You know that whole “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” thing? It’s a trap, I’m sure of it. The past 6 years have been filled with a whole bunch of sadness and I don’t feel a shred stronger. I don’t have my head buried in the sand, I realize there are many people out there who are going through (and have been through) much, much worse. But for me, personally, I’ve never been very well-equipped at handling stress and hardship. I’ve been getting through it and all… but not without feeling–every single day– like giving up, harming myself, crying myself to sleep and begging the universe for the energy to keep going. I can thank my depression for that unwelcome quality.
After being home in October with Mom to celebrate you on the 5 year anniversary of your death, she died one month later. She was all I had left of our little family. Just when my heart was beginning to piece itself back together, I lost her too. Since her death, my blood pressure has been holding steady at a distressingly high level so I’ve been put on medication to help bring it back down again; so far, it isn’t working very well.
About 6 weeks ago I got a letter from my father asking me to give him back all of the money that he had to pay out for my Mom’s half of their house in the divorce (that she left to me) claiming it would be a “loan” and I’d get that money back when he dies. I knew he was going to ask me for it, I’m just surprised it took 2 whole months for that to happen.
Then about 3 weeks ago, out of the blue I get a suuuuuper lengthy email from someone who is no longer in my life shaming me for things I have shared in my blog. It really shouldn’t have mattered to me but I’m a good person so of course hearing someone tell me that they don’t like me is going to hurt and so, like the weakling I am, I cried until I started choking and my eyes swelled shut and then I cut myself. (Yes, I’m fully aware that an emotionally healthy person would not have responded that way.) I didn’t sleep a single wink until the airport shuttle came to pick me up at 3:00 in the morning for my trip home to Minnesota. Clearly I don’t handle stress well because the next night I broke out in shingles due to the stress. Awesome. The letter doesn’t bother me now because frankly, it just doesn’t really matter anymore. Besides, sending a letter like that only 3 months after someone’s Mom dies is just selfish timing if you ask me. I’m blessed with so many wonderful friends who all know the truth and what’s in my heart and love me unconditionally. I’m so grateful for that.
But guess what… the good news keeps coming. Yesterday, I happened to stop home for 5 minutes during my lunch break and I got SERVED. I’m being sued by a woman for a positively frivolous car accident a year and a half ago. While the insurance company did file in her favor, the choice she made to make a right turn directly in front of me was a terribly poor one. But because there were no witnesses (other than my ex-boyfriend in the car with me) they filed in her favor because, without enough room to react, I bumped into HER. Exceptionally minimal damage in our incident but apparently the $100,000 that my insurance policy allows isn’t enough money for her and she’s decided to slap me, personally, with a lawsuit. Because I didn’t already have enough on my plate, you know.
My whole life my depression has told me that I’m not good enough, that I don’t deserve respect and that I can’t handle life in a healthy way. And most of the time I’ve agreed with it. In case you’re wondering… YES, I’m still taking my medication religiously and yes, I’m still going to therapy. I’ve been going to therapy since I was 17 years old. Maybe I’m doing it wrong?? Since early childhood, I’ve always had this feeling, my entire life, of “treading water.” As though I’m out there, doing all I can to keep my head above water. It’s exhausting. Just when I feel as though I’m beginning to reach dry land I’m hit with another setback… or another depressive episode (or anxiety-riddled episode) or worse– a setback and depressive episode at the same time.
I didn’t write you about this when it happened… because I was hurt and angry… but I’d like to tell you about it now. The night I got back from Minnesota after 2 weeks there for Mom’s funeral, I cut myself pretty badly. It’s not as though I didn’t have anyone I could call and talk to– and I’d received an overwhelming stream of support for those 2 weeks– but the urge had been building and building and building and once I was finally alone I just needed to do it. It was what it was. A few days later, on Monday, I went back to work. It was so hard to be there, trying my best to get back into a flow of “regular life” knowing full well what I had ahead of me– not just in terms of grieving, but getting through the holidays and then having to deal with all the stress of the details of Mom’s estate and making sure everything gets taken care of. That same afternoon, I had a follow-up appointment with the psychiatric resident I’d been seeing monthly for my medication refills. As always, I was honest about the cutting– I don’t ever lie about it to my caregivers. Her response was exactly what it shouldn’t have been.
For starters, the look of shame on her face was difficult enough. But from there she went on to force me to show her the wound. No therapist or psychiatrist in all my years of treatment has ever forced me to expose myself to them in that way. They’ve always taken my word that if I absolutely needed to seek medical treatment that I would do so. (Mind you, all of my injuries have been ones for which normal people would have sought out medical treatment and all of them would have required stitches). But the difference is that it is insurmountably humiliating to go to a doctor and say, “Hey big guy, I just put an 11-inch gash in my left leg; can you just go ahead and stitch that back up for me??” If you cut yourself in a kitchen accident, you aren’t going to have a psychiatrist called in to tell you that you should be locked up. Although ONE time in 2001 I did go to urgent care to seek treatment for a wound because my close friend was worried about it and made me promise I’d go– I gave her my word so I went, fully prepared to be humiliated. But I lucked out that time– the doctor was very kind and warm towards me. I produced for him my medication list, the names and numbers of my therapist, psychiatrist and group therapy leader. He warmly told me that he was sorry that it had happened but that he realized I was in control of the situation and that he wouldn’t call for the psych consult as he didn’t feel it was necessary. He let me leave the office (after getting 10 staples in my thigh) with some dignity and self-respect, which I was not expecting. What a kind, kind man.
But this psychiatric resident I saw the end of November, after forcing me to lift my sleeve to show her my injury, gasped in shock and disgust. She said, “Laura, this is really bad. I mean, really, really bad. You absolutely need to promise me that you’re going to go see a doctor today. PROMISE ME. If not, you need to know that I could have you put on a psychiatric hold.” I tried to assure her that I was completely fine but was just having a rough time. But that just wasn’t what she wanted to hear. She went on to tell me I could lose my arm and even die from this wound. No sensationalism there, huh?
At that point, 48 hours had already passed since the injury occurred and, because of my 30 years of experience, I was fully aware that after 8 hours, they will not stitch up the wound. I told her this and said that in all my years of self-harm I’ve never ever had an injury become infected. It’s a terrible coping mechanism to rely upon but I’m always very careful and always very clean. I assured her that I absolutely did NOT require medical attention. However, with her continuing to present the threat of being “detained” I promised her that I would go. Boy, did I ever regret that decision.
That evening, I went to urgent care, accompanied by a dear and caring friend. It was just awful, Brian. The nurse was pretty nice to me, though the look of disappointment when I told her why I was there was pretty obvious. But when the doctor came in and asked me to show her the wound, she rolled her eyes and looked at me with such pity and shame. It was so humiliating. Then she asked me, “Why are you even here? We can’t do anything for you, it’s been too long! And it’s clearly not infected so I don’t know why you bothered to come in.” I continued to tell her the only reason I’d come was because I was instructed to do so and I kept my word. I was so embarrassed; I went there and paid yet another $75 to have a doctor shame me for what was already causing me a great disappointment in myself. No medical treatment… just the indignity and a bigger dent in my checking account. What a waste.
I dodged calls from the psych resident for a few weeks after that. Then, in December when I was back at Mom’s house trying to go through all of her belongings, she called again. I decided to take that call. She asked me if I had sought out medical treatment like I told her I would. I sort of unleashed on her because she was being so condescending. She was so sure that medical treatment was necessary. I told her that yes, I did go see a doctor. She asked if they stitched me up. I said, “Of course not! I told you that they wouldn’t. It had been too long.” She then asked if they gave me antibiotics. I replied, “Of course not!! The doc looked at the wound, told me it wasn’t infected.” She said, “Well, what did they do for you?” To which I replied, “They did NOTHING ma’am. Aside from embarrassing me and charging me $75 to do so, they did nothing. It was a complete waste of my energy, my time and my money.”
A week later, I received a letter from her stating they were dropping me as a patient. I was fine with that, as I did had no interest in pursuing sessions with her any longer. However, I did send a follow-up letter to her to let her know the ways in which she might improve her bedside manner in her future interactions with self-harmers. Maybe it will help, maybe it won’t.
Oh well. Guess I’ve rambled on enough for today. Thanks for listening, as always. I miss you and Mom so much, dude.