Overflowing Toolbox

Well. It’s been a while. Almost five months, to be exact. I thought I knew what I wanted/needed to write about but honestly, I’m feeling a little lost right now, both in journal topics and in general life. I know, WHAT’S NEW?

Next week marks two months that I’ve been off work on short-term disability because of my craziness. I can’t believe it’s already been that long. Time really does fly when you’re falling apart. I don’t think I really knew what to expect once I had the time and space to breathe. A part of me was waiting in anticipation of some kind of tsunami of emotions and a giant breakdown to ensue. Another part of me was ready for some life-altering epiphany to sweep over me while I calmly meditated in the morning sun. In hindsight, both of those expectations were fucking ridiculous; I resist feeling most emotions, I cannot meditate for shit, and I hate mornings.

What I do know is that the deep ache of anxiety and dread that had been a constant in the pit of my stomach has slowly begun to lose some of its power without the added pressures of daily life. It doesn’t feel as strong, and there have been a few moments that I actually haven’t noticed it there at all. I opted to take myself off my medication because it wasn’t working and made me feel awful. I was on my fifth or sixth medication and hadn’t experienced anything positive from any of them so just didn’t see the point of throwing things into my body for no reason. Granted, I probably should’ve come off the drugs with my doctor’s supervision but that would’ve just added a whole other layer of anxiety so I did it the stupid way. The withdrawal from my last drug was BRUTAL. I tried to stop taking it once and ended up caving and putting myself back on it because I couldn’t handle the brain zaps, the dizziness, and the horrific buzzing and thumping in my eardrums. The second time I just decided to push through it and after about ten days of no medication I started to feel better. The only way I can describe how I felt on the medication was just, “meh”. My symptoms didn’t really improve, they just came with an undertone of zombie which meant that I couldn’t feel or experience what was actually happening most of the time. It’s like the world had turned grey and everything was monotone.

In the first weeks after stopping medication I was randomly crying at things that weren’t even sad. I’m definitely not a crier by nature, but put on a YouTube video of a kids’ choir singing Disney classics and I was an emotional disaster. I didn’t know what was happening but I also didn’t fight it too much because I felt relieved to actually be able to feel something again. Plus, y’know, The Circle of Life is a beautiful song with a very powerful message, okay? Stop judging me. But, like I said, I was no longer numb and I was back to feeling everything – the good, the bad, and the ugly. It’s been good and terrible all at once. Flashbacks are back to feeling as raw as the events themselves, the low mood is feeling harder to fight, and I’m busy listening to a cacophony of overactive thoughts 24/7. Although the anxiety isn’t as palpable as it was before I took time off, it’s showing up in other ways.

I just received a phone call from my doctor’s office asking why I cancelled my appointment today and whether I planned to come in to see her before I head off on a trip. I saw her last week and she had finally convinced me to accept a prescription for a new type of medication, one that treats both anxiety and depression. I have yet to fill said prescription because I don’t want to go through the shitty transition of new medication with all the side effects that come with that, and she told me that this type of drug has an increased chance of weight gain while on it. NO THANKS. I’ve been fairly occupied with body-shaming myself lately and judging how disgusting I am right now. The last thing I need is to get even more fat. I battled pretty hard on this one but when I saw my doctor last week she thought it would be better for me to be on something than not – I apparently don’t have my shit as together as I thought. We made a temporary compromise that she would weigh me without me seeing the number (because eating disorder brains love to see numbers) and then she’d do regular blind weigh-ins with me after I start taking the meds. If I gain more than 3lbs (I argued for 0.5lb) then I stop taking it. But, it seems that the prospect of new drugs is less fun than just doing things with willpower alone. So I didn’t pick up the prescription and I cancelled my appointment for a ‘ how-fat-did-you-get?’ check-up today. I’M SUCH A MODEL PATIENT.

Meanwhile in Crazyville (my brain), I am having swirling thoughts about the potential triggers and memories I’m about to walk head-first into on my trip. I’m returning to the motherland for a few weeks to spend some time with family and pseudo-family. Rattling around in my apartment by myself was great for the first few weeks of leave, but now I’m finding myself getting stuck in thought patterns and flashbacks on the daily. Seeing familiar faces will be great and probably quite grounding for the most part, but with that comes a fairly hefty portion of baggage and reminders of a lot of things that I’d like to forget. A lot of my friends and family still live close to places that represent trauma to me. My parents [unknowingly] live probably 200 meters from my childhood abuser. One friend lives in the next town from where a lot of my adult traumas took place or began. My group of school friends that I’m still in touch with were all with me on a vacation that went very wrong. It’s just a lot. And it’s something that I’ve chosen to take on as part of this trip so I will have to just suck it up and do my best.

I’ve had to check with myself a few times whether this trip is for healthy reasons or just an excuse to self-sabotage and re-traumatize myself on purpose, a pattern I’m all too familiar with. I think in previous times a trip like this would’ve been about the latter, but I’m fairly certain I’m just feeling homesick and will benefit from seeing some of my favourite people. I just somehow need to get a handle on the memories that seem to be occupying my brain right now. One flashback in particular has been kicking my ass for a few weeks. It makes sense given that I’m going back to the place that it happened but I don’t know why this one is so stuck. It’s extremely vivid and real, and my body feels cold to touch and trembles for hours at a time after each flashback. I’ve tried to work through it and understand why it’s so overbearing right now but I’m pretty clueless. There’s definitely still an element of fear despite being 99% sure that this fear is irrational. It’s also a small part of a very large situation that maybe I still haven’t managed to understand and process as well as I’d thought. I don’t know how else to tackle it, though.

I heard someone say something that really resonated with me yesterday. She said, “I have so many coping skills. My toolbox is overflowing with things that are supposed to help me in times like this, but none of it does any more. My toolbox is so heavy that it just makes me fall over instead of helping.” I couldn’t relate to anything more than that if I tried right now. I’ve written about the memory that keeps coming out in flashbacks, I’ve discussed it multiple times, I’ve dissected the feelings attached to it and have appointed the blame and shame and fear to the appropriate people. But here it is, rearing its head several times a day, knocking me off of my feet and throwing me back into the past. It isn’t helping me. It isn’t showing me anything new. It just feels like torture at this point. My body aches, my brain is tired, and I don’t want to go anywhere in case it happens in public. I’ve tried using the tools that I know. I’ve tried to understand. I’ve tried to forget. Nothing is working. And I’m fucking exhausted. I want a break.

Well. I started this post thinking it would wind up being somewhat positive in nature. Haha. How naïve! So close, but so very far. I’m going to end here and may revisit later. Maybe just freeing up some space in my brain will have made a difference.

Cross your fucking fingers, yo.

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