I Feel So Lost

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This isn’t a new feeling for me. Many times in my life I have felt various levels of being lost. Lately I feel lost inside my mind. My mental health has locked me inside this massive dark forest. It’s pitch black and there is nothing but silence. Imagine the upside down in Stranger Things but with no light at all. I’ve spent enough time in this scary place to have it warp my mind. You become this scared creature who is twitchy and doesn’t know where to turn. My mind has turned against me and it lies to me. It’s like being put into a gigantic dryer and then forced to walk for miles.

On top of all of this, I also feel lost in life. What is my purpose and all those other deep questions. I ask myself all the time, what in the world am I doing? Most days I don’t have a clue. I’m desperate for purpose and it gives me tunnel vision. When I start to think of the suffering without any purpose my mind starts to wonder to dangerous places. The deeper I find myself lost in that dark void the more I start to consider other options.

This brings me to the other type of lost, being alone in this world. It’s like floating into outer space with nothing to tether to. You’re a million miles from earth and it’s become this small glowing dot in your horizon. I’ve become one of the old people I live with. Whose family has forgotten them. Well not forgotten just got wrapped up in the chaotic world. They just don’t have time for them. People take loved ones for granted. I’m in a similar boat. I don’t have any close friends like most do. When things go wrong I have no one to reach out to. If something was to happen to me (in my apartment) no one would know for weeks and there isn’t anything more sad than that. That’s when you know that you are alone.

That’s what mental illness does, it pushes people away. I have no one that I see regularly, other than my therapist. This just adds to the feeling lost. I’m working on new friendships but that takes time. I don’t get to do fun things with people. I spend my days alone, in a stuffy apartment. Until I get approved for SSI disability I have very little to do with myself, at least in terms of person to person connection. Plus being poor and without a car I’m limited to what I can do in terms of socially. My social gatherings are sporadic at beast. Usually my monthly transgender meeting. You can’t thrive off one day a month.

I have yet been able to find a balance with my mental health. The medicine I’m on doesn’t seem to be helping with the depression at all. My doctor is trying new combinations but so far the only thing that has started to work made me gain a bunch of weight, like thirty pounds. On top of all this I have recently been diagnosed with atrial flutter. I doesn’t take a lot of exertion for me to feel like I’m going to pass out. So right now walking a few blocks to the bus stop (to do things) is out of the question.

Lately my depression has gotten so out of hand that it’s become unbearable, even for me. I don’t do anything but hide in my apartment. Doing simple tasks like making dinner becomes unmanageable, especially if it means washing dishes when I have none cleaned. I will live off very little food at times because I don’t feel like going to the grocery store. It also affects me physically. I become lethargic and my energy bottoms out. Everything is a chore. So not only am I alone (most of the time) I am surrounded by these demons.

So I’m lost spiritually, physically and mentally. I’m trapped in this prison of suffering and I’m not sure how to get out. I’m trapped without a key or map. It’s one thing to feel lost in one aspect of your live but to have every aspect be affected is unmanageable. I wish I had just one person I could attach myself to. The only person I had was my Mom and she died in 2012. Someone I could count on. I have no one and that’s not exaggerating. I have people who love me but I’m just not in their radar. They have their own lives and struggles to deal with. I don’t blame them. This world is a topsy turvy place. I’m just collateral damage. That’s not a fun place to be.

I see people on Facebook with full lives, sharing moments with their friends and family. Going out to the movies or on vacation. Laughing and enjoying life. I’m desperate for that kind of life. I know I deserve it but it feels like this life is just out of reach. I have a good year of this level of suffering, of not having many options in terms of meaningfully, long term connection. I have my comic book but that still means spending all my time alone in my apartment and these days the depression zaps every last ounce of creative juices I have left. So everything in my life is a struggle, which again just ads another complex level to being lost.

Then there is the whole being lost in my identity. I could write a whole post about how I view my body and my gender, I’m MTF trans. Like I said there isn’t one area that I don’t feel some level of lost in and because I’m aware (and dealing with it) that means it’s even more painful. I no longer can bury it. That’s probably why this time in my life is so difficult because the shit has hit the fan.

I just hope I find the key fast. I don’t know how much time I have. With having my health scare this week it’s brought my mortality right to the front of the line. Not to mention when I’m at my lowest I start to think of ending it all. I fear there will be a day in the future when I completely turn off the switch that’s keeping me alive. I know that mental illness can eventually be terminal and because I’m aware enough it scares me senseless when I start to slip and slide down the depressive slope. I don’t really want to die. I just don’t want to suffer anymore. I want to enjoy the time I have left on this earth and create a legacy for when I’m gone. I don’t want to die as the miserable depressed person, who didn’t make something of their life. My life has to have more meaning then my illness.

So I just gotta keep on walking, crawling if I must. Even if it’s at a snail’s pace I’m still moving. Just keeping a commitment to go to therapy each week is a huge sign that I’m moving forward. I have had many times where I didn’t want to go but I forced myself. I knew what it would lead to. It’s the one bright spot in my life. Something to be proud of. I have been in therapy consistently since 2013, something I have never done. I have been with my therapist for over two years. I’m so blessed to have her in my life. I just wish I had others like her in my life, who weren’t tied to my healing.

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Depression is a Thief

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Most days depression steals your energy. It brings you to a complete halt. One day you have spurts of energy and the next day you are dragging your feet. Simple tasks like brushing your teeth become like climbing Mount Everest. I’m not exaggerating either. Depression completely zaps you of your energy. Often times I feel like I’m cemented into the ground, unable to move. It’s a type of paralysation where I forget that I have the ability to move. In reality though depression steals more than your energy. It robs you of anything of value in your life.

Other than your energy, the main thing it steals is your enjoyment. It turns your life upside down and sucks the color out of the world around you. To others the world is full of life and color but to a depression mind everything is dull and grey. You stop enjoying the things that you used to love. Everything becomes a bore. I tend to watch the same sitcom over and over because I have very little attention span to watch a new show. I usually am doing something else while the tv is on as well. I’m unable to just sit there and only watch what is on the screen. You can imagine how difficult it might be to not have anything give you enjoyment. It’s a pretty miserable place. You hop from activity to activity, desperately trying to find something to catch your attention.

If depression zaps the life out of entertainment you can imagine what it does to activities that involve meaning, like my creativity. Anything related to my creativity becomes a chore and I hate doing chores. When I am at my worst I want nothing to do with my gifts. It becomes painful to look inward at the good parts of me. Depression has become the voice of all my naysayers. The ones who told me that I was worthless. Anytime I try to create I hear the voices. I’m usually only able to create for small periods of a time. This has been true with the comic book (about a drag queen superhero) that I’m working on. I have been working on this comic book for over five years. I have times where I can’t even look at my illustrations. I go months without making any progress. Without depression I most likely would have finished the first issue by now. I have waited so long that now others have released their own drag queen superheroes. If I had the energy to finish it in year one mine would have been the first and most original. Now the magic won’t be as fresh.

Which brings me to success. Depression is a dream killer. It sabotages any advancement that you might have, whether it be from a job or a personal project like my comic book. The best job I have ever had ended because of my depression. I was working for GE. I had great benefits and pay. I had the best manager I had ever had. When you are a hard worker oftentimes management will take advantage of you, especially in retail. Finally I was valued for my hard work, determination and loyalty. I was involved in LGBTQ networking group and was moving up on the ladder. I was on track to becoming a trainer but depression robbed me of that opportunity. I was hospitalized and put on short term disability. I never returned to that job. Instead I self destructed and moved back home.

I had aspirations in becoming an actor. I was in the theatre program at my local community college in my early twenties. My favorite type of theatre was musicals. I took voice lessons for years. The first year at school I had a bad depressive episode. I was just cast the lead in the main theatre production at school, which was a dream of mine. I was in bed for weeks and stopped going to class. The role had to be recast and I barely passed that semester. That was also my last semester in that program. I dreamed a dream and depression killed it.

Another aspect of my life depression has robbed me of are relationships. For example, today I was supposed to hang out with a new friend but I woke up feeling horrible and had to cancel. This happens all the time, which makes it difficult to maintain friendships. Nowadays I don’t have many friends nearby me so I really look forward to the opportunity to do something with a friend. The last two days were decent, when I had nothing planned. Now that I have cancelled I have a great sense of regret, which happens more time than not. On days like today I have little energy. My apartment is usually not kept up and if someone is coming over I feel a great amount of shame. If I have to leave my apartment just walking to the bus stop takes too much energy. Hanging out with someone means having to brush my teeth and shower. Then there is the anxiety if it’s a first time meeting, like today was. So you might can understand why this all is too much when you’re not feeling well.

Most people understand if you cancel a few invites to do something. After that they start to question the relationship. With a depression mind you live in slow motion and the rest of the world is on fast forward, though they only see themselves on regular time. There is still a lot of stigma towards mental illness and many people take it personal when you cancel on them. In reality it has nothing to do with them. Depression takes the fun out of everything. Not to mention that I have pushed people away out of fear and moved around from state to state. So now in my forties I have very few friends, outside of Facebook. The only person I see regularly is my therapist. If it weren’t for our appointments I would spend all my time alone.

Even just one aspect of depression is enough to drive a person mad but when you start to add all them up it makes life pretty miserable. Each day is a challenge. I have lived most of my life with depression and I’m tired of having my life stolen from me. I’m determined to stop this thief anyway I can. That means treating depression like the disease it is. Taking my medicine and making sure I keep my weekly therapy appointments. Pushing myself when I can and using mindfulness to get rid of the thieves when they are on my doorstep. It’s not easy but I have to try. Life can’t be this depressing.

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An Okay Day

After the past week, the okay day I’m in has been a nice relief. My depression isn’t as severe and I’m starting to return to my body, I dissociated yesterday. When I woke up in the afternoon I felt really comfortable. I should have stayed awake but I took advantage of the comfort and laid back down. That was a mistake because I woke up feeling like a cement truck hit me. Even still it’s a pretty okay day for me and I’m happy for that.

The last week has a roller coaster ride of emotions due to medicine changes. I would be stable for a few days and crash for a few more. I had an incident with someone the other day and it sent me spiraling into trigger mode. I didn’t realize it but when that happened I started to dissociate, which is normal for me with PTSD. I didn’t realize how far I had gone until a social gathering last night. The more I listened to others the more I started to float away, as I started to think about my pain. I wanted to leave right away but was stuck because I rode with someone. So I started to use my coping mechanism and started to tear apart a paper plate.

It wasn’t really anything that anyone was saying, it was just I couldn’t handle any connection. Especially positive ones. By the end, I was close to be asking to go to the emergency room but I kept it together. Today there was an inspection of all the apartments at my complex, so I had to clean a super dirty kitchen. Which just added to my anxiety. When I get really depressed my eating habits change, so do my chores. I have been trying to cook more, as it’s more fulfilling than frozen food but that usually means more of a mess. So I would cook a meal and leave everything behind. It was either that or starving.

So my kitchen was a fright and smelled like a beast. I somehow found the energy to slowly clean my kitchen. I took my time and turned my air conditioning on high. By the time I was done at 6am I was exhausted. My kitchen is the cleanest it’s been since I moved in last July. So having a clean apartment definitely has contributed to this decent day.

So I’m going to enjoy this okay day the best I can. I made a really good bacon cheese burger for lunch and it was delicious. Now I’m making pizza rolls and watching a British comedy. I have learned to treasure the okay days, along with the good ones. So that’s what I’m going to do.

Am I a Negative Nancy?

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Someone recently said that I’m negative, well the last two months. It was a friendship that I decided to end due to the fact that it was toxic. I give people too many chances and I was pushed to my limit when the person lashed out at me calling me negative. I mean that wasn’t the only reason I ended our friendship but it was the straw that broke the camel’s back.

It did plant a seed in me, as much as I have tried to not let it. I’m strong enough to realize that this person lashing out at me had nothing to do with me but still it did open a wound in regards to the stigma related to depression. That those with depression are just negative and need to be more positive. I wish the cure to depression was only positive affirmations but that’s not the reality. Sure mindfulness is one part of the healing process but it’s this idea that it can be cured by a sunny disposition is harmful to those who suffer from depression.

Many don’t realize that I sometimes just wake up feeling depressed. Yes, sometimes it’s related to my environment and/or trigger but a lot of times it has to do with my brain chemistry. It affects more than just my mind. I get almost like flu symptoms. It feels like my skin is crawling and I have this heavy fog that clouds my brain.

I try to have a positive outlook on life and what I endure but sometimes it’s difficult. I have few people I can talk to about what I’m enduring. So my only outlet is to post on Facebook. Those who read my posts might think that I’m just being negative. If they had to live my life for one day I think they would be more empathetic towards me.

If you could only hear all the positive self talk that I must do when my demons are at my door. You just can’t hear them. To survive this long under so much pressure means that I’m a pro at surviving. That doesn’t mean my quality life is any better. The experience have given me the tricks of the trade to lesson the symptoms, though when I’m super depressed nothing helps.

When you see me posting on Facebook it means that I’m deep in turmoil. I don’t just automatically post when I feel something. When I do it means I have sit in misery for hours, if not days. If I shared what was in my head, then you’d really think I was negative. The demons in my head are loud, evil and up to no good. This is what I fight against daily. When my depression is at my worst I have this gigantic mob that take up space in my consciousness. They follow me everywhere I go and there is nowhere to run and hide. No relief to be seen. I can only just wait it out. Practice self care and hold onto dear life.

Some argue that I am sharing way too much information online. They’d rather me suffer in silence I guess. Like Shrek always says, better out than in. Oh wait, he was talking about something entirely different but it applies to this as well. Honestly I wish I didn’t have to share things so openly but my support system currently is my therapist. So it’s either release the tension openly or let it fester and eat me up inside.

Last weekend was a really difficult weekend for me. The last two months my psychiatrist has been trying different medicines to find a better fit for me. This latest attempt set my depression spiraling and I was struggling to keep afloat. Once again I was very close to be hospitalized. Whenever I have a bad episode like this I become very hopeless that the suffering will ever stop. Each time I dig myself out of that hole and start to feel better I get this sense that maybe this will be the day. The day when I get out of this bad place in my life. Where I will suffer less and live more. So when a few weeks later my depression takes a hit then I go back to being hopeless. I have cycled like this for the past twenty years.

I had a psychiatrist appointment this past Monday and he put me on a new med. By Wednesday, I was feeling dramatically better. I had two days where I felt like myself. That was until last night when I could feel the depression coming on and I dreaded it. I can hear the voices getting louder, the demons who haunt me. Today has been tough, not because of the depression but because what the depression comes from. Being aware gives you clarity but sometimes your helpless to stop the car crash.

I’m so extremely lonely. It’s unbearable most the time. I struggle just to get out of bed. I have very little energy and most my days are spent alone. I have no one. I’m like one of the old ladies I live with. No one comes to visit me. No one calls. I don’t talk to anyone regularly, other than my therapist. My days are spent watching tv and being on social media. It’s not to say that I haven’t tried to have a more fulfilling life but it’s not come by easy. You just don’t pull a support system out of thin air. I miss the days of having so many friends that I was doing something all the time. I miss going to the movies and laughing so hard you almost fall on the floor. I miss going to parties and eating good food. I miss my family. I miss my Mom.

I want so much out of life and often times I have no energy to reach for the stars. All the energy I have to just get through each day. I have to remind myself of what my favorite drag queens says. Rupaul says, what other people think of you is not your business! Some people might think I’m just being negative but those people don’t have to live my life. If you really cared about me then rather than judge me from the sidelines you’d reach out for support. It’s so much easier to pass judgment in silence. I don’t have time to worry about the naysayers. I have enough to deal with.

Today I’m A BLT

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As much as I love bacon, this post isn’t about food. Lately I have been struggling with having nothing sufficient to do outside of my apartment. I’m talking about anything with meaning, that gets me out of the house. Occasionally I do get out of the house, like my transgender meetings but those aren’t consistent and only happen once in a while. I go weeks without very little contact with the outside world. When I do it’s just brief hello’s in the hallway of my apartment building. That’s not enough to live off of.

All last year, I didn’t want to leave my apartment because of PTSD. Now that I want to venture out occasionally I’m stuck in this inbetween world. Now you might suggest volunteering but the problem is that I’m awaiting my second SSI disability appeal court date. The judge could use it against me. The last one did because I made a sculpture and went to NYC with it. So I have to be very careful. I have been waiting since 2014 and it’s crucial that I get approved, as it will improve my quality of life. Currently I live off state disability and if I told you how little I got you’d probably wonder how I lived off so little for so long. It’s not easy and leads to a very miserable life.

I’m not saying that I don’t have purpose because I do. I have my comic book is a huge reason to live. I’m still in the early stages of the creation so that means it has very little to do with the outside world. Plus it’s difficult to create when I’m really depressed. It zaps all creative energy out of me. It becomes painful to create, as it forces me to see my talents and good inside. Even still it means staying in my apartment for long periods of time. More times than not, I don’t want to be in my apartment. I get so bored and lonely that I start to feel like I’m losing it. The alternative to dealing with the uneasiness is to sleep. You can only sleep for so long before it starts to drive you mad. A big part of me wants connection and the other part is beyond frightened from it. Sometimes even my transgender support groups (as wonderful they are for me) can become difficult for me to endure. The last one I had to leave early due to anxiety.

I’m currently have the scared rabbit syndrome, something I have made up. A rabbit’s life can be full of danger. It’s small and fragile, living in a world full of predators ready to rip it’s head off. Out of protection the rabbit lives in a hole in the ground, where it’s generally safe. Well safer than above ground. Occasionally the rabbit will have to leave the comforts of the rabbit hole for food. It doesn’t just come out of it’s home full force. It will peek out to look for dangers. When it feels like it is safe to come out it does slowly. The rabbit is constantly on guard while it scavenges for food. Even the littlest sound will send the rabbit darting back downunder the rabbit hole.

That is where I live. I have used up all my reserves and now must venture out into the real world. I get spooked very easily and have ran back into my rabbit hole more times than I can count. I can’t hide here any longer though, it’s killing me. I no longer have the mental capacity to brave the darkness anymore. So I have a sort of forced solitude.

I could take another year to a decision on my SSI case and god forbid if it doesn’t go my way. So I have to deal with this solitude somehow, some way. Making new friends is a long process. Unfortunately cultivating friendships isn’t like growing sea monkeys. It’s going to take more time than I need to endure this solitude. So I’m going to have to cope with it the best I can. I think the key is practicing self love. Following the steps that led me to where I am today. Even though I struggle greatly and suffer a lot, my quality of life has improved in the last year. I finally have a place of my own. I have a therapist and psychiatrist I adore. I have stability which is something I have never had. I just need to hold on until this storm passes and I can venture out more openly and freely. So that means dealing with constantly being bored, lonely and tired most days.

The Symptoms of Isolation

This is my apartment in its current state. Yes, it’s pretty messy. For me though it’s not as bad at it can be. I use to have great shame over how bad I let my apartment. The shame is from what others think about me. What will they say if they see my disaster zone. Many would and have judged me. They think I’m just a lazy slob. All of this just adds to the overwhelming state that takes me over when the trash can starts to fill up. My kitchen lately has been fairly clean, well at least for me. This is rather new and it’s felt nice to go into my kitchen to make something to eat.

Lately I’ve slowly noticed it get messy. I was aware it was happen but didn’t feel like taking the steps needed to stop the mess from spreading. This is usually a warning sign that my depression is creeping up on me and if I’m not careful it will knock me out. The past few days I have been very depressed but I haven’t quite put my finger on why? I don’t know if it’s left over depression from the following week, that I was feeling better from. Either way yesterday was filled full of pitch black nothingness. For me, there’s a deeper level than the typical darkness from depression. Not only does everything I see and feel emotionally, my body feels it physically. It’s like a depression cement truck runs me over. I’m lethargic and sluggish. Everything is a blur and all I can do is survive in my bed. This is usually when I sleep it away but you can only sleep so much before it hits you.

When I wake up I feel extremely disconnected. I feel no emotion just the aftermath of the depression. I have this out of body experience and when I start to return to my body it makes me feel like I’m on pins and needles. That’s where I am at now. It’s like this subdued panic attack. I’m super uncomfortable and feel every nerve in my body. I cleaned my kitchen, even the floor which I haven’t slept in ages. I took the trash out and even emptied my spoiled milk in my fridge. I tend to forget stuff like that, until it explodes. Yeah, that happened to me this past summer. Talk about gross.

Whenever I do decided to clean it takes every bit of energy I have to complete it. I get tired very easily and have to take breaks often. I have learned when I tackle the mess to not take on too much. At least in your mind. I easily get discouraged and overwhelmed when I look at my apartment as a whole. So lately I have been tackling one area at a time. Sometimes I have to break it up in even smaller chunks, like just cleaning the stuff out of the counter and putting the dirty dishes in the sink. Like I have done tonight.

One thing I have realized lately is that isolating triggers something deep inside of me from the start of the trauma. Growing up the isolation was forced. A way to protect myself from the other parts of the house. Early on, I learned I could escape the monsters by hiding under my covers, leading to a lifetime of isolation. So I hid underneath my covers, waiting for the bad things to go away but they never did. This was especially true when I came out of the closet at the age of 18 in 1995. That next year was hell. I had no one. I was stuck in rural America, surrounded by cornfields. Prior to coming out, I got a computer from the money I got from graduating. This was wonderful for me as I finally found a link to the outside world. I was able to talk to other sexual abuse survivors and other queer people. I finally had found the light at the end of this dark isolating tunnel.

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Well that was until I came out and had it all taken from me. It was the back in the day of dial up. When my parents found out that I was an abomination they took away the only communication I had to the outside world. It was probably the darkest year of my life. The damage that was done I have fought my adult life to overcome and I’m not even close to unearthing the harm done. After about a year the dust settled and my family stopped talking about me going to hell. It was like my parents had amnesia. It was like it never happened. I tried my best to move forward but my growth was stunted, and I have struggled ever since.

It’s my biggest coping mechanism now. It’s how I deal with everything. So now when I get triggered I go into my cave because that’s all I have known. Eventually my safety cave turns into a prison. No matter how often I hide in that dark place the danger never went away. It followed me across the country. I have hide so long that it’s become a way of life. Since 2012, I have spent most of my time in seclusion.

This last year was no different. Honestly it’s probably the deepest I have been in that cave in ages. This time the triggers were unlike anything I had experienced my life. Each painful moment showed up on my doorstep last July. In the past, the door was locked and all it could do was sit on my porch and taunt me from the sidelines. Occasionally it would find a crack and seep in but usually it was one trigger at a time. In 2004, I had my first major PTSD episode. This lead to multiple hospitalizations and treatments. I never got over it. I just put a bandaid on the pain (like I learned to do) and ran back home. To the only place I have known. During those two years, living in Chicago, it was some of the best times in my life. It was a strange time. I had some of my most painful experiences and most memorable ones as well. Eventually the pain overtook the good and I self destructed. I gave up a great job (that I was going places in) with the best manager that I had ever had. Every job I have ever had has taken advantage that I will work my ass off. My manager at that job valued me and I was rewarded for it. I had great insurance which allowed me to get the help I needed. In addition, I had more friends that I had ever known. I was very social and went out often. My favorite thing to do was to go the gay club for country nights. The dance floor has always been my escape. I two stepped my way into the galaxy. I was alive and free but not for every long. The darkness wasn’t going to let me go. Deep inside I didn’t deserve anything good, especially not like this.

Since them I have been living in between triggers and isolation. Like a scared rabbit, I will occasionally venture out into the light. That is until something spokes me and I tumble back down the rabbit hole. I wish I had the life of Alice. The queen of hearts has been taken over by something even more scarier. It doesn’t want want heads, it feeds off souls. The white rabbit is dead, so is tweedle dee and tweedle dum. The mad hatter is locked away in the cells of his insanity. Everything is covered in this thick, gooey muck.

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After my recent hospitalization I have started to venture out into the real world. It’s the first time in a long while that I wanted to leave my apartment but I have been trapped. Again in a forced isolation. It was after a few weeks of feeling absolutely horrible, close to what I was before I was hospitalized. It dawned on me why I was feeling so low. Isolation triggers the original trauma. The root of all my problems. So when I isolate in the present I flashback to 1995 and am forced to relive that year. The longer I isolate the more the past takes me over. Until I’m frozen in time and can only feel the damage and pain. The most scary moments of my life, I’m forced to endure again. The difference is that don’t realize that I’m out of that bad place. I lose all sense of time and reality. In my mind, my abusers are in the other room… waiting for me to go asleep. My apartment is once again surrounded by cornfields where the skeletons my family tried to erase.

When I get startled I just stay in the doorway of the rabbit hole. The longer I stay there the deeper I go. It starts by being triggered. For example, having a PTSD nightmare. Which is my nightly tradition. Lately this has been a gigantic trigger and I Think that’s what happened this week. My natural response is to not move or make a sound. If you’re not quiet the predator will devour you as their midnight snack. Until recently I haven’t been able to distinguish the difference between a real and false threat. They are all the same to me, and something I can wait to find out. Isolation has been come second nature and the only way I have lived for over twenty years.

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This time is different for a couple different reasons. First I’m at the core of the trauma, which is why I’m getting triggered by every single traumatic event that caused the PTSD. From the sexual and emotional abuse, and the loss of my Mom. There are five big traumas that have followed me into adulthood. I no longer can hide from the trauma as it’s killing me. Each one is out to finish what they started. Out for the kill. Another difference is that I’m fighting for my life, finally. This PTSD is much more intense because I no longer have the luxury of anesthetics or pain killers. I’m forced to lay on the operating table as my insides are torn open and left to heal naturally. I can feel and see everything that happened. There isn’t anything more horrific or torturous than that.

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The pain has gotten so intense that it’s found the back door into my subconscious. So I can’t get away from it. I’m awake every day of the week. That’s one form of isolation that I am having to deal with not by choice. There is no way I can wake up. I just have to dream the bad events away and deal with the aftermath when I wake up. One thing that I’m struggling with currently is that part of my isolation is due to my environment. I don’t have anyone to spend time with really, so I spend most of my time. I’m working on making new friends but that takes time. Right now I’m not in anyone’s radar aka someone’s inner circle. I know people love and care about me but right now I’m just an occasional thought in a busy person’s life. No one is at fault, it’s just part of life. Most people aren’t in my shoes. They have families and close friends to spend time with.

Also it’s been a very brutal winter, so that’s where the forced isolation comes into. If it weren’t for my medical appointments I probably wouldn’t leave my apartment. I’m getting to the point where I don’t want to be in my apartment. I got that way when I was in the hospital. I did everything I could to not stay in that empty sterile room. This past Monday I went to my nephew’s basketball game and it was one of the better nights I have had in a long while. I was able to see some people I loved. I was also able to be my true self, a trans woman. I got home that night and I felt free. As I was walking down my hallway I was so relieved. I felt at home. The next day I was back to square one. Isolation. That’s the problem right now and something I have always struggled with in isolation. The connection isn’t consistent. It comes and goes much like the seasons. Even a month can feel like a lifetime of not spending quality time with a person. I’m not talking about seeing people in passing or at meetings like my trans support group. Those moments are great and how you make deeper connections but I long for the days where I can go to movies with people. Spend a night playing board games. Laughing and having fun. Sadly this will take longer than I need it to.

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Another forced isolation is that I’m poor and don’t have a car. I’m limited to where I go, especially in the winter. When I get really depressed just brushing my teeth is tough, let alone getting on the bus and traveling to somewhere. Even still you can only go to so many places alone before you get extremely lonely. I think that’s what triggers me most is realizing that no one will come save me, much like when I was a teenager. My current isolation reminds me of that dark, scary, lonely time. In many ways, I’m still in that house. The difference is that I am adult and have a lot more resources. Even growing up that room wasn’t mine. It was eventually taken from me and I was thrown out onto the streets. This time my room is my own. As long as I pay my rent and do what I need to do, I won’t lose my housing. I finally have stability, something I have never had.

So now I just have to endure this time of my life, where I am forced to relive the past… in order to move forward. I’m learning how quickly my triggers can possess me. Here is one prime example. After therapy I went to the grocery store to get food for dinner. Rarely do I make an actual meal. There is a crock pot recipe that I love. It’s a tater tot casserole with chicken, cheese, bacon and of course tater tots. It’s rather experience so I can usually only make it once a month. My kitchen was fairly clean but the rest of my apartment wasn’t. My bathroom was still messy from getting ready on Monday and the clutter was started to pile up in my living room. That’s something I realized lately, how quickly my apartment can get dirty. It only takes a few days, especially if you make a big meal.

When the dish was I done I had two days of deliciousness but I didn’t have the energy to clean up. So I left it. It wasn’t super messy but it looked like it. I had stuff all over and it didn’t make me feel good. One big issue that I’m having is my bed. There are times I love being in bed. It’s the most refreshing moment for me when I have a good meal and a soft place to watch tv, or play games. This meal gives me two days full of delicious food which is a rarity for me. I loved the feeling I gave me. At some point the good feelings were replaced by darkness. I have never lived my life in moderations. It’s always been all or nothing. As I haven’t always had the comforts of my own place I try to soak up anytime I can take refuge in the soft appeal that comfort gives. I never know when that comfort will be take from me, like it always has been before. So I hold onto dear life. The fear builds and I will protect the comfort I have found, any way I can. It’s a mix of everything good, bad and indifferent.

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Since Thursday night I have spent most of my time in bed, like I usually do but this time I was sleeping a lot and not eating very well. Sometimes I get triggered I overeat. When I went to the grocery store they still had paczki left from last week. I absolutely love them. I got a box and it hit the right tune. It was soothing the trigger. Most the food I eat isn’t very appealing. It doesn’t taste that well. Anytime I find something I love I will only eat that. Like Stouffer’s Mac and Cheese. I will only eat those items until I get sick of them. With sweets I take it a step further. They taste so sweet and good, that I will only eat that for a period of time. Yesterday I returned to the store and bought three more boxes. They were gone by this morning. As I eat each one I feel sadness that soon I will not have anymore, as the custard tastes so delicious. Especially knowing that it will be another year before I can have more. So now I’m only left with my depression and food that I don’t like. I have the Stouffer’s Mac and cheese but even those I’m getting tired of. One trigger for a deep depression is not eating well or at all. When I get this depressed the only lights I turn on is the tv. After sleeping almost 24 hours I woke up at 8pm feeling so very disconnected. I wanted to sleep more because I didn’t want to deal with the isolation. That wasn’t an option because I was too annoyed and feeling awful. All I could feel and see was the mess. My living room floor was filled full of pop bottles and trash. That’s probably why I keep the lights off. I could smell the raw chicken in the trash can. I couldn’t take it anymore and got up to clean the kitchen. I couldn’t stand that fowl odor so I took that out first. I cleaned the floors and the counter. I put food away and put the few dirty dishes I had into the sinks. It felt good and it’s back to looking cleanish.

Recently I have putting turning on dance music to help get me out of a bad place. When I was a bundle of nerves Monday night, I turned on the music and it helped me get ready. So right away I turned the music on tonight and cleaned my kitchen. Afterwards I went into my living room to start cleaning and got overwhelmed. Typically when I get overwhelmed like this I will go inward and feel even worse. I’m learning to be okay with the imperfection. I did what I could, when I could do it. That’s what I’m telling myself during this PTSD cycle. Eventually it will go away and I must do whatever it takes to survive. So if that means leaving part of my apartment messy that’s okay. One positive step will lead to another. Now I will pick up the trash near my bed, that can’t leave. It’s mostly the clutter stuff like laundry and boxes.

Some might see the picture above and think, why is she posting this? Judgements are something I’m use to. I use to hold a great amount of shame and guilt with how I have lived my life. I have beaten myself to a pulp over it. While I still struggle with shame, overall I don’t live wallow in that shame. This year I let a good friend see my apartment at the worst. It was a big step for me and it wasn’t easy. A few weeks later she came over to help me clean up the apartment. It was one of the nicest things anyone has ever did for me. It make me realize that it wasn’t something to be ashamed for.

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So I’m learning that these situations are symptoms of my mental illness. I’m not lazy whatsoever. I just have moments where I have absolutely no energy. I’m not like those without have a mental illness. So of course I’m going to have a different life than them. Realizing that things like neglecting chores is a symptom takes away a lot of the shame and guilt. It’s the missing puzzle piece that’s been long gone. Now I treat my mental illness like someone with diabetes. I take medicine and go to my necessary doctors to treat my disease. I’m no longer in denial. Being aware is half the battle. I have conquered that conflict and now it’s time to do the hard work. Which means walking through hell again so that I can put that time of my life in the chapter of my life. It’s time to say goodbye.

The Snowball Effect of Self Care

Everyone has negative thoughts. I would imagine it’s a pretty common occurrence for many. Sometimes the negative thought or feeling is small. A floating thought like I can’t do this. It comes and goes. Often time that thought turns into a feeling followed by beliefs we have about ourselves. For me, sometimes the negative thought or feeling can be easily dealt with right away. I am able to use my positive self talk to wash away the doubt and bad feelings. The deeper the negativity (or pain) the harder that becomes. The biggest question is how do you stop the negative from snowballing. What starts out as a snowflake turns into an avalanche. There are times the process may seem quick but if I look deeper there are usually factors that are not obvious. I have realized that my self care is at the root of the snowball. I have never taken care of myself. I bend over backwards for other people which leaves me with very little and these days nothing. I’m completely out of orbit and any amount of turbulence sends me flying into the sun. The more self care and love I practice the better I feel. It’s all connected.

This is what I worked on in therapy today. Spiraling out of control and how to manage the snowball so that it doesn’t turn into an avalanche. What I struggle with most is that it’s not always a negative thought, it’s a feeling. A lot of time my thoughts are so buried deep that I don’t experience them until it turns into a feeling. These moments can be triggered by anything, including a positive interaction. It’s much easier to push away a random thought, than a feeling. This is difficult because you don’t always know what the trigger was. That’s been my experience in the past. I have gotten better with identifying the problem but that’s rarely.

One aspect of the snowball effect is that it goes both ways. Positivity can also snowball but the effects are more therapeutic, unless you go into mania. As quick as the negative snowball can spiral the positive snowball rolls much slower, at a snail’s pace it seems. I get so easily discouraged because I’m desperate for relief. For most of my life I have been a zombie, asleep at a wheel. So the chaos of my life hasn’t bothered me as much it does today. I was okay living in a constant blizzard. I got used to the fridgedness and snow. Now that I’m awake and aware I realize it’s much worse. It’s an avalanche. I just want to cut out the depression and pain out of my life but sadly it doesn’t work that way. Medicine and therapy can only go so far. The reality is that I will have to deal with the ups and downs for the rest of my life.

The key to happiness will be in how I prepare for the winter. That is one consistent part of my life. The storm!!!! I won’t be able to get rid of the storm entirely but if I continue to practice self love those storms won’t be as frequent or severe. Instead of tornadoes they will be your typical thunderstorms. Occasionally that storm can become severe. I am learning that if I have a protocol in cause of an emergency I will handle the event better. For example, having a safety place in place. Knowing the options when you have to take shelter from the storm instead of running around like a chicken with your head cut off in the middle of a tornado. I’m tired of seeing cows orbit me. The witch needs to stay home.

The positive and negative snowball are both connected. The less I take care of myself the easier for the negative snowball to take form. One way that happens for me is my apartment and how clean/dirty it is. One hurdle leads to another. One example is my kitchen. When I’m really depressed I don’t feel like making anything to eat. I go into scavenger hunt, like I’m a mouse on the run. I will eat anything that’s right in front of me, which usually means eating cold soup. Yuck! Yuck! Yuck! If the storm has hit my kitchen I’m less likely to step foot into my kitchen as I become a pig wallowing in the mud, at least that’s what it feels like. Being aware my negativity takes form physically. I can see it clearly now and it’s not pretty. It’s the most uncomfortable and annoying feeling ever.

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When my kitchen is clean-ish I’m more likely to make something substantial. Like a microwave dish. If I have energy I might even cook. Which is a complete treat for me because I usually always eat frozen or canned food. Again, yuck! My eating habits also come into play with the snowballing. Eating canned soup isn’t fulfilling. It doesn’t make you feel good, it’s just gross. Now that I have identified that there are influencers to the snowball I can start to investigate better, that’s progress right there.

This is what I have learned about my kitchen research. Leaving dirty dishes in the sink is a snowball. The more dishes I pill on the bigger that snowball becomes. Eventually the mess with spill out onto the counter and before I know it I have a mini blizzard in my living room. When it gets this severe I don’t even like walking by my kitchen. Nobody wants to look at a disaster zone. So what can I do:

  1. When I use dishes clean them right away. Don’t leave them in the sink. This can be tough when making a big meal. Often times after I cook a big meal I don’t feel like cleaning. It takes all my energy out of me. One thing that helps me is to minimize the use of kitchen utensils. My crockpot is one example. All I need to do is throw in the ingredients and let them sit for hours. When it’s done all I have to clean up is the crock pot thingy and the dish I used to store leftovers in.
  2. Whenever you buy meat, clean it right when you get home. Prepare it however you normally would and freeze them individually. I buy chicken in the family packs because it’s considerably cheaper. If I leave it in the fridge it will sit in there and I will forget about it. There is nothing more upsetting than expensive food going back. I can only afford so much meat a month. Lately when I get home. I clean and cut the meat right away. I will go as far as cut up the chicken into small pieces. I use to just freeze the whole package but that doesn’t help me down the road when I have no energy. So I seperate the chicken by meals. So when I want to make a dish all I need to do is unthaw the meat and I’m done. All I need to do is throw away the plastic bag. This can be done with any meat, especially hamburger. If you can afford it, you can even by meat that’s already prepared.
  3. Buy paper plates, bowls and plastic silverware. This will reduce the dirty dishes big time. Yeah, I know the major downfall is environmental but you can’t fix everything at once. This is just temporary until you can function better. Now I’m more likely to make food and it’s much easier to clean up. I have also learned how quickly the mess and clutter starts to pile up. Now when the dirty dishes pile up (and they do) I can just toss them in a trash bag.
  4. Trash bags are your friends. I keep a makeshift trash can using an old vacuum box. I keep that in my living room. So when I don’t have much energy to clean I can quickly toss everything in the trash.
  5. I have made a makeshift shower seat using a plastic shower curtain and a folding like chair. Taking a shower takes a lot of my energy and I’m lucky if I wash more than once a week. A big struggle with my energy is my weight. I am 6 feet tall and weigh 360 pounds. Now that I have made it easier to get clean I’m more likely to use my shower. I keep a cup in there and can take my time. Be careful with your shower curtain. Make sure that water doesn’t leak out from it onto the floor. You will have a flooded bathroom if you use the shower head. If I’m not as winded coming out of the shower I’m more likely to brush my teeth and style my hair. Monday was one of those days. I took a long hot shower and got really clean. This gave me the energy to brush my teeth, blow dry and style my hair, and shave with a razor. I had a full beard too. I would never had done that if I didn’t have the seat. Practicing self care led to one positive step to another. The better I feel about myself the less depressed I become. Not taking care of my chores and personal grooming only increases my depression. I’m learning it can trigger me as well. I can feel decent and look at my mess. I will want to clean it up and feel overwhelmed. My feel good mood can quickly turn sour just by looking at my mess or feeling dirty. Eventually the mess gets so severe I have to do something about it. Whenever I do a deep clean I always feel better and the results are pretty dramatic.
  6. Managing my medicine times (which improves my sleep schedule) is one way I can manage my depression. I have started to set reminders on my phone to take my medicine at set times. My sleep schedule is all over the place, which means inconsistent medicine times which will make my depression worse. No matter what I make sure to take my meds. If I’m sleeping I take the meds and go back to bed. If I’m awake and don’t want to sleep, I take my night time meds…. which include meds that help me to sleep. Eventually the meds will kick in, helping me stay on a schedule. If I go to sleep anytime after 6am more than likely my mood will be affected. I hate waking up in the evening. Having an off sleep schedule also affects my mood. The early I can get to bed the better. So for me, it’s by 4am. I usually sleep 12 hours so that would mean waking up at 4pm. While that’s probably crazy sleeping hours for most it works for me. I have never been a morning person. I’ve set my alarm for 3 am/pm. At night by 5am I start to get sleepy. In the afternoon by 3pm I’m more awake and more likely to stay up when I’m awoken by the alarm. See how one thing leads to another positive change. There is freedom in knowing that the pendulum turns both ways.
  7. Another medicine related self care step is having your medicine put in pill packs. If you are like me you take a lot of meds and at different times. This can lead to missed doses by either forgetting or not feeling like getting each pill out the bottles. Now my pills are separated by time of day. I also have my medicine delivered so that I don’t forget to get my medicine refilled. At my old pharmacy if my depression was really bad I wouldn’t go to get my prescription. If I miss one day of psych meds the mood decreases pretty dramatically. They will also follow up with my doctors if I don’t have a refill or with me if I need to go in to see the doctor. Now I rarely miss a dose.
  8. Being proactive with anything related to scheduling and keeping appointments. I make sure to enter an appointment right away into my google calendar and I set numerous reminders so I don’t forget. If it’s an appointment to for med refills it’s extremely important to make those appointments. One pebble leads to another until my vase is full of stones and I can’t get out.
  9. Transportation is one barrier for me. I don’t have a car and often times my depression keeps me from taking the city bus. Especially if my anxiety is high. Going to various medical appointments becomes problematic because there are a lot of steps. One that has helped me big time is having a caseworker. I know this might not be possible for many but it wouldn’t hurt checking with your mental health department for your county to seeing if you qualify for one. Even if you can’t or don’t want one there are steps that can be taken to make going to appointments easier. Asking a friend to take you is one way. In the past I would cancel appointments because I wouldn’t leave the house. If I have someone come to my apartment complex I will definitely go. It helps to keep me accountable. Some areas even have local buses that are curbside. I know my city does but it doesn’t go outside my city and all my appointments are in Lansing, which is the bigger city near me. My city bus company offers service to people with disabilities too that go outside of the city but the requirements are a lot more difficult to get approved but if you can get a doctor to fill it out and get approved then that will be one barrier lifted for you. I’m looking into it for myself but I would be limited because it’s $5 round trip. So I couldn’t afford it always. Having multiple options is always a good thing. Planning also helps me take the city bus. Knowing when the bus times are and coordinating my trip around those times will make me more likely to use the bus. Limiting my time on city buses will alleviate the anxiety and make my trips less stressful.
  10. Making grocery shopping easier. Going to the grocery store is one source of anxiety for me. It can be very overwhelming to me, which leads to me not going. If I don’t have food I like and can make easily, then I will go hungry and the snowball is formed. I try to make lists now and keep my visits as brief as I can. In the past, I would only go to the grocery store once or twice a month. Which makes for a lot of work. Only limiting myself to so many items helps to decrease my anxiety. I don’t worry about spending so much money, nor does it take me that long to check out. In addition, when I get home it doesn’t take a lot of energy to put away everything. I also keep a list. This will keep me on track. A lot of time is spent not knowing what to get or ever spending, then getting overwhelmed because I have too much. See how quickly that snowball forms. Having a list also decreases the time you spend in the grocery store. This is really helpful if you don’t like crowds. If I want to get some larger items that I can’t carry from the bus stop I can either take my local bus or use the shopping bus that my complex has once a week. Even then I still only make small lists. I’m trying to increase my fiber so getting gallons of water are heavy. Another source of stress is bagging my own groceries now that most places have mostly self check out. I get so stressed out because I feel like I have to rush or people will get angry. So I kill myself to get out of there quickly. Now my grocery store has shop and scan. Now I use my smart phone to scan and bag items one at a time. This helps me keep on budget too. If I spend too much I can easily remove something rather than have a worker manually void it at the register. I can take my time and am not rushed. Which makes a huge difference. If I can’t do this then I will use a lane with a cashier. My embarrassment for using food stamps only gets in the way in terms of my depression. Another tip to making get groceries easier is getting reusable grocery bags. Not only is it environmentally good but you can also carry more. They are sturdy and won’t spill. There is nothing worse than groceries gushing out of a broken bag.

So these are the steps I’m taking to manage the snow in my life. The better I take care of myself, the less depressed I feel or at the very least if I get triggered it will lesson the severity of the episode. Now these steps might not all work for you and that’s okay. It’s a trial and error process. Do what works for you. It’s taken me over twenty years to have the experience and know how to not only come up with this list but follow through on the steps. It’s so easy to only see what you’re not doing or feel the affects from the inaction. A lot of times it only takes a crumble of doubt to cover up a mountain of good. In the past six months I have come a long ways. I have fallen into the trap of not being able to seperate the good from the bad. Now I’m able to see my successes. One is that I have been in therapy since 2013 and rarely do I miss an appointment. I have never stuck out therapy. The only other time was when I lived in Chicago. I was in therapy for a year and a half, until I self destructed and ran away from my problems. I haven’t done that this time. This last year I have not wanted to go to therapy at all both due to physically leaving my apartment and not wanting to talk about my pain. I pushed myself to go every single time. I only was able to do that because I put a plan into place. Like having a regular scheduled appointment and having a ride each week take me there.

The hardest part of healing for me is not giving myself such a hard time. Being so critical just get’s in my way. So I look at this current PTSD episode (that I have been since Jul of last year) as a do what I have to do, when I have to do it. Meaning I allow for imperfections. I expect change to happen overnight. Again the positive snowball starts off with one snowflake at a time. I have so much in my life that I need to work on. Focusing on the big picture only leads to me giving up. So breaking that up in small segments will help me living a more healthy and happy lifestyle. Now I try to not beat myself up when I drink a lot of pepsi or let my kitchen get messy. Pepsi is one prime example. Honestly I don’t need to be drinking Pepsi because of my weight but it’s a big crutch for me. I have so much else going on that I have to work on that I have allowed myself to have pepsi when I want to. I still push myself but I no longer try to stop drinking pepsi. I think what good is not drinking pepsi if I push my mental health the point of ending my life. I have such a perfect idea of what my life should be, usually based off what society says I need to be. Right now my apartment is pretty messy, outside my kitchen and that’s okay. The one good thing lately is that the clutter is starting to get on my nerves. So I can only avoid it so long before it makes me mad. Just working at one step at a time has helped me dramatically during this PTSD episode. Like I said it’s all connected.

The more I work on self care/love, the more relief I get from depression. I just need to practice it to make permanent. Well those are my thoughts for the night. Does anyone else have some mental health life hacks that help manage their depression, anxiety, etc. I always love hearing new ideas. I get amnesia with the obvious stuff. So let me know what tips you have.