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.

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.

Reflections From Today

So I saw Dr W today, my psychiatrist. I told her how I don’t like being on Strattera and how tired it makes me feel. I also told her that it’s not working all that well anymore because I haven’t been able to focus or concentrate on anything lately. She asked me about my stressors and I revealed to her that I have many.

It’s the first time I’ve ever really been that forthcoming with her. I usually withhold just how badly I feel or how depressed I really am. I don’t tell her how often I have suicidal thoughts. All this because I know that she will prescribe me more medication.

I was right in my assumption because today, she upped my Zoloft dosage to 100mg because of all the things that I’m suffering through lately – with my move, my divorce, my terrifyingly difficult semester (which is only going to get worse as the semesters progress), my abandonment issues, my fears, my hectic schedule, my unstable financial situation, and work. She thinks that my loss of focus and motivation is due to these stressors and she hopes that by fixing my mood and anxiety, that the Strattera will start working again. She told me to give it 3-6 weeks and if nothing changes, then we should reconsider the Strattera.

To be honest, although I hated the heart palpitations, the sweaty and cold hands, the constant sweating, the flushed face, and the anxiety that Ritalin brought on me, I liked the other more positive effects like how it boosts my energy, how it keeps me going strong despite not having had a meal, how it helps me stop my sugar craving, and how I can control my diet better. Strattera makes me exhausted – all. the. time. – and I feel sluggish, my mind gets foggy easily, and my dry mouth symptom is the worst thing to deal with since I have to talk a lot – being a server, you can’t not be talking to your guests.

Anyway, so now I have to give Zoloft another try. It hasn’t really been doing anything for me. I doubt it will do anything even with 100mg.

After the meeting with Dr W, I headed to group therapy in which because the lead facilitator wasn’t able to attend, the co-facilitator was more inclined to let us rant instead of just focusing on how we feel at any given moment. One of the group members was having difficulty letting go of an unhealthy relationship, and the rest of us fervently encouraged her to love and respect herself first. To put herself first. As the session grew, we all started getting more and more “rant-y”. Near the end, the group member who had brought up her issue of unhealthy relationships talked about her career fears and insecurities now that graduation is approaching. She is Asian, like me, and we both share starkly similar backgrounds where our parents were concerned. Her rant about her parents brought me into the fray and before long, the two of us  were pretending to be our parents and saying things that Asian parents would say (things that people usually turn into memes). This prompted another member, a Caucasian, to express how angry he was that any parent would do that to their children and how it must be that his lack of cultural understanding is what is making him so angry while the other member and I are just accepting it as a lost cause.

As the group filed out the group therapy room, I said to T, “You totally just let us rant, didn’t you?” while chuckling.

T smirked and gave me a mischievous look.

“Well, it just seemed like Steph (not her real name, obviously) really needed it…”

“Yeah… She did… And I guess we all did…” I said with a smile. Most of the time, T had sat back and just listened, from time to time, he had an amused look on his face. Sometimes I wonder what goes on in therapists’ heads. I know S smirks to himself from time to time as I speak – it always makes me wonder what it was that he was smirking at. I never had the guts to ask him. I’m building up to it. One day, hopefully soon, I’ll ask him why he smirked or why he looks so amused.

When group therapy ended, I felt a great tug in my gut – I wanted to see S so badly. I saw that his door was closed with the “Do not disturb” sign hanging on the doorknob. It meant that he was with a client. I was upset.

And of course, like always, whenever I’m upset, I spiral downwards.

I thought about the rope that I had. I thought about the noose that I had tied last night. I thought about the anguished email I wrote to S. Then I thought about something I read on PaperDoll’s blog about how she realizes that her therapist isn’t her crisis line and that she shouldn’t be messaging her during crisis. I thought about the email that I had sent S this morning at 3.30am when I couldn’t sleep and the suicidal thoughts plagued me. It was a wonder that I didn’t get up from out of bed and hung myself then. I realized that I shouldn’t be sending him emails like that. He can’t answer me through email and technically, I shouldn’t even have his email address.

I want to hear from him constantly. It kills me that I keep thinking about him because I know that I shouldn’t be relying on him all the time. I need to grow up. I need to be the support I need. But of course, it’s easier said than done.

I waited until S was done with his session with his client. When I saw that his door was open, I took the bundle of paracord rope and marched to his office. I was going to ask the receptionist, K, if I could go talk to S but there was a line at the reception counter. I figured that if I didn’t go see S then, I probably wouldn’t. Besides, I am at CAPS so much that I didn’t think that anyone would stop me if I went down the hallway towards S’ office.

I was right because although T was walking down the hallway towards me, he didn’t make any moves to stop me. Neither did P, another psychologist that I had seen before for a crisis intervention session. In fact, she smiled at me. I think both T and P, who were both S’ office neighbors, knew that I was headed to S’ office.

My hands shook as I lightly knocked on his ajar door. S was at his desk. He looked up from his work and smiled at me.

“Hey…” He said.

“Hey… Um…” I started, not sure if I should explain what I was doing there standing at his door. I decided not to because I already felt quite awkward to stand there. My hand shook as I showed him the bundle of rope. “Can you… Can you please take this from me?”

His eyes widened a little when he realized what it was that I was holding. He quickly sat up in his chair and leaned over to reach for the rope. I had half a mind to pull my hand back as he reached. I didn’t want to be out of that option – if I were to die, I wanted it to be my choice.

“Yeah!” He said, as he took the rope from me. He then looked a little concerned. I clenched my jaw. My hands continued to shake. “Were you waiting? I just finished with a client…”

I wanted to say that I knew that but I didn’t want to come across as a stalker. Yes, S. I know. I’ve been watching you from outside of your window. Eee heee heee heeee heeeeee….

“Um, no… Yeah, I know. I saw that your door was open. So I thought… I could try to see if you were here…”

He hesitated and looked like he was going to say something else, but he didn’t and I could tell that he was gauging my facial expression and body language. Probably trying to figure out what it was that I wanted from him. I wanted to say more but I realized that I was standing outside of his office which is inappropriate. So awkwardly, I said, “Yeah… Okay… See you”

“I’ll see you next week, Jules…” He said.

“Yeah… Yeah you too… Take care…” I said as I wandered away, my hands still shaking. As I left CAPS, I wanted to punch things and scream in anger. I think I didn’t want my autonomy taken away – despite the fact that technically, I was the one who decided to give up that autonomy. I knew I had to do it. I’ve been toying with the suicidal thoughts too much lately. So much so that I learned how to tie a noose.

My week has been terribly hectic and when I pulled into my parking space last night, I had promptly burst into tears because thoughts of my ex crossed my mind, and thoughts of me being so lonely crossed my mind. They triggered an outflow of tears that were uncontrollable. A friend said that I am stressed. I feel like I’m at the brink of a mental breakdown. It feels like it’ll happen soon and when it does, I’m sure people around me will be surprised.

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.

Anxious Thoughts

I have an important post about therapy that I want to write but I haven’t had the time amidst all the courses and work that I’m doing. I’m also headed to a Peer Educator’s retreat for the weekend, to learn how to be a good Peer Educator and to support the campus non-academically.

So I’m just going to write this short post about my anxiety that has been wreaking havoc in my life lately. Since I’ve been suicidal and severely depressed, my anxiety hadn’t really showed itself but since school started, anxiety has been taking over my daily mental head space and has been pushing me closer to the edge each day.

I try to combat it by distracting myself with self-care and coping strategies like skateboarding, hanging out with people, studying, and so on. They’ve helped some but S noted that in doing so, I’m not acknowledging that I’m anxious – that I’m not allowing myself to feel the entirety of that feeling, which then makes it come back with a vengeance the next time.

I get what he’s saying but if I allow myself to feel the anxiety, wouldn’t I devolve into a panic attack mess? I don’t know… I haven’t yet really allowed myself to be anxious.

This morning, I woke up with the anxiety that I am just no good if I can’t do 15 credit hours. It just sank in on Thursday that I am doing 15 credit hours. I feel so overwhelmed by the fact that I have 5 classes on top of my 2 jobs, and my responsibility as a Peer Educator.

So I texted my close friend, C, and suggested that maybe I should drop the Server Side Programming for the Web class. We both take that class together and I miss being in the same class as C (he’s way more advanced than I am now despite the fact that we both started together in Spring of 2015). However, at the same time, having 2 already very intense “weed-out” classes is stressful enough without having to add another class that I barely know anything about into the mix. As it is, due to my lack of experience and knowledge, I am having to study HTML and CSS outside of class just to be able to learn the PHP and SQL that I’ll be learning in this class. Every time I think of school latey, I just want to break down and cry.

I feel thoroughly overwhelmed. I know that dropping this class will be good for me – it’ll be a healthy thing to do, right? But at the same time, see the doubt? Anxiety is telling me that I’m so behind. That I’m not going to graduate in time to get a good job because the market will be flooded by the time I finish. That I’m just such a loser for not doing 15 credit hours and beyond. That I was able to do that in previous semesters.

I try to tell Anxiety that I didn’t have extraneous circumstances in the past – I wasn’t divorced, I wasn’t questioning my sexual orientation, I was moved out and living alone, I wasn’t stressed about my finances, and I wasn’t so severely depressed. At the moment, it’s not helping. I know I have to practice the mindfulness technique that S had taught me – that is, to sit down quietly, visualize a river flowing calmly while leaves float by, put my thoughts onto each leaf, and let the leaves and thoughts float by.

Damn, why is it so hard to deal with this?