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.

Anxiety Takes The Wheel

Anxiety is crippling me today. I’m glad that I don’t have classes to go to because I don’t think I would be able to function if I did.

I’m anxious because the first thing I saw this morning was a comment from an ex-student of mine who means well but completely brought my self-doubts to the forefront of my mind.

As I mentioned before yesterday, I have been thinking about my career trajectory and contemplating a different field than Interior Design Technology. I personally feel like I need to challenge myself to do something I’m not good at instead of just settling for what I know I can do well. So in that vein, I’ve decided that I want to try and learn programming and see if I’m a good fit for Computer Science.

The message I had received this morning was, “I don’t mean to discourage you but there are plenty of programmers out there who are really really good at what they do and they’re 10 years younger than you are. If you had a background of experience in Engineering or IT, it would make sense for you to switch to that field. Otherwise, I don’t think it does…”.

Anxiety kicked to high gear then – not a good way to start the day. Anxiety told me that “See… You’re just not good enough. You wasted your youth and now you’re too old to do anything worthwhile. You might as well just kill yourself now. You won’t amount to anything anyway…”. I freaked out and reached out to three people that I knew would be able to talk some sense into me.

Thankfully, all three people came through for me and told me to not listen to discouraging words from people – especially not when they know that I can and will work hard to achieve my goals. They told me that I am worthy and that they believe in me.

That said, I am still anxious. I feel like someone is squeezing my head really tightly and trying to crush my brain. I am trying to do some math extra credit homework and the first question – which is an applied problem – is making my head reel. It’s making me doubt my application to be a Tutor at the Math Assistance Center. Anxiety told me, “You can’t even do an applied problem. How can you tutor other people math? You yourself can’t figure this out… You’re not going to be good enough. They’re not going to hire you! Why even bother? Just kill yourself already!”

So that’s why I’m writing this. I decided to take a break from the homework to write. Writing in this blog always helps me gather my thoughts. I feel a little less panicky now which is awesome but I know that the minute I go back to my homework, I’ll be anxious again.

I hate that when Depression takes a short break, Anxiety takes over. It’s like my brain is a car that they’re both taking a joyride in and when Depression takes the back seat, Anxiety takes the wheel. They’re taking me to places I don’t want to go and showing me things I don’t want to see.

At this point, I’m struggling. I don’t know what to do. When I’m in this state, any and all coping strategies escape my mind and the only thing I know to do is freak out because I suddenly find myself in a dark place, all by myself.

What’s This Feeling?

Wow. What is this feeling I’m experiencing?

I’m tapping my feet to music… I enjoyed the sensation of food under my fingers as I prepared it to cook…. I am listening to every beat and word of the songs I’m listening to….

Is this what being calm and stable feels like on a daily basis? Is this what a normal person feels every day? Like nothing is an effort? Like there is never a need to silence the thoughts in their minds?

Is this what I could potentially be feeling every day after life stabilizes even more for me?

Is this what it’s like to come out for breath from being held under the water all these weeks? Am I finally picking myself up from the depressive episode I’ve been having since September?

Or is this just an after effect of having a good therapy session and I should expect to feel the way I’ve been feeling again tomorrow?

Well, perhaps it could just be the euphoric feeling I often get after a good session and after being positively affirmed. Perhaps I will feel terrible again tomorrow.

Despite that, I am going to enjoy this good feeling while I can. Even if it goes away tomorrow, at least I know what being calm and stable feels like. At least I know what to hope for.

On Awesome Therapists and Writing About Therapy

I’m not going to lie.

My therapist is pretty freaking awesome!

I did write up a long post about my thoughts on therapy today but it just occurred to me that I don’t know if it’s ok for me to do that. I mean, yes, I posted my thoughts about my experience with mental illnesses and have mentioned therapy before but I’ve not actually posted an in-depth analysis of therapy sessions before. I just thought about the fact that therapy sessions are supposed to be confidential and that the therapist had promised that no information discussed within the confines of his office will leave his office.

So now, I’m wondering if it’s ok for a client to express their thoughts about their therapy experience. I mean, I don’t name names and I’m somewhat anonymous but I don’t know if that matters…

Anyone has any thoughts on this? I would email my therapist to ask but I don’t want to unnecessarily email him outside of sessions. I need to respect boundaries, right?

Oh, following what I first posted above… I had a satisfying but emotionally exhausting session today. And one where I didn’t go over time because my therapist made sure we didn’t.

Now, though suffering from a nasty shoulder and neck ache from all the emotional release, I’m feeling a lot more stable than I did last week. So if I can’t post my thoughts on therapy, then at least you guys know that I had a lot of things cleared up where my guilt was concerned and that I think I might be ok this week.

The Importance of the Word “Good”

“Good”

It’s a simple word. It’s a simple word that when used properly holds so much meaning and can be extremely powerful when done positively.

“Good” is the word my therapist uses very frequently when he speaks to me with varying tones and degree of emphasis.

It’s embarrassing to admit but every time he says it, my heart leaps for joy – something I find quite hard to do when I’m in the thick of my depression. Yet, every time he says “Good” in response to either something important I’ve discovered for myself or something positive that has happened to me, I feel great. Euphoric, even.

He shows me what a positive response is like and how it feels to be rewarded with positive affirmations. Something I’m not used to. I always feel embarrassed to receive compliments because I’ve never believed myself worthy.

I was never taught that I was worthy. All my life I’ve worked hard to gain approval of the people who matter the most, my parents. And thanks to cultural conformity, as a Chinese kid growing up in a very Chinese family, I’ve never had any kind is positive affirmation that’s not a veiled compliment. Every compliment that I can remember getting from my older family members (parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles etc) have always been backhanded and have often made me wonder whether I’m working hard enough.

I’ve come to the conclusion early on that I’m not. I’m never working hard enough. I’m never good enough. Back in Malaysia, as I was growing up, I realized that I wasn’t good in math or science but because I am the eldest child, I had to at least try to make my parents proud. I spent years in a disillusioned and unsatisfied state – always wondering what I can do to make them say to me, “Good”.

When I finally realized what I was good at in my pre-university years (English), I took every opportunity to be as far away from home as possible. I left for university in 2005 to study Linguistics 3 states away from my hometown. I’ve never looked back and now, I live in constant need and desire for the approval I never received but desperately want. I regret just upping and leaving but I couldn’t find it in me to say to them how I really feel. Well, sometimes I regret it. Sometimes, I feel like I’m better off being far away. Less pain to confront.

When I first began therapy about 6 months ago, my therapist had mentioned that he wanted us to discuss my parents and my family. I scoffed at him then and laughed because I thought it was absurd that we should bring up my parents whom I have not seen since December 2011. I was there to talk about me. Not them! I was somewhat indignant then but after a few months, I started to realize that the root of my problems went deep into my past with my parents being at the center of a lot of my pain.

From then onwards, I realized that my therapist is a smart guy and very wise. I realized that I needed to stop resisting him and stop saying “I don’t know” to every uncomfortable question he posed. Now every time I make a self discovery or something positive happens, he says, “Good”.

“Good” is a pleasing word to me. It is now a word that I associate with an achievement of some kind. It is a good word when used properly.

It is a word I wish that I could hear from my parents. It is a word I wish that my mother-in-law (who is now a mother figure in my life) could say to me when I express how well I’m doing in school. It isn’t hard, is it? Then why is it so hard for them to express this?

“Good” is a simple word. One syllable. Not much effort required to say it.

Yet, why is it so hard for parents (any parent, not just mine) to express this to their children? Will it kill them to express some pride in their offspring?

Rage Personified Through Art

image

This little drawing personifies my relationship with my husband where my depression is concerned.

I’m often very angry, and most of the time, I can’t explain why. Though I don’t feel much because of how I repress my feelings, I do feel a lot of rage and anger. Most of the time, I take this rage out on my poor husband. I can’t help myself and I haven’t been able to stop it. By the time I realize I’m angry, it’s too late because the damage would’ve been done.

So I often feel like I’m burning him up with my rage and while he is getting burned, he still fights to come towards me – to comfort me and hold me. That is what I feel this drawing is trying to convey.

I’m working on it, of course, through therapy but sometimes I feel like I can’t recover soon enough because of how much pain I bring to the person I love the most. (Not to mention how much my conscious me is trying to fight the recovery process as well which complicates matters)