This post is going to go on and probably sound more like bragging that acknowledgement of what you all said yesterday. And that's not what I mean. What I mean is that while I am pretty sure that people can handle more than they think and that I've handled much of what I have because I've felt I had 2 choices, suicide or keep going and thankfully I'm too closely watched for suicide to be very easy. Which has meant that I had to keep going because it was the only choice. The thing is that's not a very happy way to live and this last year has finally fixed that because I finally have both peace and happiness. But the last year has been amazing to me because I have finally seen there are more choices and that "fixing it" is still an option. I believed that for so long, and I did fix so much but then it seemed my life had hit a point where it just was not going to improve anymore. It seemed the illness was going to prevent progress past a certain point. I even accepted that as the truth. And then things changed and I no longer feel limited by illness. That gift has come so much from this blog and all of you that I really find it important that you see what I'm writing today. But understand please that I'm proud of all this, but I'm not as strong as you say. I've gotten here with a LOT of help and pushing, a lot of support and prayers for me when I wasn't well enough to do that myself, and a lot of awesome people who have helped me clarify so much. B and Elise, you have no idea how much some of the questions you recently asked about my mother/family have helped me understand some of the rage I've carried around for literally years. I'm not at the point I can deal with it, but I am able to admit it is there and for the first time Dr. Mind is doing what I think he's wanted to do for years and prodding at that and how I can start to forgive her. It's invaluable when you all ask questions, even when it's probably hard for you to do (and don't feel bad ever, I'm an open book or all this wouldn't exist. I've made conscious decisions to talk about this stuff, and in fact it feels GOOD when people ask because I want so badly for my story to help someone understand mental illness, understand child abuse, understand sexual abuse of children and how these things affect at least one person, but also that they do NOT mean my life is over before it started. I used to think that and it took several years of counseling a long time ago focused on abuse before I could believe that it did not ruin my entire life and that what happened might statistically put me in a high risk group of various things but I didn't have to be typical of anything. Others give support other ways and overall all of you have made me a stronger, hopefully better version of myself.
Because most people in my "real life" don't know that just makes it doubly special and helpful that I have total strangers who give so much to me. Although I did hurt some people to the point that I ruined our friendships there also were a lot of people who walked away from me.
About 18 months ago I wrote about how that year had been the year I learned about grace. Until that time I thought so concretely (and had been hurt so badly by other Christians who simply said what I do/did was wrong) that I bought that. I thought of myself as sort of an "on the edge" Christian because I can't go to church, I can't follow a Bible most of the time, and I can't live in some sort of idealistic life I thought a Christian had to do. It wasn't until then that I was well enough to realize that God CREATED my illness and that only He knows the path it will take, that only He knew that I would get the right med before I ran out of options when it appeared that was almost inevitable. It also was God who took control and has put Dr. Mind, Dr. Brain and a few other people in life at exactly the right time. Although I somewhat resent that the therapist who treated me when I was first diagnosed did not refer me on to someone with more experience (she took classes and did a lot of research but it was very quickly evident that Dr. Mind's experience with bipolar was invaluable), the truth is that if I'd met Dr.Mind then I wouldn't have been ready and wouldn't have benefited so much. Dr. Mind is a chameleon and would have adjusted to where I was, but I would have found him too forceful. Now I rely on that forcefulness when I'm not brave enough to do this on my own, which is a lot.
Another way God has shown me grace is by the people on this blog. In January this blog will be 5 years old. In 5 years I have had to delete a grand total of 4 comments that weren't spam. Two were in response to my questioning something someone had written on their own blog and I may even have left them up. If I did delete them it was because I was mad that she blocked me from her blog but then continued to argue on mine. The other was someone who was hurt when I posted that I was impatient when someone who has been diagnosed for only a short period of time and who stabilized rapidly was insistent that their experience was like mine. It was the thing where it's not fair to say I'm sicker than you, etc. There is a point to that I think, but the comments were rude so they went. But seriously, less than 1 per year. I know someone who deletes at least that many per POST, because people come to that blog to argue. Once I agreed to have something I'd said to my friend privately altered a bit to hide identity and posted as an example. The comments ranged from people saying that my bad experience was my own fault because if I want to identify as a Christian and have my basic values (in this case related to my beliefs about sexuality) respected by my treatment people I should see only Christian therapists, to someone who actually claimed that first my friend was probably making me up and he was pretty sure he'd read that story somewhere else. I actually had to write a comment giving more details to prove I was real. It was a strange experience compared to here.
But one of the greatest gifts you've all given me is an ability to see myself more clearly. Last year when I had to decide to go on the MAOI and go into the hospital I had to overcome a lot of fears and prepare to have a lot of my life disrupted by scary food and med restrictions and just overall changes, plus the chance that I'd go through 6 weeks of withdrawl, weeks inpatient, and still fail outpatient and then have to go back inpatient to be weaned off and started on something new (and to go off this takes 2 weeks. If/when that happens I'll have maybe 3-4 days of it being in my blodstream and then I'll probably be inpatient for safety until I am responding to whatever is next, which is probably an older MAOI since nothing else is left). There was a very long time when Dr. Mind would tell me I was courageous. It wasn't until I made those decisions and went through them last year that I believed it. And now you've all helped me see myself clearly enough to start to have the confidence to both admit to someone I hurt badly that I did so and that I was wrong even if I was sick.
But I followed that by crying through a very large part of my hour this week discussing how far I've come in this year and how proud I am of that. And I truly am. I'm not sharing this to brag, I'm sharing my amazement and also my joy with you because each of you matters. Even if you don't ever say a word I see my stats and knowing you are there matters a lot. I don't comment much on other blogs, so I totally get the silent support thing. In one year, off the top of my head, I have:
- conquered my terror of hospitalization
- gone on a scary med and had incredible results
- survived some really tough times with work
- met a goal, specifically the goal when I started traveling, to do this for 1 year and pay off debt. I've paid off debt AND I've made home improvements,big ones. That's huge. I also made it over a year and am moving into a position that is perfect for me instead of refusing to try change and insisting on nursing home work when I wasn't even that happy with it anymore and when it had gotten to be physically too much and emotionally had been too much for many years. This morning I paid of the last $750 of one of my student loans. That leaves one small (under $2000 loan and one huge one that I'll pay until I die meaning my payments which were over $1000/month at one time are now half that).
- learned to be so much more open. When I decided to blog (aka have Julia blog) about my hospitalization in detail I did so because I couldn't find any blog that did this for this kind of hospitalization or for bipolar. I decided at that point to throw out a lot of my last remaining fears of losing anonymity, and ultimately that led to my even having a real name, not "Just Me". (Ironically "Just Me" came from all the years of knocking on patient doors and yelling that as I entered. Now I go to pt. homes, knock, and enter with "Hi, it's Jen".)
- Agreed to what seemed like the scariest medical procedure ever, the camera in the bladder thing. And when the doctor terrified me I found someone more qualified and smarter, who did another simple test and said the scary thing wasn't needed.
- I talked about so many things I'd refused to ever discuss before, right down to the "here's what I mean when I say molested" list for Dr. Mind. And I learned a lot from that until PTSD turned my life into chaos for a while, but someday we'll talk about some of it more.
- I have learned to confront people. Not always, but I'm beginning. At my age that's a good thing. I even confronted Dr. Mind for scaring me once. And I'm forcing negotiations for my salary at my new job. This is also awesome since I've always taken what was offered even when I was making much less than I should have.
- I'm gotten a lot better at facing fears and I think even at figuring out what fears are rational and what aren't. Again,this is a big deal after living a life of fear.
- I've learned to have fun, to have hobbies. To enjoy things again.
- I've been strong enough to decide without even asking questions that my beloved cat gets "hospice" care, not treatment that might prolong her life but would take away her greatest pleasure besides annoying me, food. I didn't let anyone tell me that this decision wasn't right for us. Losing Anna will be one of the hardest things I'll ever experience, I'm teary just thinking of it, and I don't think it is going to happen for a long time, but deciding to make my own decision, to not pursue testing to see how bad it is or how long she might have but instead using my judgment and observations to guide us, that's right for us.
- I've learned to love. Not that I didn't love before Anne, but never have I loved like this when I was so terrified of doing so, or with such abandon.
- I've learned trust. In so many ways. I don't have it perfected, but it's not just baby steps into it either.
And apparently I've still not learned how to SHUT UP because this post is ridiculously long. I'm reiterating so much of my session with Dr. Mind, and the point is that thanks all of you I have learned to see myself more clearly, which has helped me so much in this year. Dr. Brain said today when she realized where I was a year ago that I've come so incredibly far. She also said today is the best I've been in many months, so I apparently really am better now.
So, thank you. thank you both for the support to do this (I feel like a PBS telethon) and also for the many ways you have all helped me take steps toward fixing some of this stuff. Thanks for the affirmations and for saying nice things and sharing Bible verses or stories or so many things that come when I really need them.
I could not do this without you all.