Thom is ever so observant. I discussed in my previous post about how yesterday marked a personal milestone, and yet really didn't explain why. I thought I had in previous posts, but looking back thru them, I really didn't. So, here is a bit of an explanation on why yesterday was a personal milestone.
Your mind is an interesting, and often complicated thing. People often go thru their lives and don't really take the time to consider, or are even aware, of how powerful the mind is. Some of us experience it's power, and it's very intimidating. Almost humbling . . . and this is how I learned to respect it.
No big secret, I'm a survivor of childhood abuse. Won't go into the gory details, but it happened from the time I was 6 until I was 12. Funny thing is, the memories surrounding the event used to not be there. My mind buried them, deep deep deep. I know while it would happen, I would just shut down. The way I learned to cope and live thru it was to supress it and not ever be able to recall it. The interesting part was that I couldn't really remember anything from my childhood around that age. It was just kind of a fog. Come to find out this is a very common coping technique.
Well, the thing with supressed memories is that eventually, your mind recognizes that you are old enough to process them, and they suddenly reappear. In my case ~ vividly. So much so that my body would actually experience them with me . . . from the heart racing to the very detailed and I won't explain here. My mind decided at about 27, I was old enough. One day while at work, as I put it, my mind exploded. Come to find out that this is known as PTSD, or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
So, after all these years, I begin to remember my childhood. And lucky me, it gets to be this! Stating that I didn't handle it so well would be an understatement. I don't think anyone would actually handle this well though, so I handled it the best I could. These memories drove me to seek out help, in the form of a psychiatrist. Well, actually the fact that one of my friends found me in my house using a knife to cut small cuts up and down my arm drove me, literally, he drove me. (not a suicide attempt, i'll touch on this a bit later)
So ~ we go thru some testing and lots of talking and we come up with this ~ the PTSD diagnosis and the diagnosis of depression. He's not so sure that the depression isn't something else, but we go with it for now. I begin therapy and taking medication. The memories start out way too much, way too fast ~ and that triggers nightmares. It gets to the point that I sleep with nightlights.
Shortly after all this, I get offered an opportunity to leave Texas. While I'm not all that keen on having to find new dr's and such, I'm rip snortin' ready to get the hell away from my family. I wanted a chance to get away from everyone trying to pull me in 100 different directions and have the chance to just focus on me, and sortin' this whole mess out. So I take it . . . and that's how I end up in Topeka, KS.
I get really tied up in all the commotion about starting up a new facility and living in a new town, meeting lots of new people, and I stop taking my meds (b/c I ran out) and don't find a new doctor. So, my little cutting habit intensifies. I had been doing this for about 2 years, but I went into overdrive. It's not an attempt to commit suicide or even a cry for help (as some people think). It's different for everyone that does this, but for me it was a way to have my world make sense. I would start having a memory, and the emotion would start. Then the body responses. Then the adrenaline would hit. The only way I found to stop it was to cut myself. It was kind of like shocking my system into having to suddenly take care of me and therefore, the memory loop would just stop and go away. I could understand that physical pain and take care of myself ~ where I couldn't understand the previous mental pain at all. It just made sense to me. I always pretty much just fell asleep afterwards, I think because at that point my mind was overloaded and just shut down.
Well ~ after a few months of this, I knew it wasn't right again. So I went and got a new dr, and she in turn hooked me up with a new therapist, and we started again. Couple of changes though . . . remember when I mentioned that my 1st doctor wasn't so sure about the depression diagnosis?? Seems that he was seeing me bounce between my super highs and drastic lows. (Gave new dr. permission to look at old dr's files . . . good idea.) New dr adjusts diagnosis to bipolar. This was probably the first huge step in recovery, because the meds changed and I started to feel better. Way better . . . and I began to learn what bipolar was and am able to identify it now in myself and deal with it. This was a huge relief.
So, continuing with my therapy (she specialized in those that suffered severe trauma) I was able to process the memories, emotions, and such safely. I was headed down a path of recovery. But, with all things, there were relapses. Rome wasn't built in a day. So, I'd hit a rough spot, take a few steps back, and get frustrated. But I learned that this was normal, and then I was able to forgive myself for, and slowly trod ahead.
My last relapse happened 8/1/2006. I was at work and the memory loop started. This hadn't happened since I lived in Texas. I didn't know what triggered it, but I couldn't stop it. I just knew I wasn't good, and I wouldn't deal with this well. I just knew it. I instantly had the urge to cut myself, and I didn't want to do it anymore. Looking back, this was probably the first time I didn't give in to my impulses, and the ensuing crash makes sense. I was determined to handle this the right way, and not revert back to my old behaviors. So, I checked into a hospital. Three days later I checked out, and by the end of the month, I was out of the partial hospitalization program (where you spent all day at the hospital, but got to go home and sleep in your own bed) and back to work.
So, cut to today . . . I've been able to accept who I am, and have really started to become happy with who I am. It's the first time I can really remember being able to say that. I'm completely off medication, and have handled some pretty tough issues medication free. I readily identify my triggers and am able to appropriately take care of myself. Most importantly, I know I don't have to do this alone and know who to call (both personally as well as professionally) to get the help I need. My success in this journey isn't measured in no symptoms or no triggers, that's unrealistic and impossible really. It's measured in my ability to handle it in a healthy and constructive way. I've been able to do that now for 1 full year.
Today is the first day of year 2 . . .