People Care

“I want to die”

4 words I posted on Facebook that gained almost immediate attention from one of my coworkers and an old friend whom I’ve not seen in 5 years. It was touching.

In that moment when I posted it, I had meant it. I did want to die. I was overwhelmed and exhausted.

I had a Discrete Computational Structures assignment that I barely understood and therefore had barely done that is due on Wednesday. I also have 3 sections worth of Calculus homework to turn in. And on top of that a programming assignment that I hadn’t started yet. That was just a matter of school alone. On top of that, I was just so discouraged by the fact that I had gotten such terrible marks for my Calculus test – I was just so perplexed as to how I could get a 56. I thought I had a good grasp on limits.

I also didn’t think that my ex’s re-marriage was such a big deal to me – that is, until it happened and I was hit by the realization that I still hurt. Maybe not as much as I did before, but it’s still there.

So, in the heat of the moment, in my discouragement and despair, I posted that status on Facebook. Almost immediately, my phone rang. I was in class so I replied to the call with a message, “I’m in class, booboo”. I asked my coworker/friend if she needed something. She asked me if I needed anything or if I needed to talk. I told her that I was ok. That there’s nothing to talk about. I just have too much to do and too little time.

“Don’t push me away, Jules” – her message was insistent and clear.

“I’m not. At least I’m not doing it consciously. I guess I’m just pushing everyone away. I need to regroup somehow. I just don’t know how” – I’d responded.

“It’s ok. I understand you need your space. But when I see ‘I want to die’ on Facebook, the last thing I’m giving you is space. Push everyone away when you’re stronger. Not right now. You are wonderful and valuable, and your coworkers, your family, your friends, those who look to you for support, need you. You are needed and wanted. You’re always smiling. You have a natural smile, you don’t even have to work for it”

As I read her messages, tears welled in my eyes. I didn’t think I’d receive such sweet and kind words so instantly. I felt heard and almost immediately, that felt like enough. I was whining, and someone answered to the whines.

I know that I do have people who care about me. I know that – especially here on my blog, I know that there are those who would respond immediately to my posts. I also know that there are people in my life that I can rely on for comfort. Yet, my EQ hasn’t caught up with my IQ. Despite all this knowledge, the heart hasn’t learned it yet. The brain has, and the brain is frustrated with the heart.

Multiple people after the initial two responses I got, started posting supportive messages and it felt good to read them. Q, and PD, both sent me messages that I needed to hear – most notably, “Give yourself a break, take care of yourself”, which gave me something like an excuse to have ice cream today. I’m also going to turn in for bed early without doing any homework.

I am burnt out. I need to be honest with myself on that. I am so burnt out that I’m barely functioning. I am honestly a zombie; just dragging my feet around campus, trying to keep awake in classes, trying to stay afloat.

Physically, I’m also not rested enough. Dark circles have formed under my eyes, my hair is some days very difficult to tame (because I desperately need a haircut), and my skin just looks tired, and pale. My nose had been bleeding for the past 2 days. I’m amazed that I hadn’t fallen asleep driving yet, like I used to back when I lived 30 minutes away from campus.

I’m just suffering on all the different aspects of life. I know I need a break and I promise myself (and everyone else who cares to know) that I will be taking a break 10 days from now. I can’t wait. I am going to go out of town and hopefully if all works out, be better rested when I come back.

It’s definitely something I have been looking forward to for maybe a month and a half now. The last time I was going to go out of town, my plans fell short so I’m not trying to be too hopeful this time.

Anyway… I called the Crisis Line yesterday. I am thankful that I did because the lady that spoke to me was very kind and empathetic. She and I spoke for 40 minutes or so (I had to be put on hold twice for about 5-10 minutes each time). She helped me feel a little better. Just having someone listen to me was definitely what I needed – to feel that human connection, to hear that person’s voice… It was comforting. I was skeptical at first and didn’t want to give it a chance because I hated speaking on the phone. I didn’t think that anyone could say anything that I hadn’t heard before. It turned out that despite having heard some of the things that the Crisis Intervention Specialist said, it didn’t sound condescending or old. In fact, hearing it from someone else who’s a complete stranger, felt really good. It just reaffirms what others have said to me.

I don’t think I’d have done anything harmful to myself – after all, I don’t have any more knives with me, and I’d surrendered my rope to S as well. I certainly wouldn’t have been able to go to bed without feeling terribly restless though.

The 4 words that I’d posted on Facebook was dramatic and probably unnecessary but it was a helpful reminder that people care. That I need to stop the knee-jerk reaction of pushing people away.

Renewed Passion

After the amazing experience I had at the Office of Health and Wellness Peer Educators’ Retreat, I’ve added one more thing that I could potentially do as a future career. I’m looking at different ways I can combine Computer Science with my other passions and I think I’ve got some ideas what I want to potentially do in the future.
Here are some of the ideas that I’m thinking about:
 
1 – Work for my Director at the MAC to develop technologies to aid in education and to build educational resources for the masses (schools, colleges, community learning centers, etc).
 
2 – Pursue my PhD in Computer Science Education and open a Computer Science Assistance Center using a similar model that the MAC is currently using – it’s super effective!
 
And now, 3 – Work for the Office of Health and Wellness Promotion to develop technologies to aid the Peer Educators as well as the campus, to develop apps/websites/other forms of computer tech to disseminate health and wellness related topics and data to campus citizens, and help coordinate the infrastructure for such reasons.
 
I know all of them sound ambitious but it all really boils down to my passion of wanting to make meaningful connections, to educate others in topics that are important to me, as well as further my passion for mental health advocacy.
Now, I’m not sure exactly how to do these things yet but at least I have an idea what I want to do. I want to make a difference in people’s lives in the educational aspect because the most meaningful time of my life has been when I was a college lecturer.
It’s also made me realize that I have made an impact on others – even if it was just for a day. And that to me is more priceless than money. It’s so important to me to know and to feel like I’ve contributed to society – even if it’s just the campus I’m in.
I know it’s going to be a tough journey because Computer Science is kicking me in the butt hard, but I also know that I’m going to work my hardest to make this a reality. This means that I’m going to have to work even harder than I have to help myself through my recovery. I’m still dependent on S, and hopefully someday that’ll change because I’ll have learned to rely on my own strengths, to practice self-care daily, to self-affirm, to self-love, and to keep growing.
After 8 painful months of suicidal thoughts, self-harm, severe depression, anxiety, and emotional turmoil, I hope that I can cope better and really commit to my recovery.

Peer Educator as Role Models 

​Volunteering and being accepted into the Peer Educator program has to be one of the best things that has happened to me at school because it’s motivating me to want to get better in my mental health. 

One of the expectations that the Office of Health and Wellness Promotion (HWP) have is that all Peer Educators should be role models for other students. So, with that in mind, it’s encouraging me to want to practice self care and to maintain my health and wellness! 

I’ve not been wanting to get better for the longest time. A part of me still really doesn’t and is still resistant. But… After an entire afternoon and evening of talks, planning, and team building exercises, I’m becoming more open to the idea of being okay with getting better. 

I think I’m becoming less afraid of the idea of being better. I’m becoming more confident that I’ll be okay being a strong, independent, well trained, and intelligent woman. That I don’t need to have a partner in life to inform me of what I need to do or how I should think and live. That I’ll be fine by myself. 

I’ll post more once I’m back home in civilization where the Internet is not the speed of a dial up connection and where there is phone reception but I couldn’t sleep until I post this short reflection. 

I saw a shooting star tonight and the night sky looks beautiful with all the stars that I can’t normally see because of all the light pollution. So, right now, my anxiety is not as strong and I’m feel much calmer. It’s really nice for the Office of HWP had decided for our retreat to be out here in a recreation camp site! It’s good for me to get away from the city from time to time. 

Change Is Paralyzing

Change is terrifying.

I think anyone and everyone can attest to this.

No one likes change (not initially anyway) and for someone like me, who has been through a lot of traumatic times in my life, who struggles with separation anxiety disorder and a deep sense of abandonment through various periods of my life, change is downright debilitating. At times, I am so overwhelmed by the sheer notion of change that I am paralyzed with fear.

I don’t fear death. I don’t fear injuries. I fear change. I fear abandonment. I fear above all else, the sting of loneliness that no physical presence can cure – the kind of loneliness that happens only when no one cares about you.

So with the change comes all those fears.

Whenever something in my life changes, I fight tooth and nail to hang on to what I know to be familiar.

Lately, familiarity has been forcefully thrown out the window as a result of many changes in my life. I know as a Christian I should rely on God as my rock but a lot of times, He feels so intangible that it’s hard for me to cling on to him. So instead, I cling on to things I can see, feel, hear, touch, smell – I know it’s fallible, yes, but it’s all I have right now so I’m going to have to go with it.

For one, S has been on vacation for the past 2 weeks and I’ve been really missing him. In his stead, he had appointed J to help mitigate my emotional instability. Last week, he helped me reason through my suicidality and this week, he helped me realize something important about the dependence I have on people (he helped me see that just because someone is no longer there physically in my life, that it doesn’t mean that they don’t still care for me, and that they don’t still have a connection to me – this was very important because lately I’ve been feeling like I’m unimportant in everyone’s lives because I can never get a hold of someone when I really need them. That my messages are often not responded to). Despite having J’s help, I really need S because he provides the familiarity that keeps me functioning despite my emotional instability.

I told J today that in an analogy of a someone trapped in a raging river that’s threatening to sweep them away, that S is actually like the rock in the middle of all that that the person can hang on to. In that analogy, I’m the person that’s trapped in the raging river – all my emotions are threatening to sweep me away. Most times, I contemplate suicide over facing these overwhelming emotions because it’s so much easier to stop feeling. Being swept away would mean giving up – letting the current take me. Having S keeps me steady. I slip time and time again but even if I still have on finger on the rock, I’m still hanging on. S is my rock. And having S on vacation means that temporarily, I have no rock to hang on to. I’m slowly getting swept away. J is like the errant vine that I hang on to temporarily while I try to get back on solid ground. Solid ground will be back next week – familiarity that I need. Every Wednesday, at 10am, I spend an hour with S. I watch him react to what I say, hear his words echoed in my head, feel his warmth and compassion, enjoy his attention and care.

I’ve been packing my things into boxes and I’m overwhelmed by the number of things that I’ve amassed in 4 and a half years of being here in the States. And these are things that I’ve already condensed from my previous moves. So for me to still have boxes upon boxes of things really irks me. I am agitated by the amount of things I have to consolidate – my mental energy being expended on nostalgic reminiscing, and into trying to organize and decide what to keep and what to throw.

I’m going to lose this familiarity pretty soon. I know it’s for the best. I am mature enough to realize that change is good. Yet, the child can’t. The child hates it. The child rued the day she moved from the home she grew up in and lived in for 6 years. She rued the day she moved from the second home she spent most of her childhood and teenhood in. She rues every single day she has to move. She is so deeply dependent on familiarity that any little thing that changes it upsets her greatly.

Anyway, I’m going through a lot of changes – things that I wish could slow down a little so that I can take a breath of air but the river doesn’t flow like that. The river is relentless and if I don’t learn to tread water, I’ll surely drown. I’m learning to tread water. Slowly, little by little, I’m gaining the strength to climb up onto the rock. Eventually, I’ll have enough strength to swim against the current and go to shore. Eventually, I won’t need the rock to keep me afloat any longer. Eventually, the rock will be the very thing that will help me gain enough footing and strength to leave it.

After my conversation with J today, and after learning that people are still there and they still care for me even if they haven’t talked to me for a while because there exist genuine connections between myself and these people, I was able to come home and start packing. I’ve been putting it off for 2 and a half weeks now.

I packed 3 boxes full of school material and books that I can’t get rid of, and now I’m taking a respite from the overwhelming emotions I’m experiencing. I had a moment of tears when I found the farewell card that my brother had written me 5 years ago when I left Malaysia – my heart felt torn to shred as I read his sweet words – but that was it, just one moment. I know I’m getting stronger. I can feel myself getting stronger. I am crying less lately. I don’t feel as overwhelmed as I did 2 weeks ago. The desire to end my life still lingers and comes out fully when triggered.

Yes, I did cut myself again this morning but that was after an intense trigger and I’d just reached for the hunting knife I’d kept in my pocket. I’d like to believe that I have more sense now – especially after speaking to J. This had happened at 11am this morning. Had I kept my appointment with J at the time that I was supposed to at 10am, I wouldn’t have done it, but because I had to push my appointment back to 4pm, I had no buffer for my sudden fear/anger/sadness. So I reached for the knife. Oh child, I wish I’d paid you more attention. I’m sorry that you felt like you needed to hurt me to get my attention. But it’s okay now. I’m listening. 

I have a much clearer state of mind now. After realizing that things with JS (Ex) were never meant to work out the way I had wanted it to (happily ever after), and that it’s ok that it didn’t, I’m much calmer. When J pointed out that it’s not his presence that I yearn, but rather the connection, and that his connection with me as the greatest friends anyone could ever have is genuine, I realized how selfish and blinded I’d been all this time.

I wanted him to be around – even if it meant that both of us were miserable in the process. That was what happened for years. I refused to acknowledge the fear that I had that was keeping us together. I refused to allow anything other than the notion of happily ever after to exist – even when it wasn’t happy. For the most part, it wasn’t ever happy. I lied to him. I lied to myself. I thought I was happy. I couldn’t figure out why I was always angry. Now I know.

It’s because change is paralyzing. Anything other than the notions that I’ve constructed for myself, I had nothing else going for me. Without this happily ever after, I was just a person struggling with her sexuality and her faith, I was just a shell of a person, I was just the person that tries hard to live up to everyone’s expectations and fails, I was just me. Without JS, I was just sad, and broken me.

I see now that my worth is not tied to anyone. That his worth is not tied to mine either. That just because our relationship didn’t work in the form of marriage, that it doesn’t mean that it doesn’t work in other forms. I have learned in the past few months that we’re better friends than we ever were as a couple.

I have also learned that just because I was married to him, it doesn’t mean that it took away all my struggles with my sexuality. In fact, it amplified it and made it all the more apparent that I was merely struggling to appear “normal”. If I could turn straight, I would. I think it’s what I’ve always wanted. To just fit in. To just be normal. The more I realize that I can’t do that, the more distressing it is. Believe me, no one wanted this marriage to work more than I did.

Change has come upon me and I need to accept that I can either be dragged away by it, kicking and screaming, or I can be cooperative, and have a good time with it, while learning important life strengthening lessons. The adult needs to convince the child that it’s ok to choose the latter because the people who matter the most to me, will still be there for me because of connections that are genuine.

The child needs to also realize that her favorite person in the world, S, will be back next week. So calm the heck down, child!

Thoughts From Therapy – #72 – Growth and Progress

I can’t  believe how much I’ve changed and grown as a person since starting therapy last year.

The Jules last year would have freaked out, felt thoroughly ashamed, beat herself up, and be devastated had she heard what S told me yesterday because the last-year-Jules was a different person then.

When I walked in to therapy yesterday, S quickly said, “So before we get started, I wanted to mention something real quick. And I really appreciate you bringing me Starbucks multiple times but it’s probably we need to… Keep a lid on it for now. I don’t want to be like, shaming you or anything. It’s really not a big deal…”

I had been bringing him Starbucks quite a few times lately. It’s more because I’m trying to show him gratitude for his hard work more than anything.

“No no no… Gotcha… I know. Yeah, it’s not a big deal either you know? But yeah, gotcha!” I said. I started to feel heat creep up my neck. I wasn’t necessarily feeling embarrassed or ashamed but I do have seemingly automatic physical responses to embarrassing moments even if I’m not fully experiencing that feeling at that time. It’s really strange. I didn’t know if S noticed or not. If he had, he might think that I was just lying.

“And again, I… I really appreciate the sentiment behind it. There’s really not any guidelines about that sort of thing… But just kinda a general consensus is, it’s like, on a regular basis, just…”

“Right! Right… Gotcha!” I said, interjecting because I was feeling uncomfortable with the situation.

“Yeah…” S said. I knew what he meant, and he knew that I knew. “Any reactions or…?”

“No. I think that, that it’s good that you mentioned it,” I said. To be honest, I had started to wonder how many more times I could do what I was doing before I would be told to stop. I’m actually glad that I’m told to stop – only because I keep spending money when I probably should be saving.

“Okay. As long as you’re cool with that…” S said. He seemed a little uncomfortable, bringing up the subject. It’s funny how sometimes we both act so uncomfortable and awkward around each other despite having worked on such an intimate level for a year and a half now. “In that case, how have things been going?”

I for one was glad that we were done with that initial topic and was able to talk about what was really burdening me for the past week. That said, I wasn’t trying to be dismissive on purpose. I think I still need to work on being able to handle uncomfortable situations.

I explained to him today, as we saw each other again for the second time this week, that I really didn’t feel ashamed when he told me not to bring him anymore Starbucks. I told him that every time that I did, I was feeling good after therapy and when I feel good, I want others to feel the same – so I always try to do nice things for people. One of the ways I show my love and appreciation is through buying people things. So the Starbucks, I told him, was really just an extension of that. I wasn’t in any way trying to control or manipulate him in session. I wasn’t trying to make him feel like he owes me more than he does to his other clients. As I told him all that, I realized that I was calm.

I told him that if this had happened last year, last-year-Jules would have been so devastated to hear that he wouldn’t accept any more gifts. Last-year-Jules would’ve considered it a sign of rejection and she would’ve withdrawn, which would’ve affected the course of the therapeutic journey. I told S that I feel much more mature, much more secure in our therapeutic relationship. It seemed to me that I now consider him my partner and though I still deeply respect him, look up to him, and still adore him, he’s no longer on my pedestal as he used to be. I now see him as a regular guy who works just as hard as I am in therapy. I’m still curious about him – like how old he is, why he decided to work in a college instead of starting his own practice, where he lives, if he uses social media and stuff like that – but I’m not as desperately dependent on him as I used to be.

I’m not independent yet either but I’m at a spot where I know I am depending on him but at the same time, I’m no longer ashamed that I am and that I’m ok with the fact that I have to use him as a crutch for now until I can walk on my own. I’m not there yet. We both know that. And he’s even told me before how it’s ok to not be there yet.

I told him all that today. I told him my observations. “I feel like I still have that really great respect for you. I still look up to you and think highly of you. But it’s less desperate…”

“Less desperation. Less dependence even…” S said, “It’s interesting. It’s almost paradoxical. Sounds like last year I was more up on that pedestal but there was actually more desperation and less trust on your part…”

“Yeah, more fear,” I added. It really took me a long time to trust S enough to be truly vulnerable with him.

“More fear, okay. And so now, I guess there’s more of a partnership. But you don’t idolize me, there’s less desperation, I’m not as on the pedestal…”

“Yeah, I have quite a lot of difficulty with accepting that you’re just as human as I am… Whenever I get those drinks at Starbucks though, I’m just doing it like I would any other friend. I get 4 every single time – ok, one for myself, one for CG, one for D because I really like her, and oh, one for S. If I had done that last year, it would have been like ‘This is a gift, this is a big deal. If you don’t take it, I’m going to be so ashamed’ but it feels different this time. It’s more like, ‘Wow, that was a great session! I feel great right now! I want to do something nice!’ almost like a, ‘Hey you worked really hard with me today. Here’s a little something. It’s not a big deal. It’s not to ask for favors, but it’s more like I feel good. So I want to pass it along. Pay it forward I guess…'”

He then said something that I wasn’t expecting. He said, “As you’re saying this, I wonder if I haven’t been giving you enough credit. Or I haven’t seen as much of a progress. And what I mean by that is, I was kinda nervous about talking to you about this because I thought to myself, ‘Oh no… She’s going to be devastated or ashamed or something if I bring this up’. I was worried about what it would be like for you when I go on vacation. But hearing you talking, it sounds like you’re farther along than I thought! You’re less dependent on me than I thought. That feels really good for me to hear! I wish I had given you more credit!”

I wasn’t expecting that at all because that was just another reminder that the psychologist that I used to put on a pedestal before is also as fallible as I am – that sometimes, he does make mistakes, that sometimes despite his years of experience, he does overlook things. And he admitted that he overlooked my progress – that I am a little more stable than he had thought I was.

I did explain though that though I can be very positive and calm, the child also takes control away from the adult very quickly whenever triggered. So I can go from telling him how I’m starting to depend on him less to telling him that I desperately need to see him again tomorrow in a matter of moments. Yes, there is definitely progress but there is also definitely setback.

“You’re talking to the adult right now,” I reminded S. “The child is in her room right now. She’s not out and so the adult can take control”

I’m not trying to negate the progress I’ve made but rather just to face the reality that I am struggling with myself on a daily basis. As we talked about that more and also hashed out some things I could do for myself while he is gone for vacation for the next two weeks (Boo!!), I realized just how far I’ve come. I’ve still got a ways to go ahead but wow, I am amazed.

Since the adult is still in control right now, I can continue to be positive about this day despite the fact that I was still hit with negative things that triggered the child. I hope that someday, I’ll be able to get the child to trust the adult and that for once, all three selves will come together and be truly united.

For now, I’ll take whatever good and positive moments I can get!

Oh, uh, and yes, I won’t be seeing S until  August 3rd. I forgot to mention how kind and considerate he was to think about me because he’s still very concerned about my emotional state and my suicidality. So, he actually spoke to a colleague of his who’d seen me a couple of times before during walk-ins (I’ve spoken about him as well here) and set up appointments for me to speak to J while he’s away. It felt good when he told me that he’d talked to J and that J had agreed to take me on for two weeks because S wanted to make sure that I had good support while he was gone. I think that’s probably also why I’m a lot more stable than I was last year – I have a buffer in a manner of speaking, until S comes back.

Still… I can’t wait for August 3rd.

 

** Note: We talked about plenty of other things too (and I did spend yesterday’s session just bawling my eyes out and a little bit of today’s session doing the same thing) but this felt like the most important and the biggest epiphany I’ve had this week so that’s why I wrote about this instead of the whole session.

Thoughts From Therapy #70 – The Rageful Child

**Note: This was supposed to be published last Thursday but I got too busy to finish this uber long post so now it’s out of place.**

S and I make a great team. I’ve known that for a while now because of how almost effortless it is for us to hash things out and to come to well founded conclusions about my psyche.

Today’s session though, completely confirms that notion that I’ve always had about us. We had a huge breakthrough – a huge win that I have been desperately needing since my world came crashing down a couple of weeks or so ago.

As I’ve mentioned in my last post, I haven’t stopped crying since Monday and yesterday’s session was just me fighting through my tears to speak. I was crying so hard and so much in S’ office yesterday that I was shaking and my voice was so cracked and shaky that it was hard for me to even say words.

Today’s session was accompanied by some tears but I was completely rational, heck intelligent even, in my analysis of things and my ideas about myself. I shed tears when we were at certain points that elicited some strong emotional response but overall, I’d say that I was pretty collected for the most part.

This, like all my other “Thoughts From Therapy” posts, will be a long one. But boy, what a win! I was so excited because I felt, for the first time in a very long time, light. Sure, I was still carrying all my burdens but somehow, I am able to carry it better this time. I don’t know how I’ll feel later in the day or even tomorrow but for now at least, I’m stable.

I felt so light that while I was waiting for my Starbucks order, I couldn’t stop the H in my ADHD from being out of control. I kept trying to talk to the barista who obviously didn’t want to talk. I was hyper. I bought 4 Green Tea Lattes – one for D, the receptionist, one for S to thank him for his efforts and support, one for me and one for my friend, CG, my coding buddy and the first friend I ever made in college who believed in me so much that he never stopped bugging me about joining him in Computer Science.

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