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Category Archives: Getting the crazy out

OK, depression, I’ve got you in my teeth like a wild warg and I’m slamming you this way and that and you better just lie there, bloodied and broken and submissive, at least through tomorrow.

Uh, does that sound manic? Am I manic, or just excited? How do I tell the difference?

Last night we survived being pulled over, on the way home from my daughter’s 4-H club meeting.

I thought it might be that the officer thought I was drunk because, with a benighted dashboard before me (that will never again illuminate its information) I could not see the speedometer. I was trying to flip down my highbeams, turn on my dome light, stay in my lane, and peer around my own shadow to read the speedometer by the light of the dome, all at the same time. With two squealing teenage girls in the back seat, I fought visceral terror at the flashing lights behind me and pulled over.

I couldn’t open the window on my side for the officer because I hadn’t pulled over far enough for the officer to be safe there, and I couldn’t open the window on the passenger side, where he arrived, because it was broken. So I opened my passenger door, and the officer was treated to the spectacle of my nervous, fumbling hand vainly searching in the glove box among flashlights, dirty napkins, fuses, dirt, and other things that weren’t gloves, for the registration. He watched me move the envelope around for a while, then suggested that that might be it. I handed it to him.

The girls tittered and joked around while the officer retired to his patrol car. They were what kept me sane. Then he returned, offering to check the function of my highbeams. It seemed to him that one of them was out. Sure enough, both headlights worked except on highbeam, the driver’s side didn’t brighten. He issued me a friendly warning.

What a vigilant fellow to notice something like that and then pull them over for it. We all thanked God and went on our merry way, and somehow my mood became elevated…just like that.

So today, before my daughter’s birthday cake and ice cream, I made good on my promise to myself and got my butt out to the barn and took a walk in the sun on the snow and the ice with my horse beside me. We walked for an hour and it felt like 15 minutes. When I got back to the house I discovered we had no birthday candles. My daughter, with perfect teenage nonchalance, blew out fifteen imaginary candles on the lopsided chocolate cake my husband had baked, and the party commenced.

Tomorrow I’m going to a boot camp for writers. I used to be a writer. Yes, it’s true. At least, that’s how I thought of myself. But I haven’t written in years, and now all of a sudden with the fog clearing, I think I want to try to write again. But in a public, structured setting with PEOPLE there??

I guess I’m better off than a painter struggling to re-emerge. At least no one will observe my hesitant strokes while I’m trying to create.

I see this plan to attend boot camp as a positive step against the force of depression, a willful lurch out of paralysis. Unfortunately I cannot say or guess how long this positive surge will last… but I will ride it gladly, toward whatever bright vistas, as if it will never end.

It will take work. There will be things I will have to make myself do: pull on my boots, drive my falling-to-pieces Jeep, step across thresholds, speak with people I know and don’t know and whose names I am mortified I don’t remember, but hopefully it will be worth it. If anyone is reading this, please wish me luck.

Also I shall wish myself luck. Good luck, me.

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spiderblood

There’s a blood smear on the ceiling. I stare straight up at it as I lay in bed, which I’ve been doing entirely too much of lately.

Depression has been having its way with me, and I suppose it’s my fault for letting it…I am suffering a period of serious social withdrawal and sadness. I’m running away from or pushing away everyone I can, and struggling to put on a smile for those whom I cannot avoid, who are so necessary…for just that reason.

I recently read something that reminded me of what I am supposed to be doing… forcing myself to get up and DO what I know will be healing, or at least useful. To that end, after 4-H, I came home and stared the beast in the face: Examined that I want to be with Zil, and yet I cannot go to her except to throw hay and run in from the cold. It adds to the torment to know that I know what to do to help myself (and her) and I can’t do it. If I don’t do it today, it’s harder tomorrow. It feels like exponential helplessness and it really, really hurts. It is the paralysis that comes with depression. It takes a fierce hold upon the will.

But I have a more pressing issue at the moment. The bloodstain on the ceiling.

The other night my husband, in his usual nonspecific way, commented on the size of “that spider.” Of course, I had no idea what spider, but I was tired of asking stuff like that, so I didn’t worry about it. Until later that night I lay down on my back and saw what was on the ceiling straight above my face. It looked like it had sixteen legs. Eight of those, of course, sprouted from its shadow, but the creepiness was undaunted by the fact.

I could not possibly sleep with that behemoth there, which could decide at any moment to descend on its self-spun cable, and crawl upon my face. So I got up, grabbed a shoe, and swatted it.

It landed as a black, wilted puddle on the carpet. I knelt to smoosh it in a tissue. From above, my husband exclaimed, “Wow! It was all FULL of blood!”

That grossed me out. Then he said something sobering: “It must have been eating all the other bugs.”

(Yeah we have bugs in our house but that’s not the point).

I had just killed a creature that, all unknown to me, had been doing us a service all this while. Quietly going about its business, bothering no one, helpfully keeping all the plastic glow-in-the-dark constellations clean of UFOs…and possibly other creatures that could land on my face.

Could it have been my guardian angel that I’d just swatted? Oh, that I were more Buddhist sometimes! I could have gently blown at it, or nudged it, just to make it move away. I didn’t have to kill it! Another living thing, God’s creature? I could have chosen to move it. I could have let it live.

Then, on the toilet, where I get philosophical (or think I do), I began to wonder how many people who, in our wanderings, have crossed paths with me, intending me no harm, but were swatted anyway. Had their feelings swatted. Had their intellect swatted. Had their self-worth swatted. Been swatted out of my life. When we could have helped each other. Built each other up. Formed a relationship, or just randomly momentarily made one another’s day better.

I haven’t washed the bloodstain away, because it serves as a reminder to me. We can never really know how another is feeling. I often feel that I look for the best in people, but not all the time. No matter how we feel, it seems better to use a fleeting moment to smile, or to stretch our comfort level just a bit (Opposite Action?), even if it’s a herculean effort only to say, “Good morning.”

One could, all unknowing, help lift someone else’s depression just a bit. Or one could just swat the person by the simple act of looking away or beyond, like they don’t exist. I have thought about all those phone calls that have gone unanswered because there were people at the other end. But those people have feelings too. I don’t know if I can do it, but I can just do one tiny little thing in one tiny little moment, one single act of will. That tiny little blood stain reminds me.

One simple act of will.

Clouds covered the sun through the window, and vague darkness depressed the room, crushed it down into a concentration of gloom and despair. I half-awoke and fell asleep again.

Windy Pond

waters of lost souls

” I am named for the saint of lost souls,” I said, though I did not know it to be true. It felt true.

“It’s not ‘souls’, it’s ’causes’,” said Gwydion. “Has your mind exchanged ’cause’ for ‘soul’ for a reason? Are they the same? Or has a cause (a falsehood) been replaced by the truth of a soul?”

“I know I have lost, and though I cannot remember what I have lost, its bitterness and grief and self-pity (self-judgment) remain,” I, Gilvaethwy, replied.

“What is it you have lost?” asked Gwydion.

“I yearn for lost youth, the thick trees that promised eternity.”

“That is no answer, ’tis a complaint. What is it that you have lost? Do you know?”

“Affirmation and meaning through desire and satisfaction, desire and denial, rejection, confirmation of life, or devolvement and depredation of all that might ever have been important, in past or future.”

“Then how is it loss? Is it perhaps no loss at all, but merely an absence of something that never should have been. ”

transformation

transformation

“I know I have lost, and because I cannot remember what I have lost, perhaps my mourning is for something that never existed for me:

The becoming that never became.
The becoming that regretted itself.
The becoming of linearity to pointless circling.
The becoming of faith to utter confusion.”

“Do you know what you have lost?” asked Gwydion again, maddeningly.

“I don’t know. Perhaps because I don’t remember the loss, it was not loss,” I parroted, to appease him.

Then I surprised myself. “It was transformation.”

I awoke, bathed in the dreams of early morning, with the promise of wisdom regained.  Sleep-clouded thoughts that fascinated so greatly, for whatever reason, that sleep was driven off by wonder or confusion. Before the crow of the cock, the spatter of eggs cooking in butter, the search from the ramparts.

Before the explosion in my mind that I could never see coming, the anger and rage and sadness; for happiness never lasts for me. Creativity and insight and temperance do not last with Gilvaethwy, like they do with Gwydion my brother.

I try to enjoy them while I have them, all the while mourning the certain knowledge that they will soon be gone from me.

Cow

I have been fighting depression and anxiety a great deal of late, and hard at that.  As the behavioral-ists say, as if I were a cow, “Have you been ruminating again?” Because, they say, “ruminating” upon feelings, occurrences, or memories that have me really pissed off, frightened, or saddened reduces my chances for victory. Well, yes, excessive obsessing can do that.

Yet I find that having these feelings, occurrences, memories, or whatever else cycloning around in my racing thoughts makes the sedentary, passive activity of “rumination” quite impossible.

Me no moo.

Rather, focusing those preoccupations through writing actually can help. Writing is not a form of “distraction” found in a Distress Tolerance list; neither is it a “pleasant activity.” Most especially, it is not rumination. Writing is looking hard for the splinter in your hand and stabbing it with a needle until the splinter comes out and you realize why you couldn’t see it without going through the pain: it was a tiny sliver of white wood, burrowed in there, invisible.

Sometimes you’ll do it through poetry (even if the esthetic results are dismal, the process is the point).

Sometimes through fiction.

I highly recommend writing in a journal (that’s what I do; I write in a journal). I don’t recommend “journaling”.  God, no! “Journal” must never, ever, become a legitimate verb! Please don’t help it to be so.

Or, and this is no new thought either, you could puke your guts out in a blog, which sometimes edifies, but usually just embarrasses. And yet we keep on doing it anyway! Go figure.

It may not solve your problem or cure your depression, but it’s bound to occupy your mind and could help you work through something, stall a suicidal impulse, become a prayer, slow the racing thoughts, ease the anxiety, be the only entity in the universe in whom you can confide the real you. . .whatever it does, it’s better than “ruminating.”

I may be obsessive, but I am NOT a cow.

I am one of those pathological, chronic self-examiners. A form of self-centeredness that concerns itself with worrying that things I said and did will affect others who have long forgotten about, or did not even notice, what I did, said, or thought; and also with analyzing every thought and feeling I have to examine and judge my motivations and their truth or falsehood. It may arise from all those inappropriate behaviors I “acted out” (God, do I hate that term) and said and thought in the past that were NOT forgotten, were held against me, swung around to bite me in the ass, and so forth.

In any case, were I to have been truly ashamed of what had occurred in the crisis assessment, that tendency toward self-examination would be the reason that after a week or so of self-flagellation, I would fall over myself apologizing to everyone concerned for the scene I caused. Which, of course, did not happen. To begin with, I did not cause the scene.

It was later denied by the therapist, and in a so-called investigation of the complaint I lodged, that she was yelling at me and my husband as we left the building. Well, yes, she was. A trained crisis counselor. Yelling out the glass doors into the cold, polished and windowed lobby in front of God, the receptionists, the pens with giant flowers on them, and everybody else: “You had better be back here on Monday morning!”

Very professional.

I arrived at that institution for responsible reasons; to seek treatment for my condition before a crisis occurred that would have a damaging impact on my family. Instead, the crisis was initiated there in the therapy session. It was by no means over when I was thrown out, or as they call it, “left voluntarily.” I was in far worse condition than when I arrived. Truth be told, I struggled into my old, deteriorating car, whose door is literally falling off, in a truly suicidal state of mind. I was ready to kill myself. There was no help, no hope.

There was the list of things, embedded in my mind, that I had planted there myself to automatically prevent suicide. They were MY safety, which I invented, with no help, suggestion or input from their behavioral therapy, whether dialectical or cognitive.

Why was she yelling? Maybe it was indirectly because I froze when I saw the police officers. That instinctive reaction to past trauma and abuse may have been interpreted as me subsiding from my “tantrum” at the prospect of “punishment” by the authorities, which of course would lead one to the conclusion that I had “worked myself up to it” as she put it, for the purpose of creating a scene, flouting every behavioral skill that I had ever been taught. This is only speculation on my part. A mere crazy person cannot fathom the sublime workings of the vast, disciplined minds of her betters, even if her betters are just kids.

When one breaks apart as I broke apart, the one thing they need is tolerance and competence from their therapist(s). If an institution’s “trained professionals” cannot discern the difference between a real breakdown and a tantrum thrown for the purpose of making a scene, but the institution stands with moral certainty behind their employee’s incompetence as professional, appropriate and effective handling of the situation, then that institution needs to be nuked.

I of course filed a grievance, instead of engaging in the more favored behavioral skill of “Opposite Action” by apologizing and sending them roses. They responded to the grievance with what they called an investigation, which, as described in the Resolution of Grievance they sent me afterward, consisted of interviewing the therapist about what happened. They did not interview my husband, who was there, the only witness throughout the farce.

Throughout the Resolution of Grievance, the language referred to everything the therapist said and/or chose to write down during the session as factual and honest. Throughout the same document, the language referred to everything I reported that I  experienced, observed, felt, and heard, as mere “belief.” As in: ‘[Therapist] did (or said, or said you did) blah blah blah. You believed that blah blah blah. So the therapist was correct, and you were incorrect, because you merely believed, while whatever the therapist said is what actually occurred.’

This language conveyed quite clearly that they held nothing I said as credible. It demonstrated total lack of respect for the patient as an intelligent human being. It revealed that the patient’s point of view is insignificant to them, because they view the patient as insignificant and, indeed, crazy.

Do I want this institution nuked? I don’t want this institution nuked because it is my only treatment alternative in this tiny, redneck town. So, what do I do? Protest their “Resolution” of my grievance? Their Grievance Resolution invites me to. Or should I bend over and take it up the ass because if I would only practice the skill called “Radical Acceptance” my ass would hurt less.

In the end, I wrote out my entire dispute to the “Grievance Resolution” and then employed the behavioral skill of  “Opposite Action” by not sending them the disputing response. Now I practice the behavioral skill of “Interpersonal Effectiveness” by being as sweet as sugar, or at least as sweet as I can be, whenever protocol and hoop-jumping require me to be in their office. So you see, the behavioral skills as practiced save me from alienating the guardians of my only avenue to my doctor who prescribes the live-saving medications. Isn’t behavioral therapy beautiful?

A couple of days after the incident, the medical assistant called and told me that my doctor had prescribed a change in my medication. I noticed INSTANT improvement (which is rare). I had gone in there seeking just this kind of treatment–medical–and had I received it when needed, none of the rest of this would have happened.

Within three days of the incident, people from Social Services invaded my kids’ school, ripped them from their classrooms, and threw them into closed, lonely rooms and interrogated them. Then they came to my house and tried to be disarming. They found no danger to the children, only love and an uncommon maturity and intense loyalty to their mother on the part of the children.

The one thing I have learned from all this is that the mental-health institution is NOT a safe place to go when I am in crisis or in imminent danger of crisis. All crises must be worked out on my own now, as there is no safety, respect, or confidentiality extant in the institution any longer, if ever indeed there was. I go to the treatment center only as needed in order to continue medical management by my very competent and respectfully-behaving psychiatrist.

o

Behave, or you’ll end up here.

I have reached a conclusion, and it is this:

Beware of all therapies with the word “behavioral” in them.

While in some certain aspect, Dialectical Behavioral Therapy is useful (all people, mental-health patients or not, benefit from understanding the dialectic), behavioral therapy in general has its own hidden agenda.

To brainwash the patient in order for other people not to be inconvenienced by the patient’s illness.

Behavioral therapy teaches the patient how to exercise appropriate behavior in a variety of situations. This behavior suppresses the expression of the patient’s true feelings and the symptoms of their illness, not for the patient, but for the convenience and comfort of others. This is all good and fine up to a point. Most of us are not considered brilliant or indispensable enough to be tolerated for being unapologetically who we are.

But the other thing behavioral therapy does, the brainwashing and ultimate damage, is more insidious.

It puts back on the patient the responsibility for having any symptoms for their illness. That’s right. It’s our fault for having symptoms, if we don’t practice the skills, whether or not the skills work or help at all. That’s what I was taught four months ago at the institution where I receive treatment. The problem there, of course, is we’re right back where we started: being stigmatized. If we cannot exhibit the right behavior, it is our own fault. We are mental cases. We are nuts.

I have the institution where I receive treatment to thank for this revelation. I was nearing a crisis, and my husband rushed me to the treatment center for help. We knew it was a matter of medication adjustment, partly because I was on Seroquel, which was giving me terrifying cardiac symptoms; and partly because my new “behavioral” symptoms were frightening ones that I had never experienced before.

Instead being allowed to see my doctor, we were told I must see a crisis counselor. I explained to this person that my “skills” (DBT, mainly), were no longer working for this alarming condition I was in. In response, she mildly asked me what skills I could use to deal with this. I explained again that I had tried all my skills and none of them were working or else were inaccessible to me in my current state. Again, she responded by asking what skills I could use. This went on and on, trying my patience, and hers. I begged her for help. To no avail. At last the effect of her mounting contempt and annoyance at my mounting emotionalism reached a breaking point.

I began screaming and banging my head on the wall.

I am not proud of this. Nor did I choose it. It chose me, I suppose, my crisis, which I had arrived there in a responsible manner to avert, precipitated by the excellent and flawless job this therapist was doing. Who knows. In retrospect, I have to think, perhaps with tongue in cheek, that banging my head against a figurative wall was not effective, and so my disease directed me to bang my head against a literal wall.

This did not end well for me, as you can imagine.

The therapist had the police called.The staff’s single objective was to be rid of me, my symptoms, and my behavior. Mind you, the staff of a mental-health institution that is supposed to help people wanted to be rid of the crazy person. Call the police!

My poor husband tried to get ahold of me. No one stepped in to help. That in itself is understandable; physical involvement in situations like that are not allowed. However, a group of staff people simply stood around me, staring down with disgusted, fascinated, or shocked looks on their faces at my disgusting behavior. Not one person offered a comforting word to my husband throughout the whole incident.

Or to me, though it might have helped to resolve the inconvenient symptoms I was having, panic being among them.

Then I saw the police officers. I froze in instinctive terror. I had been severely abused by that city’s police officers, and still suffer flashbacks of the shameless humiliation they inflicted.

The staff took this instinctive freezing to be self-control, apparently, and seemed to have concluded that the crisis was resolved.

Far from it.

“Organizing your sock drawer” is commonly a euphemism for sitting around with your thumb up your ass, or prioritizing the wrong thing, or belittling someone’s request for your presence by saying “I have to organize my sock drawer.”

But having an organized sock drawer is more important than you think.

First of all, the process of organizing something as simple as socks can be a very grounding, effective exercise in mindfulness. The socks are a jumbled mess. Some have holes. Some are missing their mate. The ones at the bottom are those loud leggins from the 80s, which you may then choose to continue wearing as a fashion statement, should they still fit; or throw away if they’re “hosed” no pun intended; or donate if they’re in excellent condition. Then, as you dig further, you might find that secret buried treasure you had forgotten where you hid or even forgotten that you had!

If you really focus on these things, each separate thing, you can clear your mind from all else and enter a mindful zone.

Start by putting your socks in pairs. Lay one out, its mate on top of it, then fold the pair in half. I don’t recommend hooking them together by folding the tops down; this just stretches out the top of your socks. Then separate them according to whatever categories please you. Then, stack them neatly. Yes, that’s right, I know it sounds crazy, but just do it. Wow. You have more room in that drawer than you imagined, don’t you?

Your reasonable (rational) mind has sorted, organized.  Your feelings have chosen the most pleasing arrangement of things you want to keep and enjoy. The tidy sock drawer is now a reference point for a grounded, wise mind state.

That is just one of the benefits. Another is, you’ll be able to get dressed faster, especially in the dark, because you just grab a pair and know they’ll match!

Another is, every time you open that drawer you will not feel despair at the jumbled mess that signifies your life. Instead, having that secret place neat and tidy that no one else sees will actually help your mind. You will begin to find more ways to experience yourself as clean on the inside. You are liberating yourself, no longer limited only to whisking together a hurried facade, to hide the crazy under the rug.

You will be able to begin to organize your life and free your mind and heart in other ways, ways that are more significant to you.

So, if you choose to, go clean that sock drawer.

A loud thump startled him out of sleep. Not loud enough to relieve the darkness of his dreams with waking fears, but more to give a kind of substance to their stalking, nameless shapes. A sound of heavy treading, a clomp upon a stair.

He tensed, his heart beginning to race, but the sound faded even as he sought to identify it.

It was gone. No one had come. It mattered little. He had nothing to offer.

He began to drift, downward, deeper, beneath the sightless rock pools to shelter from the shadow walkers. They circled him, and began to merge. He smelled the dank green moss beneath his hands. He felt the cool breath of the beginnings of despair. And the sound came again, this time with a shriek, and a roar that drowned all dreaming.

It was the wind, he realized, coming awake, a storm wind lurching in fierce gusts from across forever. It beat the crumbling keep with angry fists, careened shrieking around corners and through cracks in the stone, roared overhead like a great beast with a cymbal-crash of battering wings.

A moment of respite, a settling, and then another gust slammed the wall, crushing the mortar like an enormous boulder from God’s own catapult, if such a thing could exist.

The surface against which he pressed himself, he could feel it shake, and heard a quiet voice nearby, almost a whisper, as if in prayer.

He thought himself awake at last, but the darkness remained as it had been. Except for the shadow stalker, which had either vanished or come fully upon him, in tides of pressure that squeezed and bent and twisted him, to flatten, mold or break him; unrelenting as the wind in all its myriad shapes.

All that sound, compressed in his head. Wind crashing skirl…silence.

No sound of whispered prayer. No one there, at all.

Only a grating and grinding behind his heart, the swells of wind, and the cancerous pressure of darkness.

Something about it…he had been here before. He had a decision to make, and quickly. To yield, or to fight it. To brace, or allow it to embrace and crush him.

But not to name it. Absolutely, no.

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