My Mental Mistresses

I got dumped last week, by my therapist. 

She got a job at the agency I’ve been badmouthing for two years, assuring me that things have changed now that said agency has changed from a zero-tolerance policy to a harm-reduction model for substance use.  That’s why I left.  They were going to put me in the drug program because I smoked a little pot.  They also yanked my Xanax out from under me and when I had a full-on panic attack in my doctor’s office, he slammed the door in my face.  No thanks, I’m out.

Anyway, I found a swell spot after that large Buffalo-based agency that may or may not have a rising sun as their logo and started seeing a woman named Jamie.  My prescribers have rotated a little over the past two years there, but that is to be expected anywhere.  You don’t need to bond with the person giving you your pills; that’s what your counselor is for. 

Jamie was fine.  She was very good at her job, and I liked her very much, but I didn’t feel the “click” I have felt with other counselors in the past.  These are the people you open your mind to, and it is important that you mesh well on every level.  Jamie did a fine job.  But she was no Carissa.

I don’t remember when I had Carissa.  I know it was at that aforementioned agency I went to for ten years, and I know it was at their Hertel branch and I think it was while I still lived in Kenmore.  The thing is, my meds weren’t right at the time, so all of that time period is a mishmash of memory.  When Carissa dumped me for a job in the Southern Tier, I was depressed.  I was devastated.  She was my favorite, and she was gone, and it was over.  It was then that I recognized a peculiar thing: these women have no last names.

My first counselor was named Sarah.  I saw her at D’Youville College because my friends dragged me there one afternoon.  I never knew her last name.  When I moved over to what I refer to as the “Fancy Suburban Drug Dealers” agency, I had three other counselors, whose first names I couldn’t even tell you.  Of course, they pumped me so full of meds based on a misdiagnosis that I was practically a zombie the whole time.  Then, The Rising Sun, where I ended up with Carissa, who left me with no last name and no forwarding information.

Alas!  One day, she found me on Myspace.  I was very happy but I still don’t know her last name.  And now, Myspace is dead and I can’t find her on Facebook without a surname.  After Carissa, came Katie.

Katie and I were together for years, and I actually got to know her last name.  However., The Rising Sun implemented their zero-tolerance policy, and one day she told me they would be tox screening everyone.  “But that’s not a problem for you…” she says.

I tell her, right away, that it is a problem, that not only will I test positive for cannabis but that I believe it is an infringement on my privacy.  She becomes shocked that I have never mentioned cannabis use before and our relationship starts to crumble.  Now, I have only good things to say about Katie, who from what I understand is running some things over there now, and I am hopeful that her experiences with me and other clients has opened her eyes to other possibilities.  The trust between us was broken, though; she felt I had kept something important from our sessions.  I felt it was none of her gotdamn business.

An impasse.  Fortunately, she was promoted up the ladder and I was thrown over to the Orchard Park location, where I met Ashley.

Ashley was great.  She totally agreed that it was nonsense, the whole bit about the cannabis, and did her best to keep me out of the drug program at The Rising Sun, always stating that I wasn’t abusing the substance.  Then she moved to Colorado and oh my heart!  But…I knew her last name.  In fact, we exchanged emails, and after she was settled she got in touch.   We still occasionally email, and yes, there are topics I am more comfortable sending in a letter to her than expressing via speech to my therapist. 

In many ways, she reminds me of the feeling I had with Carissa.

However, after her departure I was moved to a woman named Liz.  She was fine, in the way that Jamie was fine.  But she didn’t fight for me. 

When I became a number at The Rising Sun, I was furious.  They were making me into a statistic…showing me on graphs as someone with mental illness who also had a substance abuse problem.   They insisted I start drug counseling.  I told them to fuck right off.

Which brings me to now.  I found a little place that was like “oh, you smoke pot?  Well, let me put you in touch with a medical marijuana doctor,” and I was sold.  I feel like my doc actually listens to me, which is new in general, and I never feel like a number because it’s a small place.  AND, I’ve had two good counselors so far.  I mean, not great…but good.

Anyway, I’m seeing a new woman named Rachel next week, and I am hopeful.  I hope we “click.”  Jamie thinks we will.  I’m actually going into the office to meet her too, which is something I haven’t done in a year, so that’s kind of exciting.

I wonder, will I know her last name some day?  Will I be gifted that knowledge after a year or two of counseling, when the bond is formed?  Will I look back ten years from now and remember her fondly?

Or will I not remember her at all?

Good Days and Bad Days

Yesterday, I was on the phone with my therapist and she was commending me on how well I deal with my illness.  Every time I’m in the ER, she gets an email, so she has been worried about me these past few weeks.  I told her that the way I see it, I have good days and bad days.  And because I have so many bad days, I strive to make those good days into very good days, which is helping fight my depression in turn.  She was quite proud of this, and told me I was doing great work with my coping skills.

Afterwards, I hung out with Bernie, then Kevin showed up and we made brownies and watched drone footage of abandoned asylums.  After Mark got home, I made pizza and we hung out for a while and watched TV.  I took a nice long shower and went to sleep.  It was a good day.  Maybe even a very good one.

Today I woke up with a stomachache and immediately went full panic attack.  This caused me to throw up, which caused me to panic more.  It’s a vicious cycle.  I took my Xanax and my Zofran and wrapped up in my blanket and begged God for just one more good day.

I fell asleep sitting on the couch, and when I woke up again, I still felt crappy, but I wasn’t vomiting.  I took Mark to work.  I took a drive to the reservation.  I drank a cup of coffee, and when that didn’t come back up, I thanked God for one more good day.

Very good day has yet to be seen.  I still feel a little under the weather, and will likely just stick around the house and do some writing.  Still, a very good day is possible…I will likely work on my outline for NaNo, and maybe my final proof for my chapbook will arrive so I can look that over.  I can send out a few submissions, or if inspiration strikes, write a new poem.

I can open the door to my office, finally, blessedly, and let the sunshine in.  I can play my music as loud as I want because my downstairs neighbors are out for the day.  I can light my new candle, and maybe watch something on tv if I get bored.

Every day that I can do these simple things is a win.  So many days of my life are spent in a hospital, or recovering in my bed.  Sometimes it feels like those bad days outnumber the good ones, and that is, at times, unbearable.  But I don’t have a choice, see.  If I’m going to quit something, I have to be pushed to my absolute limit…but there is no limit on your life.  It can go anywhere, so you can’t quit, because what if something great is around the next corner?  And I will tell you, oh so many times in my life, there has been a great thing waiting. 

It’s the first really nice day here in Buffalo.  This Saturday is supposed to be gorgeous, and part of my plan for today is choosing a hiking spot for me and Hubs to hit up this weekend.  I am sitting in my office pecking out this blog, but I am distracted, because I want to be outside.  I think I will clean up the porch and maybe pull a few weeds.  Those are the kind of chores that make me happy, so I will do them as one of those coping mechanisms that my therapist appreciates so much.  The little tasks I give myself keep the depression at bay, and make my day feel worthwhile.  I appreciate each good day, and I strive to make them all into very good days, so I try to accomplish as much as I can, write as much as I can, and love as much as I can.

Someday, all I will have are good days.

That will be the best day of them all.

The Trauma Letters

While I am always willing to discuss my mental health, simply because I hate the stigma surrounding it, I do not discuss my trauma.  Most people who have suffered such do not like to talk about it as it can be triggering for their PTSD, because all trauma leaves its mark.  It’s a scar that you have to live with. 

Here is the long list of people I discuss my trauma with: my therapist.

So, on Wednesday, we’re talking, and she tells me that I should write some letters.  As a writer, I am intrigued.  As a human, I think this is a little cliché.  Still, I listen to her suggestions.  She says that it can be soothing to get all the feelings out.  Then you can either send the letter or destroy it.  Apparently burning things is cathartic, too.

I went home and I realized I’ve done this before.  I pulled up the letters I have written, and I read them.  I realized that they are flawed, because they lack what she tells me is my hidden problem: rage.  I am angry, outrageously so, and I have never had an opportunity to express that anger.  I feel scammed out of an emotion.

When I was younger, I encountered a situation in which I was told my feelings were not valid.  I was told to shut that shit down ASAP, and it left a terrible emotional scar, making me feel like all my emotions were unacceptable.  I still feel the effects of that today, as I peck out this angry little letter and think to myself “but I’m being so mean…”  But maybe mean is necessary sometimes. 

The letters I wrote were all explanatory, and expressed both difficult emotions and those I feel comfortable with, but there was no anger, and there was no pain, and I can’t ignore those things.  So right now, I am trying to write my anger away, and I don’t know where that will lead.

Will I send my letters?  I don’t know.  I want to, really, but I probably won’t.  I will likely leave them to rot on my computer until I am dead, because confrontation isn’t my thing.  Do I wish I could send them?  Of course.  But I am ruled by fear and anxiety, as I always have been.  Maybe someday those forces will become less intrusive in my life, but that day is not today.  Today I will write my letter, and I am sure I will have some residual feelings throughout the afternoon, but I will tuck it away with the others because I still have trouble embracing my anger.  Eventually I will learn to fix it and start to heal, because that’s what therapy is for, right?

My Oldest Foe

I didn’t update yesterday, but I also wasn’t in the hospital. I actually felt like crap after hardly sleeping the night before. I don’t know what was going on in the apartment below us, but it was chaos at 2:30 in the morning. This combined with my unmedicated insomnia and vulnerable stomach left me puking at 4 AM. It was not ideal.

I awoke again at six to go to my first PNP (psychiatric nurse practitioner) appointment. I wrote last week about what it was like to make the call and start therapy, and this is a step in the process. It took about an hour, but it was a great hour, because for the first time in a long time I was heard. I was listened to and believed and understood. It was akin to the first medical professional that said to me “Oh I know what trichotillomania is!” It was a great feeling.

She started me on the path to a therapy I have been advocating for. She listened to why I needed the meds I am on. She did everything right and for the first time I had a prescriber I wasn’t a little disgusted by.

Afterwards I got a free coffee at Tim Hortons, because it’s Roll Up the Rim season, and then I headed home. I had every intention of updating my blog. And then I got sleepy. Did I sleep? No, I sat on the couch and watched Arrested Development and ate cold pizza. I felt some depression creep in as I thought about all the costs of my medical treatment. I considered writing about that, as I also did before I sat down just now, but it’s such a shitshow I can’t even focus on it. I couldn’t really focus on anything.

My mind flashed back to the little questionnaires they give you at therapy to determine if you are depressed. I realized I was checking boxes all over the place. One change my PNP made was an increase in my depression med. I noticed that it had been on the rise since Christmas, and I am 100% positive it has to do with my health insurance. Again, I should be writing about THAT. As pro-ACA as I have been, this thing is killing me financially. Why can’t we just get what Canada’s got? But I digress…

Depression has been a difficult adversary, far worse than anxiety or OCD have managed to plauge me. Depression is my oldest foe, always there to throw a wrench into my plans, and I suppose that’s what happened yesterday. I was feeling high and happy after my appointment, but it faded away to another bout of sadness and stress, as it is wont to do.

As I lay in bed last night I thought about my cup of coffee. It was a nice little treat, and I tried to hold onto that feeling of both winning and receiving my free coffee as a way to appreciate the little things. I have always found adages like that to be vaguely corny, but I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t useful. Sometimes focusing on something else helps you get your mind off what’s really bothering you, and I would rather fall asleep thinking about a free cup of coffee than a pile of medical bills.

This morning I didn’t want to blog, either. This is forced. This is me making myself type because I will not let my depression take a second day, which is silly when you think about it. My depression is obviously waning today or I would not be sitting here, because when it’s really bad I can’t “make” myself do anything. Today though, I make myself type. I make myself vacuum. I make myself shower. I make myself go on, because I can. It’s all I can do some days, and it’s enough.

Status Report

Apparently, they fixed my stomach, which everyone is hopeful about, except me.  I have almost no hope this will work, as I have had no hope for quite some time regarding different treatments.  I try to muster something optimistic and I suppose that miracles are possible but I feel that it would take as much for me to feel confident that everything was going to work out.  It is quite rare that things do.

I went to my first appointment at my new therapist today, which was less stressful than my panicked brain made it out to be last night.  I scored high for depression, anxiety, and trauma, the three subjects whose tests I always pass.  My counselor is an intern, which alarmed me at first as I am used to the hardened professional.  She seemed nice enough, and she knew what Trichotillomania was, which is my psych industry litmus test.  I figured that if she wanted to take me on as a patient in her last year of school, that I would oblige.  These days I am only finding therapy necessary for a quick checkup of sorts.  It’s more about the daily stressors and handling my anxiety and depression than it is about past traumas, Trich, and OCD triggers.

Mark has considered starting therapy, as he is sure he has PTSD.  I have more or less armchair diagnosed him after reading a crazy number of articles on healing trauma.  He is the sort that puts off going to the doctor though, and his first foray into it was not great.  He attended the initial intake session, and then felt overwhelmed.  It can be overwhelming.

First, you have intake.  This can be 2-3 appointments where you meet your counselor and they take down a bunch of information.  They’re a question and answer sessions more than anything else.  Today she asked me about my family, friends, living situation, working situation, meds, illnesses, and whether I use caffeine.  They give you little tests to take that tell what your mental state is within a period of time.  You fill out some forms.  For my husband, each appt will cost 40$.

This is why he doesn’t go, you know.  And that’s a whole other blog post.

After intake you meet with a doctor, which takes about an hour.  My appointment for this is tomorrow, as I was super lucky to avoid another month at the MAPP clinic.  After that, appointments with the doctor (or more accurately, prescriber,) only take about 15 minutes tops.  You set up appointments with your counselor.  They meet with you for about 45 minutes as often as you feel necessary.  Currently I go every three to four weeks.  And that’s it.  You just keep going, you take your meds, you tell the prescriber and counselor how you feel, and you get better.

I mean, you shouldn’t have to pay 40$ a pop for it.  But again…another time.

I only write this because you never know who might be considering getting help.  You might be a kid who is scared of how he feels.  Or a mom whose stress level is through the roof.  You could be anyone facing any number of problems, and you could be scared to make the phone call because you don’t know what comes next.  That’s how I felt when I first started therapy, and it’s what my husband still feels today.  But you should make the call, if you’re thinking about it.  It might be hard to open yourself up a little, but I guarantee it’s not as hard as the struggle you’re already living.