Thursday, March 23, 2017

Did Anyone Get The Number Of That Truck?

So, just when I thought things were going OK-ish, I got hit by a Mack truck of a psychotic episode. I have never had one hit me that hard and fast before. Fortunately it was also - we hope - just as quickly fixed.

I saw my therapist Shannon last Wednesday and I was anxious but neither she nor I noticed any signs of impending doom. We talked out some of my anxiety triggers and that evening I chatted with my sisters about our family reunion coming up in June. They were awesome (as always) and reassured me on some of my concerns about the get together. Thursday I was feeling better anxiety-wise, but for the first time in I don't know how long I heard a very loud, very distinct voice saying "I hate myself." It was disconcerting to say the least.

By Friday afternoon I was hearing more voices and one of my deep-seated delusions was starting to crawl to the surface. It involves worms wriggling through my brain eating my thoughts and memories and synapses. I told myself right then that when I saw my psychiatrist on Tuesday I would talk about increasing the dosage on my antipsychotic, which we had discussed before. We had just held off to see what happened with the hormone changes after the hysterectomy.

Well, I didn't make it to the Tuesday appointment. By Sunday afternoon I was getting completely overwhelmed and I told my mom I had to get to the ER. By sheer luck - or divine intervention - my uncle John, my mom's brother, had stopped to visit on his way home to Las Vegas. My mom can't drive and there was no way I could have and my Dad wouldn't get home from work until late evening. But John was there and he was able to drive my mom and I to the hospital.

By the time we got there I was pretty much uncommunicative. I don't remember much of it. I know they gave me a shot of something that made me go completely limp, which at least stopped the sobbing. My mom had to sign my intake paperwork (yes, kids, it is a good idea to have power of attorney paperwork on hand for desperate situations). As I lay there exhausted and sweating and shaking, I did something I have never done before when faced with a delusion: I gave up. I stopped fighting it. I just lay there and let it take over. I was just too tired to push it away or try to get rid of it.

I don't remember the rest of the evening or even most of the next day. I was checked into B-Med, the Behavioral Medicine lock-down unit. The psychiatrist there increased the dosage on my antipsychotic, just like I was going to ask mine to do. I still wasn't fighting. I just lay in bed and let the voices and worms do whatever they wanted. I slept a lot and only came out when they told me I had to eat.

By the time they woke me up for my morning meds on Tuesday things had quieted significantly, and that taught me a very valuable lesson. First, I can trust myself to know when I need to get help and there is someplace safe for me to get that help right close to home. Second, I can give in and rest and let the psychosis run its course and come out OK on the other side. In face, by doing that I recovered far faster than I ever have in the past. When I fight it, I wear out my mind and my body with anxiety attacks and just shaking and sobbing. But I was always afraid that if I gave in I would be lost in it forever. Instead, I got much-needed rest and my brain basically did a reset.

I got out of the hospital this morning. I am still tired and the med increase hasn't taken full effect yet, but I feel OK. I am still shaky, mainly because I'm not positive what triggered the episode in the first place. But I know I have people to help me if things go sideways. I see my psychiatrist - for real this time - this coming Tuesday and we will have a lot to talk about. Shannon, my therapist, actually stopped by the B-Med unit this morning while I was having breakfast and we chatted a bit. I see her this coming Wednesday again and we both know what to focus on in our session.

And through it all I could feel the love from my friends and family. I know they say that prayer and good vibes don't do anything. It's true that it doesn't feed flood victims or find a cure for cancer. But when you are fighting mental illness, knowing that your brother and sisters and parents and friends have your back - even if it's from a distance - means the world.

Now I'm home with my real coffee and soft blankets and soft towels and purring cats and I am just so grateful for all of it.

Now we just need to install a stop sign or a traffic light so I don't get hit by any more trucks.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Finding Myself

I have lived my entire life trying to conform to what I perceived as normal. I would like what my friends and peers liked. I tried to dress like them. I let them shape me. I rarely gave my opinion because my views were "wrong". Even as a child I knew that I saw and thought about things differently. After a few time being called freak or weirdo, I learned to just nod my head and go along with it.

I have had a few true friends with whom I could be more of myself. I flourished in those friendships, but then there was always a crash, a breakdown. And since I never dared to let anyone know about my psychotic breaks, I would hide them by moving, changing, leaving everything behind. I have been blessed to have friends who sought me out and wouldn't let me go away completely. Facebook has been a blessing in this way - they were able to find me, start simple, take it slow, and let me ease back into communications with them.

But despite these true friends, I still hid. I conformed as much as I could with coworkers and bosses. The few times I tried to truly express myself ended up being too honest and too aggressive from someone who was always quiet and uncomplaining. Jobs ended, shallow friendships disappeared, and I moved on again and again, my belief that I had to hide myself becoming stronger.

In some ways my major psychotic break 4 1/2 years ago was a blessing. I couldn't hide any more. My family learned about the schizophrenia I had been dealing with alone since I was a child. I became sheltered and afraid of the world. I couldn't work or go to social events any more. I was isolated from all those people I thought of as normal and I no longer knew how to act, to dress, to talk, to believe. I lost so many friends, although I have learned since that those who abandoned me weren't truly friends. I learned who my true friends were and just how wonderful and accepting and supportive my family is.

And now, after being with just myself for so long, I am finally discovering who I really am. I am not normal, whatever that means. I am a total pacifist and can't tolerate or even understand violence of any kind, against humans or animals. I have learned after shaving my head because of the trichotillomania so many times that I actually like not having hair. It is so much easier and somehow a short buzz cut just seems more like "me." I have gotten several tattoos already, and not the simple butterfly or flower that I would have gotten to be "normal". They are intricate and stunning and have meanings that speak to my soul. I have a semi-colon for suicide awareness tattooed on my right thumb so it is what everyone sees when we shake hands. I have NOH8 - no hate - tattooed on the other so it can be seen by all. "Harm None" is also prominent on my right arm, right below the tat of my totem, the snow leopard. And on my left arm is a dragon to remind me that I am strong.

I just got 3 new piercings in my upper left ear. Eventually they will be hoops. And I will get my right ear tattooed so that anyone who sees me knows I am not a conformist. I am not normal. I am different. And tattoos are planned on my arms - all in places where they can be seen. I don't believe in getting art and hiding it.

Today I looked in the mirror and smiled. I had my hair buzzed today so there is just the barest bit of fuzz on my head. The new piercings are just studs right now, but they are something that I would never have gotten when surrounded by "normal" people. They look like me. If you can't see my DD breasts, I look rather androgynous - and I love it. I am decorating myself the way I want to. I am finding gems and art that speak to me and to the world just who I really am. And I love it.

I am finally finding out who I really am on the inside. And I have found the strength to let it be expressed on the outside. I am finding myself.