealing with the aftermath of the divorce, but it has been months since I’ve cried over the ex. It’s also been a while since I last spoke to him. I cut all ties with him some months ago (I don’t even remember when!) but from time to time, I still think of him, of the things that have happened, and of some of the better times we’ve had. Yesterday, I stumbled upon an old album that had all kinds of photos of us and for the first time in months, I broke down and cried seeing it. Then, after seeing it and feeling all at once angry, hurt, disgusted, and sad, I deleted all the photos that had him in it. It was painful to do it but the more I deleted, the easier it was to face the pain. This incident merely reminded me of the fact that this rip in my heart will probably never fully heal. There will be scar tissue, which means that I’ll probably always hurt whenever the scar tissues get aggravated. Thankfully, they don’t get aggravated all that often.

I’ve also been working hard in group therapy. Ever since I spoke up and told people how I actually feel about them, I have not been able to stop. It is almost like an addiction now – to say, “To be honest… This is how I feel…” and just say my mind. It feels great every single time because of how liberating it is not to have to keep secrets. The response from my group members have been positive, and it has helped me see that conflict, when avoided, often brings pain when not resolved. And that despite how uncomfortable it is to confront someone about something, it’s also equally uncomfortable to hold it inside. I have also learned that if you tell the truth, and give people the chance to tell their truth, and then both of you decide to give each other a chance, then things will work out.

T, the co-facilitator, told S of my progress in group. According to S, he expressed his awe, and admiration at my courage, and how hard I’ve been pushing myself in group. He also told me in person in the last session how excited he is to see my progress, and how happy he is every time I open my mouth to offer my opinion. He asked me if I now feel burdened by this – my answer was yes. I feel some pressure to perform – to be courageous all the time. To always be vulnerable, to always face my fears. It is stressful because now that I know I can do it once, I know I can do it again – but I don’t always want to. And that is another uncomfortable feeling I have to live with.

On the more personal front, my relationship with Cherie has been going well. We had our first huge fight recently that felt very scary and threatening to me due to how I always blame myself whenever a conflict arises, and how fearful I am at a loss of connection. Instead of letting the conflict tear us apart though, we were able to work things out. It is becoming clearer to me how much I love this woman, and how much she means to me.

I sometimes freak out though because of how I just don’t know how to do relationships – so being in a stable, and mature relationship with Cherie unnerves me because I don’t really know how to be. For 8 years, I was a certain kind of partner but that is me at my utmost dependent, weak, and whiny state. Now that I’m with someone who works hard on her mental health, and is a strong independent woman, I keep doing things that I find to be annoying such as being whiny, child-like, and dependent. I drive her insane sometimes because I can’t stop asking her if things are okay between us. I push and push and push because I feel insecure.

S and I have been talking about this a lot too – we discovered that I have such deep separation anxiety that it makes me so clingy. However, S has been reminding me for the past 3 weeks that I need to be kinder to myself and not immediately call myself names like, “Childish”, “Weak”, “Loser”, but rather recognize that uncomfortable feeling of being in conflicts, or the uncomfortable feeling of feeling like something’s wrong in the relationship when there really isn’t, and embrace that; hold the pain in my mind, and sit with it.  That has definitely been happening a lot more for me than it has ever been. Whenever I am aware of my issues, I try to sit with whatever uncomfortable feeling it is that have brought me the issues.

I really miss posting here because this is a space where I can word vomit, and not be judged for it. I can provide as much context as I want. I can speak freely and express my thoughts and feelings. It helps me process my feelings, and situations. I think not being able to write here has been detrimental to my progress because I haven’t really had a way to express all the pent up analysis that goes on in my head – and when I share the thoughts with Cherie, it often ends up at a point where I get super clingy. This blog is my space to just blah, without any expectations that anyone is even going to read it. And that’s fine because I think this blog keeps me sane.

Anyway… Overall, I’d say that I’m well enough. I might still have suicidal ideations but at least, the degree in which I’d act on them have definitely decreased. S is keeping an eye on my mental health. Cherie, and I are also doing the same. My group members have been supportive, and while I still have trouble in school, I am feeling a little better about programming because I feel like I’m slowly starting to understand some things. Unless there’s a huge trigger, I am usually feeling much better than I have been 3 or 4 months ago.

I think I’ll visit here more whenever I can. It really does free up a lot of mind space in my head when I write all my analysis, thoughts, and feelings down. So I hope all of you reading are well, as well, and I hope that I can have some time to check out the things you guys have all been up to as well then.

Much Needed Update

I know I’ve disappeared from here for a while. I didn’t want to but everything was too overwhelming to handle. I’m glad that 2016 is about to end. It’d been quite an awful year for me. 

Although extremely challenging, I’d definitely grown a lot as a person. I’d like to believe that I’m much stronger than I was before. I’m now able to recognize my positive traits – able to self validate a little better than I used to – and somewhat be okay with being who I am. 

School had finally let out for the semester so my greatest stressor for the past couple of months is gone for now. I ended up doing very badly in school and my cumulative GPA of 3.83 dropped to a 3.332 because this past semester, I’d gotten a D for Calculus, C- for Computing 2 and a C for Discrete Computational Structures for a total GPA of 1.733. I nearly didn’t sit for my Calculus final because I was so discouraged, and I barely did anything for my Computing final project. I’d been a consistent D student in Discrete as well throughout the semester. It’s a wonder I managed a 60/100 in my final exam! 

I definitely could’ve done better but at the same time, I had been so overwhelmed by my divorce, my sudden increase in bills which led to a serious financial problem, my juggling 3 jobs, my struggle with reconciling my faith and my sexual orientation, my suicidal ideations, and my lack of time to do any homework or studying, it’s a wonder I’m still alive. 

It’s hard for me to ditch my perfectionism trait. It causes me untold amounts of anxiety, but I can’t help it. I can’t stop the critical voice in my head that perpetually reminds me that I’m unworthy, I’m no good, I’m a loser, I’m not smart enough, and I’m a bad girlfriend. To be honest, I’m surprised that I feel at peace with my grades. I thought I’d be wracked with guilt but strangely, I feel okay. I think this is probably because I see my victory against my suicidality to be a major achievement, and so because of that, not getting good grades doesn’t seem to serious. 

Anyway, so I finally have some time to write an update. So school’s out for the next couple of weeks for the holidays. I’ve been spending the past week and a half with Chérie and it’s been a blessing. She helps me affirm myself, and helps me see my worth and purpose. She also helps me overcome all the negative things that I’ve been told – by myself, and by others – which then leads to a better perspective of myself. 

Group therapy is also taking a break and will begin again in January. To be honest, I’m so glad for us to take a break. I’m tired of some of the conflict, tired of hearing the same stories from everyone, and I’m also tired of my own self-imposed savior tendencies. It’s a relief to be able to not work so hard. 

My sessions with S have been more insightful than usual lately, perhaps because we’re finally moving away from my suicidality. The biggest achievement I’ve been able to attain in this aspect has been the fact that I’ve been able to lower S from the high pedestal that I’d placed him on for the longest time. Through the interactions I’ve had with the CAPS staff in my work as a Peer Educator, through reading their social media updates, through speaking to the CAPS interns, as well as interactions with S outside of his office, I’d been able to see that my psychologist is just as human as everyone else. I was able to see a different perspective – one that affirms that S is highly trained and is able to help me most of the time, but that he’s also just as fallible as I am. 

Lowering S from the pedestal has been a good progress because now I can reduce the amount of time I loiter around the lobby. I don’t obsess over S anymore, the way I used to. I don’t walk by his office just to catch glimpses of him. I don’t have a desperate need to talk to him outside of our scheduled appointments weekly. I also don’t feel as dependent as I used to. I still like hearing him say nice things, and to validate me, but I no longer hang on to every word he says like they’re all the gospel of life. In this aspect, I’m able to feel less anxious about seeing or talking to S. 

Besides that, I’d also been much more accepting of my own sexual orientation. I got myself a ring that is in the colors of the bisexual flag and I wear it with comfort and pride.

​So, I don’t know what Chérie and I were talking about recently but it ended up with her making the quip, “You’re so gay!” to me indicating my preferences. I laughed because though I identify as bisexual, I do lean more towards the gay side of bi. That said, tonight she pointed out that gay women were often associated with carabiner clips with keys on their belt loops. It made me realize something. 

I started to realize that a lot of the things I gravitate to or like are things that seem very gay. I like carabiner clips, I like my wallet chain, I like leather cuffs, short hair, jeans, plaid shirts, and many more things associated with queer women! Heck, I was even a softball player in high school! 

As I came to this realization, I felt much more validated for how I’ve always been and what I’ve always been interested in. Suddenly, things clicked in my mind and I understood why I was the way I was when I was younger. Things made much better sense now. I feel less like a freak. 

Despite the fact that 2016 had been so difficult for me, I actually feel like things may be on the mend. At the very least, things in my life are starting to go back on an upwards climb toward the more positive side of recovery. Unless some huge, and drastic things happen in my life in the near future, I don’t anticipate things to dip for me. 

I’m still depressed – especially now during the holiday season (being reminded that I haven’t seen my family in 5 years is painful) – but I’m definitely much better at managing my emotions, as well as make positive progress. 

I’m also at Chéries’ parents’ home to celebrate Christmas So, that helps me feel less lonely, and less hopeless about not having family. 

I hope that I’ll be able to have a good rest of the year. Chérie has definitely been a much needed plot twist for my 2016 story and ever since we got together, my life’s trajectory had been positively uphill! 

As much as I can, I’ll try to be more consistent in my blogging habits. 

Happy holidays to everyone! If you’re not feeling this season, or have terrible you have no choice but to be around, please know that I know how you feel. Please don’t hesitate to call a crisis line, or to reach out for help! I’m also happy to chat should you need to. 

Be safe everyone! Have a wonderful time! 

Still Alive

Anyone who follows my Facebook, my blog, or knows me personally knows that I’ve been through a hellish year with processing the traumas of my life, processing a painful and messy divorce, battling suicidal thoughts and intents, battling self harming tendencies, processing my sexual orientation and what it means to be Christian despite it, dealing with the pain of intense self-shame, self-punishment, self-defeat, as well as experiencing all those feelings as I project them onto others, working two jobs while contributing as a Peer Educator, and struggling with financial issues.

At the end of the day, we’re on the cusp of the beginning of the final month of the year – I’m still here, after all that shit, I’m still fighting.

I’m going to fail all my classes – in retrospect, that shouldn’t add to more shame for me right?

Then why do I still keep feeling like I’ve wasted an entire semester doing nothing? – Even though, I’ve done more in this semester where my mental health is concerned than I’ve ever done in my life.

The critical voices in my head need to stop.

After all the shit, I should get a medal for still being here. What are 3 F’s in a transcript compared to how I’m still alive?

Lessons in Recovery

“I know from the way you stroke my hair, the way you talk to me, the way you look at me, that you really love me,” Chérie said to me yesterday as we laid in bed.

That made my heart melt. As someone who constantly feels like I’m never enough for anyone, it made me realize just how my girlfriend – and also others – see me. Just from the things I do, and the things I say to her, she could tell that I cared about her greatly.

Although my school life has been a huge mess lately, being with Chérie has brought a different kind of clarity and stability to my personal life – this has made it a lot easier for me to deal with the distressing situation that school has become.

I was lucky enough to have gotten the weekend off from work that I was able to spend almost a week with my beloved at her apartment. Her family even invited me for Thanksgiving and I got to meet her parents, and some extended family. Although nerve-wrecking because this was the first time meeting them, I also settled in comfortably without much difficulty shortly after. It was the kind of ease that I never got from meeting my ex’s family.

I was supposed to leave for home tonight but I found that I couldn’t. I had been crying the whole day today because I didn’t want to leave. The pain of separation from Chérie for the next 2 and a half weeks was great and unbearable. I am glad that she’s strong enough for both of us to not cry with me because that would have made it even harder.

I finally decided on a compromise – I would leave at 5am tomorrow morning instead, to make it in time for my shift at the MAC. This has given me a few more precious hours with her. My friend, El, told me that though it’s hard, it must also be a great feeling knowing that there is someone amazing I could look forward to seeing. She’s right. I never looked at it from that perspective because I’ve always just been so used to seeing life from gray-tinted glasses.

The changes that Chérie has catalyzed for me in my life has been so drastic that I really just can’t imagine life without her anymore. I know that I am so much better than I was just a month ago. Even S has noted that several times – telling me how proud he is of me and of the changes I’ve made in my life.

Last session, he asked, “Do you think you could’ve done the same a year ago? Maybe even 6 months ago?”

I shook my head as soon as the words left his lips. “No! No way!” I responded almost immediately. “I couldn’t have done this a year ago… Not even 6 months ago. I feel different. And I can see that I have come a long way…”

“You have!” S said, smiling. “I’m so proud of you!”

His words made me smile. It made me feel proud too – I am proud of myself for how far I’ve come. I know that he and I have done a lot of hard work – he would also often remind me that most of the hardest work was done by me – but I also know how much Chérie has helped catalyze things for me as well.

Most of the hardest work in my recovery happened over the course of a year and a half with S. However, not even a week after I met Chérie, I had managed to take all the groundwork that S and I have laid down and made leaps and bounds of progress. It’s amazing just how one person can make a difference in your life.

Despite that, I am still struggling with many more things – there are days when I still wish that my marriage had worked out; that I didn’t have to struggle as a bisexual person; that I didn’t have to struggle with understanding my faith and the judgments I’ve had to deal with; that I didn’t have to feel so insecure about myself and what I have to offer. It’s just that despite the struggles, I am able to work past them – with Chérie by my side, I am able to let myself see the positives that she sees of me. She’s able to help me accept who I am, and learn new skills to cope with life as a non-neurotypical person.

The last 5 and a half weeks that I’ve been with my girlfriend have been the best time of my life – not only have I been able to learn to value myself more , I’ve also learned that it’s much easier to go through difficult times when you have someone to help you. Through it all, I’ve also learned that it’s okay to still struggle and that recovery doesn’t mean that everything is 100% fixed.

I’m thankful for this amazing woman in my life. I am sad that in just a few hours I’ll be packing up to leave, but I also know that like El has said, I have someone incredible to look forward to seeing again in a few weeks’ time.

Another Update

I know some of you have been worried about me because I haven’t been active on WordPress or written in my blog.

Things have been a whirlwind of intense emotions. I’m sometimes very distressed and depressed, and then other times feeling okay, feeling “fine”.

The only good news I have for myself right now is that things are well in my personal life – with Chérie, things have progressed smoothly with us since the last update. I had gotten a chance to meet her for the first time and we behaved as though we’d known each other our whole lives. She makes me feel so appreciated, so loved, and so encouraged. It’s a foreign feeling (being happy) that I’m trying to cope with and accept.

School has been my main source of stress and a huge downer. I’m failing.

I didn’t realize how badly I had needed a semester off until now that I’m about a month away from the end of school. Finals are creeping up and I don’t know if I can pass all my classes. I’m not utilizing my time very well either because despite my anxiety over my grades, I really don’t want to do anything. It’s almost like I can’t do anything.

S and I have been talking about my relationship these past few weeks (which is why I haven’t written any Thoughts From Therapy posts – I figured, who really wants to hear about all that, right?). This week though, I’m going to have to steer us back to my school struggles. I’m really experiencing intense depression – the kind where you don’t want to get out of bed, and you don’t have energy for anything, and food doesn’t taste good, and sleep is restless – all because of school.

I’ll write again sometime – for now, thank you for all those who have been asking how I’ve been. You guys help keep me going because I realize that there are people out there who care about me.