A welcome turn

Stepped into the same ER as we did 5 months ago. Got brought back just as quickly as before when the triage nurse saw his level of pain. Had the same ER doctor come in to the room. And as she stepped in she stopped. I’ve treated you before, haven’t I? He looked and said yes, that she was the one who found his cancer. She asked prognosis, current symptoms, and immediately put in orders for pain meds and a CT. I saw the same concern on her face as the last time when she ordered pain meds and a CT. Last time for his colon where she found multiple large masses, this time for his head where he was having the severe pain. It was all so similar, and so frightening.

I vividly remember 5 months ago, sitting in the chair next to hubby’s ER bed while they hook up his IV. Waiting in that chair while they take him for scans. And finally seeing the doctor return with results, closing the door I didn’t know the room had before closing the curtain usually used as a door and turning to us to explain what she found. That time led to a week at the hospital, a cancer diagnosis, explanation of stage 4, massive surgery, and a rollercoaster of pain and emotion that we still face.

Today I sat in that chair next to hubby’s ER bed while they hooked up his IV. Waited in that chair while the took him for scans. And then sat there anxiously staring at the door you wouldn’t know is there unless you’ve seen them use it. Desperately wishing it to remain open. I couldn’t handle going down this road again so soon. Even if I could handle it, I don’t know if he can. His mind is breaking.

Last time we sat through unspoken fear of colon cancer, this time the unspoken fear of it spreading to the brain. The doctor came back but the door remained open. Scans are clean, labs look great (considering). But she still admitted him. She wants another doctor to take a look, and beyond that just to give his body a rest. She is promising pain meds, anti nausea meds, and anti anxiety meds. And as the first batch went in his IV I slowly saw him sink into a gentle sleep. He is calm and resting, his pain managed, and when last I left his room he was keeping down what he has decided is the most delicious cranberry juice. The first thing he’s kept down in days.

It’s likely that the symptoms are just from the chemo, but it hit so hard and wasn’t letting up that we needed to get him in. What has me most concerned is the occasional moments of confusion or lapses in memory. It’s not normal for him, and started before these other symptoms. So they’re looking into it. I’m relieved that the brain scans are clean, and that he will be able to rest pain free even if just for tonight. This trip to the hospital had a much better turn out then last time. But I feel it will continue to loom over us every time we have these ups and downs. But right now I will sleep easy knowing he is safe. And tomorrow I will hopefully be able to take him home.

Depression and Cancer

I never liked to hear that depression is like a cancer of the mind. I am a mental health advocate and a firm believer that mental illness is in fact an illness, not just moods. I never corrected someone for comparing depression to cancer as I know how hard it is to describe to those who haven’t had it. But I simply did not understand the link. Cancer is cancer, depression is depression, right? Well today I got it. I suddenly understood the link.

Hubby is fighting stage 4 cancer right now. He went to the doctor this morning who said “you don’t seem yourself today, are you feeling alright?” He said no, and tried to explain but couldn’t quite put it into words. They did see that he was dehydrated so got him hooked up to some fluids. They tried to talk and help while he was at the office. But eventually he needed to go home.

Worried about why the doctor kept him late I came home early from work and found him half asleep in bed. I asked how he felt. He said he didn’t feel well, but wasn’t sure why. He described his day. That the fluids didn’t really help him feel better but it’s good he got them. That he kind of just doesn’t want to move. I asked “is it kind of like the exhaustion and aches that come from the flu but without the actual flu?” Kind of, that sounds a little similar. “Does it overwhelm your body but dull your mind?” Yeah. And I just want to sleep. I don’t want to keep getting up and facing these things. I just want to lay here. I don’t feel good. “Honey, that’s depression.”

As the husband of someone with Borderline he has heard me say so many times “I physically feel my emotions.” But I don’t think that really registered until today, when I put a name to his ache. I explained that it becomes overwhelming and takes over. That he needs to start going to therapy and get back on an antidepressant. He wasn’t quite convinced, though I could tell he was listening. So I went on.

Depression starts in the brain, your mind feels it and starts spreading it. What started as some chemicals in one part of your body is spreading to other parts and making them sick. If not treated it will not just go away. It will spread through you and overwhelm your body just as your tumors are. And that’s when it hit me. Depression is like cancer.

Depression starts in one place. It begins mild but is often ignored which allows it to grow. Untreated it will continue to grow and spread until it overwhelms your body and drastically decreases your quality of life. My husband had mild symptoms of cancer that were ignored. Untreated the cancer cells continued to grow and spread until it was discovered that he had tumors covering his colon, liver, and lungs. The cancer overwhelmed his body and drastically decreased his quality of life. But cancer kills, depression doesn’t, right? Wrong. If he doesn’t get treatment and this depression continues to grow it is possible it can take his life before the cancer has a chance to. And that scares me more than anything.

I get it now. I get the comparison. I likely still won’t use this comparison, but not because I don’t get it. As someone who has faced severe depression and not understood the comparison, I can only imagine how hard it would be for someone who has never faced depression to comprehend the link here. So I’ll stick with other variations to try to explain what depression is, and what it does. But today I gained new insight, and better understood others in the way they describe things. And for that I am glad. I’m happy to better understand them and the intelligence and logic behind their explanation. And I’m glad to have enough insight to help hubby get the treatment he needs for mind and body.

That is the worst idea you have had

When your therapist of 3 years, the women who has seen you through panic attacks, self harm, suicidal ideation, and lord knows what else says “that is the worst idea you have had.” You should probably listen 😬

So what was this terrible idea? I went off my meds. That may not seem like much, but remember all the lovely things mentioned in the first sentence? That was during a period of time I spent months arguing with her that I didn’t need medication. Followed by a month of trying to stabilize on my new medications, some of that time spent in a psych hospital. She helped me understand that I need meds, helped me find a good psychiatrist after I had had so many bad ones in the past, she helped keep me safe from myself while I worked to find the right blend, and she helped me understand that the meds bring me to a baseline where I can then work on my self care to become healthy and stable beyond that point.

Recently someone at the office started telling everyone that I don’t care about things. Suddenly rumors where flying around that I am heartless, that I don’t care about my work or my team. This started spreading out of control until someone started trying to tell others I should be fired so they can have someone that actually cares. As someone with Borderline Personality Disorder I’d never been told I don’t care. I’m told I care too much, I care when I shouldn’t, I am too emotional, that I need to shut it off. My whole world shifted as I began to hear these strange rumors and I panicked.

I knew the “issue” was that I was stable, and that I wear an emotional mask on top of that. I also knew that I wasn’t going to lower that mask, so the only way to show emotions through it was to stop being stable. So for the next two weeks I cut my antidepressant and mood stabilizer dosages in half. When I didn’t end up completely crazy after that I just stopped taking them altogether. I went against my better judgement. I went against the advice I give others to never adjust your meds without first speaking to your doctor. I went against the advice I give myself, to talk over decisions I know are probably wrong with my therapist before doing stupid things. I panicked, so I ignored everything but the rumors at the office and I screwed myself up worse.

So at last Monday’s appointment we discussed the issues I’m going through right now, and eventually got to the dreaded question:

“How are your meds working?”

“I’m not taking them.”

Pause… “When did you last see your Psychiatrist?”

“About 3 or 4 months ago?”

“So she doesn’t know you stopped taking them?”

“No.”

“How long have you been off your meds?”

“A week, I was on half dose for 2 weeks before that.”

Pause…. “Why?”

“They were making me stable so people thought I didn’t care. I needed stronger emotions at work or everyone would hate me!”

Longer pause (probably an effort to regain the peace she had found while meditating that morning before I had come in and ruined it) “That… that is the worst idea you have had.”

“They want to fire me!”

“You can’t just stop your meds.”

“I can’t be stable right now, they hate me at work!”

“Do you hear yourself?”

“Yes. But I don’t care. I need my job.”

“You are more important than just a job. You need to be stable for you and your husband and your kids. You need to be on your meds.”

So I’m back on my meds. I’m feeling better, more clear, more calm. But I still have moments of desperate desire to be off them. To let my crazy take control. I don’t know where this desire is coming from exactly, I don’t think it is just from work though that was certainly a catalyst. But something in me says I shouldn’t be stable. And this is a new fight for me, one I don’t know how to face.

When I was young and refused to acknowledge depression as a medical condition, or that I had anything more than seasonal depression, I would refuse meds or go off of them because I shouldn’t need them. I’ve fought that battle and moved beyond it. I’ve learned to ignore the occasional thoughts my brain throws at me trying to convince me of that lie. But this is a new lie. My mind says the meds are working, and they’re needed, but that I should stop anyway. I recognize the truth of my illness and my treatment, and something is telling me not to be treated. To let the symptoms take over. I don’t know what that is. I don’t know how to fight it. Have any of you fought that before? The idea that you can be stable but shouldn’t?

My boss has Borderline Personality Disorder – Part 2

Every month the amount of people coming to the blog to find out how to deal with their BPD boss grows. For every one of you coming here to try to find out how to deal with someone that has BPD I want to hug you! Part of that may be my overly sensitive emotions and tendency towards inappropriate relationships, but more so it’s because I can see you’re going through a difficult time with someone you’re stuck with all day. That is an extremely difficult thing to deal with.

Something I mention in my first post about this topic is that you can’t change the person. That if it gets too bad then maybe look for a new job. Which is entirely unfair. I can hear the “that’s ridiculous!” and “That’s unfair!” and “Why should I be the one to change?!” screams coming through as I read my own words. And to these I respond, “yes” and “it is” and “you shouldn’t”. So why then do I leave that advice there?

The fact is we can’t control other people. We can only control ourselves. I’m not saying that the tough manager shouldn’t be held responsible. Everyone should be held responsible for their actions. But you can’t control your boss any more than I can control you. So then the question may come up of why their manager isn’t doing something about it. Maybe you can’t control them, but certainly their boss can hold them responsible, right? To which I argue, who says they’re not?

I recently fired someone, and ya know what? It took over a year. In a large corporation an HR department needs strong documentation of what the issue is, how it effects the team, how it effects the business, and proof that the employee has been made aware and given all necessary tools to change. If that can be proven and the changes have not been made, then the person can be let go. I was stuck in a situation where the employee did not work in the same office as me and I had to rely on others to provide feedback. If they didn’t then I had nothing to go off of. I needed proof that the employee was not improving despite the additional discussions, warnings, and trainings she had received. There were people who wondered why I wasn’t doing anything, but refused to provide feedback at the same time. I was doing site visits, asking for feedback, documenting everything possible. I was assigning training classes, following up, and more. I was stuck with a system that needed people to speak to me and people that refused to speak.

The manager of your BPD manager might be doing things that you aren’t aware of. Maybe they’re tying to document and people aren’t speaking up. Maybe they don’t know. Maybe they’re in process providing new trainings and looking to see if it helps. We don’t know what’s happening behind closed doors. We can’t assume.

So along with taking ownership of your actions, make sure to document things and speak to your bosses boss when needed. Do so tactfully and in detail. Don’t speak on mental illness, that will make things far messier. Instead speak on specific examples of things that took place. It may take time to see improvement, but that doesn’t mean that the person isn’t being held responsible for their actions.

Here’s some examples of how to provide feedback:

Instead of “She just doesn’t understand boundaries” say “I stated last week that I am uncomfortable with her hugging, and yet she has continued to hug me.” Notice how the first statement is vague and could mean she walked past you too close for all we know. That will barely get a reaction from the big boss. The second statement, however, is an ethics violation and potentially sexual harassment. The person you report that to has to immediately follow up with some form of action.

Instead of “She has a bad temper” say “She began yelling at me in front of the team yesterday. I felt embarrassed and struggled to focus on my work the rest of the day.” The first statement could be her temper or your thin skin, no way for an outside party to know. The second statement is clearly her reacting poorly to a situation in a way that negatively impacted your work and employee moral. The first statement makes a manger want to say “work it out” while the second is likely to prompt a verbal warning if it’s the first documented offense or written warning if it’s been documented before.

Sometimes this still won’t make things change. I don’t know why, I’m not there. And it may still come to a point where you have to leave because the environment isn’t getting better. I get that. I’ve been there. I had a boss that had extremely high turnover and had a way of making her boss believe that it was because she had developed them for great things, when everyone who worked for her knew it’s because we’re all trying to get away from her. I attempted to provide feedback, my manager knew I might so never had anything in email. It was my word against hers and hers always won. I tried to switch teams and was told that I needed to learn how to work with others, and would not be allowed to work for anyone else. Meanwhile this boss was treating me and many others horribly. I left the company. They lost my skills and experience because of her. I was not the first, nor will I be the last. Last I heard from a previous coworker, her relationship with her boss doesn’t seem to be quite the same. She’s not on such a high pedestal, she’s not getting to run her team however she wants anymore, and her work is being more closely monitored. Enough people provided enough similar, and constructive, feedback that it’s finally being looked into. But not until after I had to get out.

Also keep in mind the potential for your boss to change. I recently called an employee “sweetie”. A habit of mine outside the office that accidentally slipped at the office. He reported it to my boss who mentioned it to me. Not only am I being more careful what I say to him, I am more careful what I say in general. I need to change to ensure my team feels comfortable at work. Whether the change is before or after an employee leaves, it is possible.

I’m wishing you all the best in your career! Please remember that things can get better and less stressful even if it requires tough choices to be made.

Gotta be honest… looks like a sock to me

Knitting knitting knitting “ah crap”. That is basically the story of this damn sock.

So in case you’re not following, I am knitting socks right now. Knitting is a coping tool for when my brain monster is taking control, so I’ve been doing it a lot lately. I decided to try a sock again, I’ve never successfully finished one but I was feeling hopeful. Upon finishing the ribbing I noticed a mistake in one of the rows. Looks wonky but not overly noticeable so I kept going. Then I finished everything before the heel, success! Furthest I’ve ever made it! Oh wait, my repeat pattern has a mistake a few rows back. I’m really bad at ripping back and picking up stitches so I’ll let it go.

I finished the heel flap yesterday, so proud of myself! And it was done without mistakes! Yay! Started the heel turn. Got to row 9 before I realized I’d done the whole fucking heel turn wrong.

I burst into tears. Hubby was wondering what was wrong. I held up the sock and said it was all screwed up and I should just give up. He said it looked fine and asked what was wrong with it. I pointed to the mistake in the ribbing, the one in the ankle, and then to the heel turn which would fit only if my heel slanted to the left.

Hubby looked at the sock thoughtfully, examined each part I had pointed to, then calmly looked at me and said “I gotta be honest with you. It looks like a sock to me.” 😐

So I went to bed and am trying again today. I had to rip out the heel turn, but couldn’t successfully pick up the stitches in the heel flap, so had to rip back all the way to the last row before starting the heel. Now to start the damn heel again.

Round 1 goes to sock, but Round 2 shall be mine!

I need a break from me

I’m trapped in my own mind, stuck with my own company. I live the day picking apart my every action and shoving my own mistakes in my face. I torture myself, I cry, and then I hate myself for the tears. I go to bed at night and the mean part of me takes more control, feeding into my insecurities and stress in dreams. Tearing me apart worse than while awake because now that part of my brain controls all. I want to sleep, but I fear my dreams. I want to cry but fear my response to those tears. I want to scream and push back the part of me that is so filled with hatred, but I’m not strong enough. Or at least that part of me isn’t. I need a break from my own mind. I need to protect that little hurting girl in my mind from the monster currently tearing her apart. But I am that monster. I am both, and so hate both. I’ve been living on energy drinks this week for fear of sleep and for lack of sleep. I need a break. The house is quiet right now, the whole family asleep. My energy drink is wearing off and the TV is no longer blocking out the voices in my head. I need sleep, but it won’t give me the break my mind needs. I refuse to keep sleeping pills in the house specifically for this reason. Because I know I will take too many out of sheer desperation to not dream. So I sit and struggle. I’m safe, but I won’t have a break. I just need a break.

Counting down

As others have been counting down the days, hours, minutes until New Years, I have been counting down to my next therapy appointment. I’ve spent the last 2 years working my ass off to be stable, or at least to pretend I am with some amount of calm under the surface. A few months ago everything took a nose dive. Life said “fuck you!” and everything went nuts. It’s enough to add great deals of stress to the normally stable people, so you can only imagine what it’s doing to me. The biggest problem right now is that the issues are as time consuming as they are stressful. Which means that during this time of my needing the safe space of my therapists office more than anything, I haven’t been able to keep a single appointment. Every time I have scheduled one something has gone crazy that required my time and I had to reschedule.

I go on Tuesday. So far nothing has come up that can’t be handled without me or wait another day. I only need to make it until Tuesday. People have been asking me what my New Years resolution is. As I smile and make some non committal answer to move the conversation off of me, my brain screams in response “survive!” I want to survive. I want to survive this time both mentally and physically. I want to come out of this with a limited amount of new scars, no trips to the hospital, and nights with sleep. Even if that sleep is restless and filled with nightmares, at least it is a night safely asleep and not awake and lost in dangerous thoughts of “my family is better off without me” as I sit alone in the dark.

Two years ago I don’t know that I would have made it through. I have come a long way, and my ability to see that reminds me why I fight. Why I force myself to get treatment for my illness. Why I can keep getting up, even when I fall. So I will cling to this hope that snuck its way into my depression and follow it to my therapy appointment. Almost there. Just a couple more days. My countdown continues and with each day marked off brings more hope.

Happy New Year Y’All… cheers to us, and to therapy. May we all be blessed with many good and non-canceled therapy sessions this year.

Broken Heart

I was 13 and you cancelled our plans again, and it broke my heart.

I was 14 and you took me to dinner because my brother told you you didn’t spend enough time with me. You promised to do better. You didn’t. And it broke my heart.

I was 15 and hadn’t seen you in months and you heard from a family member I was in therapy. You called to find out why, saying you feared that you had “screwed me up.” You didn’t understand my depression or how to even try to speak to me about it and it broke my heart.

I was 16 and you tried to make decisions for me on driving, school, and work. You felt being right was more important than acknowledging your x-wife might have better ideas. It broke my heart.

I was 17 and angry with you. Speaking less, doing less, avoiding you more. And you didn’t notice. Didn’t try to bring back the communication. And it broke my heart.

I was 26 and hadn’t seen you in 2 years. I decided not to be angry, just to accept. The decision broke my heart.

I was 30 and trying to give you time to spend with your grandkids. We were pushed away by your new wife who told me to leave. I saw the look on your face as you felt hopeless to stop her. That look broke my heart.

Last week I cancelled our plans, as infrequent as they are. You had been drinking and I was exhausted. I choose to stay away. You say it broke your heart, that I would cancel on you. But why should it take you this long to feel our distance? Why have you not seen the countless ways you have not been my father these many years? And why, upon hearing your pain, is it again my heart that breaks?

Hiding away

I’ve hit one of my phases where I want to disconnect completely from the outside world. I’m virtually non- existent on social media. I can barely bring myself to blog. I wear my earbuds at work, or hide in a small conference room. I simply want to hide, to disappear temporarily. These phases frighten me because they can lead to worse depressions with time. So I continue to force myself out where I feel stable enough to do so. I’m focusing on self care and distraction. But that doesn’t mean I’m succeeding at these things. I’m falling much more than I care to admit into this pit of depression, fear, and self hatred. I will continue to fight through. I am mentally awake enough to know there is a better and a worse, and that the better is truly worth fighting for. I’ll make it through. I’m a stubborn bitch, so will continue to fight the monster of my mind.

Diagnosed Workaholic

My first session with my current therapist was just over two years ago and after explaining how I had been “coping” for years and what was happening leading up to my pending breakdown she looked at me and paused, and then she simply said “you realize you’ve been self medicating with work for the past nine years, right?” Yes. Yes I did. The fact is I didn’t know how to cope so I worked too much in order to distract myself from myself. When I was forced to slow down, I couldn’t handle it. I was a workaholic. I’m not saying that to downplay actual addictions, but addiction runs in my family so I have always been excessively carefully with the actually addictive things, so I ended up turning to work instead.

The last couple of months at work have been nuts. I’m working crazy overtime and barely keeping shit together for my department. I had to cancel my last therapy appointment cause I can’t take time off work, and I still haven’t been able to schedule a new one. I’m too exhausted for crafts or games or anything that I used to do after work. I’m barely blogging, sleeping is hard, it took me a week to finally sew buttons onto my sons sock for sock puppet eyes. I wake up already exhausted, run on coffee and soda energy all day, and lie down with an exhausted body and overactive mind as soon as I get home.

But I realized today that in the last two weeks I’ve had almost no panic attacks. I have not had the constant urge to self harm. I have not cried myself to sleep or stared at nothing in the overwhelming emptiness of my lack of self. I have not begun screaming at someone out of uncontrollable anger held too long. My emotional extremes aren’t there. Today it occurred to me that I am doing almost no self care at all, so why am I suddenly stable? My meds didn’t change, so it can’t be that. Then my therapists words echoed in my head. “Self medicating with work.” Am I doing it again? Am I so overworked that my disorders have taken a backseat? I don’t know. But two years of practicing self care has at least taught me a couple things.

First, work does not define me. I have to keep reminding myself of that, and I do. No matter how much of my day is stuck on work right now, it does not define me. Second, it is important to not judge. I don’t need to judge my overworking nature at the moment, I simply need to be aware that it is there and that it will not last forever. That I need to keep working to build in more self care while I can. Third, I can’t make this permanent. I need to allow myself to slow back down as work slows back down. I can’t allow myself to get so used to this that I don’t stop.

I choose to be aware of my situation and my past so I can move past this. I choose to be healthy, even if it means that feeling good might not be from feeling good or from healthy practices.