Creating my map: mental health

This is one of those all over the place posts. My thoughts are messy, and I’m working on sorting them out. I wanted to get some of this down and write about Friday’s therapy session before my mind got too mixed up.

I saw Bea on Friday last week because of Hubby’s work schedule, and I won’t see her until Thursday this week, because of the holiday and school starting. After that, we’ll be back to our regular Monday and Thursday schedule. Thank goodness. I’m not a person who does well without a schedule. I need that in my life. I’ve looked and found some morning yoga classes, too. So hopefully, therapy can get back to normal, Hagrid and I can get back to our walks, and I can get back to yoga. When I have a routine, I get more done. Right now, my house is a wreck. Seriously. It had been better, and then Kat had a two week break from camp. Which meant no routine at all. It’s been rough.

I saw my medical Doctor, Dr.S, and she prescribed me a sleeping pill. I’ve always been against them, mostly because I overdosed on them as a teen. But I need to sleep at night and get up in the mornings to get Kat to school on time. So, I’m willing to try sleeping pills. I’ve been taking them faithfully every night. While they do knock me out sometimes, I’m usually able to fight off the drowsiness and sleepiness they cause. Which has now shown me just how much I fight sleep. I always knew I fight it; that it is hard for me to fall asleep and stay asleep. It’s how I always remember being. Even my parents will tell you how I never slept as a child; they claim I’m just a person who doesn’t need a lot of sleep. The effect of these pills is strong, though. And yet, I fight it, and 5 out of 7 nights, I win. What does that mean? Nothing good. Maybe I’m just not meant to sleep. Maybe my nightmares have been so bad, that I’m now just afraid of sleep? I don’t know. One thing I do know, is that I’m able to sleep in longer chinks of time than before. Where I used to sleep in small increments, now once I do fall asleep, I manage to sleep for 4 or 5 hours at a time. I should probably talk about this in therapy. I haven’t even mentioned my nightmares or sleeping pills.

On another side note, related to routines, I sometimes wonder if I should just have an eating schedule. I freaking hate meal plans. Hate them. I don’t want another set of rules and lists regarding food in my head. I have enough already. But….I think I’ve messed with eating, starving, binging, barfing so much that I honestly don’t ever feel hungry. I just eat when people usually eat. Which means it is easy to miss meals, not eat, eat junk, stuff my face and bar. It just is this messy cycle. I don’t know. So maybe rules around when I eat, a routine of sorts would be good. Ugh. I think I started thinking about this because on Friday, Bea mentioned that maybe we would talk about the eating stuff more this year. I wanted to throw something at her and scream that it was not happening. That would be the pissy drama filled teenager part. I’m pretty sure she is the part that has the ED. Or controls it. I don’t know. Either way, huge internal reaction.

She also said that she has made a point to help keep me on the surface, but she knows it has been a hard summer. She said she has a list of things she wants to touch on, ask me about when I’m in a place to go below the surface again. She said she is waiting on my cues, and I’ll know when I’m ready. It’s funny that she has this list (I’m thinking it’s in her head because Bea is not super organized. She’s sort of my opposite in this. She admires organization, and wants to be organized, but has said it is something she struggles with. It’s probably a good thing for me, in all truth. The last thing I need is an OCD shrink.). Anyway, it’s funny that she has a list, because I have a list, too. Mine is in a folder on my iPad. It’s taken from journal entries, blog posts, emails I wrote and then deleted, random things I wanted to talk about but then didn’t really want to talk about. I have brought it to therapy with me, open and ready to hand over all summer. But I never hand it over. I just keep adding to it. I’m not sure why. I guess maybe it feels safe enough to write down a few things, a reminder that I need to go deeper on these topics, but I don’t feel safe enough to go very deep.

Bea told me that she hasn’t really asked me how I am, or how I am feeling because she knows that might be too much. I thought about it. When she said it, I told her I didn’t even know the answer. And that’s true, to a point. If I ignore it all, and keep it pushed away, then I have no idea what I am feeling. If I try to feel my feelings, I can’t. They are all over the place, bouncing around. Like crazed ping pong balls of emotions flying at me. It’s too much. I have to duck and run. I’ve been staying as much on the surface as I can this summer. It’s different than the numbing and ignoring and pretending I used to do, though. This time, I’m well aware that there is a mess, and that I’m doing what I have to in order to function until I can sort through the mess. It’s like I’m getting getting through the high stress, would be crisis time because I have support, new healthy coping skills, old- maybe not so healthy- coping skills that I’m not shamed for using, and new ways to care for me and ground myself. This….it’s different than before. Of course, it’s not intense crisis, either. It’s more like a….I don’t know….just stressful time, I guess. Maybe it’s normal people stress mixed with my trauma stress. Either way, I feel a difference in how I’m handling it, even if it doesn’t look that different on the outside.

Last night, I was lying in bed, and I realized something else. Bea is always saying how I’m missing that piece of human connection, of hugs and comfort that hubby can give me. But Hagrid was snuggled up next to my side, and my arm was around him as I was watching a show, and I felt safe. I think I can get that piece of safe touch from Hagrid, for now. With hubby, I either freeze, and deep down I feel frightened and tense (with anyone, really, who hugs me, I feel frozen inside, even though I am very good at just going away so no one would ever notice),although he wouldn’t know it. Sometimes, if I stay more present, I can let a simple hug feel good, but then that hug always turns to something more, and then I go away and end up feeling bad. Dirty and sick. But Hagrid, he really is safe. I don’t have to go away, and nothing happens. I had this realization, and I both hated and was thankful that I have this in my life. I hated it because I don’t want to be so broken I need my dog to help me feel safe with touch. I hated it because it is sad that I can’t hug my own husband without a huge mess happening, one way or the other. I was thankful that I somehow was given this amazing gift of this dog who is able to be this for me. It made me want to tell the person who gave him to me exactly how much Hagrid has meant to me in these few short months.

On Friday, with the holiday coming up, Bea asked what I wanted to do; did I want to try to come in on Tuesday, or Wednesday, or just see her one day next week? I thought through the schedule, and told her I didn’t see it working on Tuesday, being the first day of school, and it seemed silly to come Wednesday when I had an appointment on Thursday. I told her I would just come on Thursday, and I would email if I had a breakdown before then. She kinda smiled and said okay; probably because she would have offered a phone call but figured I’d have to be basically dying for that to happen. Even this, though, is improvement. Last year, I would have been freaking out, panicking, over the idea of missing a session. There would have been a lot of rearranging of schedules and trying to make an appointment work on Tuesday, or taking a Wednesday appointment and trying to move the other one to Friday. It would have been a mess. This year, I can accept that there is a holiday, and my schedule does not allow me to see her twice this week but I can email her if I need, and after this things will be back to normal. I sorta feel like I have grown up a little bit.

We did talked about Kat and all the changes with school. I thought, in my head, about how when I started school, everything changed. It was one of those thoughts that just pop into my head; random, out of nowhere, a thought that belongs to me but feels almost like its is not mine. I didn’t say it out loud, though. I usually don’t say these thoughts out loud. This one, in particular, was going to lead me somewhere I did not want to go. We talked about how the nanny being part of her life once a week, and me not playing on her level was setting her up in a way to make friends her age in school. In a sense, because Kat doesn’t have us playing on her level on a daily basis anymore, she will have that desire to socialize. Hopefully.

We worked on my map a little bit, too. All the family members are added in. It’s 5 big pieces on paper glued together, so the map is pretty big. On Friday, we added in mental health– substance abuse, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, depression, eating disorders, trauma. I color coded each thing, and started coloring on my map. My Mom’s family, I could only add in depression for my one cousin and her mom (because during one of our wine tours that cousin told me they were both on medication for depression) and substance abuse for another cousin. On my dad’s side, we added in depression for several people, bipolar disorder, trauma, and schizophrenia. When we got to my grandpa, I paused. I knew depression. I wasn’t sure about anything else. There were whisperings of schizophrenia, but that didn’t seem right to me. I don’t know. Bea told me it was hard to say. She said severe depression can even manifest as psychosis, which could have been his breakdown. We ended up leaving it just with depression, knowing there could be more.

Once that was done, we spread the map out on the floor, and looked at it. I know I want to add in a kind of timeline of significant events, but I am not ready to do that. I know I want to add in the Smiths, but I’m not ready to do that either.

Bea interrupted my thoughts, saying, “I think the most significant thing about this thus far, for me, has been seeing how young your parents were, and where they were in life, what happened before, what was happening.”

“I’ve told you before, I think.” I said. I couldn’t be sure. Sometimes I think I’ve said things that I haven’t.

“You have. Something about seeing it like this has really stuck out to me, though,” she told me.

I nodded. “It’s why I wanted a map. To see things. I don’t know.” I shake my head.

“We need to add you in. You still aren’t really on the map,” Bea pointed out to me.

I was aware of this. I just didn’t want to add myself in. I wasn’t ready. I didn’t want to see all my ugly stuff, right there in black in white.

“And your grandpa. We will have to mark his death at some point, too,” she said. It was said kindly, and in that way Bea has of being gentle but firm. She won’t let me live in fantasy land.

“I know. It’s just…then I’ll have to look at all that stuff, all the time when we have this out. Maybe….maybe we need…I don’t know. It’s just having it all there, like that, it makes it…” I shake my head.

“It’s hard, isn’t? Something about seeing it all in there, written down, makes it very real.”

“Maybe….maybe we need to put it on a post it or something, so we can take it off so we don’t have to look at it,” I suggested.

Bea nodded. “Then we can have it on the map, when we are on a place we can handle it. And it can be put away and contained when it’s not able to be faced.”

I nodded my head. “Yes.”

We talked a little more about making the Map, and I admitted to finding it hard to put certain things on the Map. I also said something about wanting to see more of the story, the events, on the Map. At one point I jokingly said that the Map was one of my dumber ideas, and Bea laughed.

“I’ve never thought you to have a dumb idea. In fact, you are one of those people who when I am stuck on a problem, I think what would Alice do? You have very good ideas, in life and in therapy.” Bea spoke firmly, but almost like a conversation, authentic, but one of those on passing type things you say. It was one of the nicest things someone has ever said to me. I didn’t reply, because I really couldn’t. I suck at accepting compliments. Maybe the perfect part of me said thank you, I’m not sure. I was able to be present enough to hear what she had to say and remember it, at least. I think that was mostly due to the very casual way she spoke.

So, the map continues to bring things up, create questions, and provide answers all at the same time. It’s giving me a sort of clear direction and having a visual is helpful for both Bea and I, I think. Perhaps on Thursday I will add in the hard things about myself and my Grandpa on post its, so they can be removed. This map is leading me in directions I didn’t expect, but it’s good. It’s made me share things with Bea that I never would have, and it’s given her more context of my family, I think.

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8 thoughts on “Creating my map: mental health

  1. This map sounds so incredible. Every time I read about it, I want to try something similar for myself. I wouldn’t even know where to start. It’s very intimidating. Which sleep med are you taking? My sleep has been absolutely horrible. My nightmares are in full force and I can’t bring myself to sleep. I normally balk at the idea of chemical sedation, but this is getting ridiculous and will most certainly backfire when classes start. Ugh. It’s a sure sign of progress and internal strength that you’re able to approach this holiday with less panic. Although it’s also okay if you change your mind and end up hating it and needing a different arrangement. Great work, Alice, as always xx

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    • I don’t know if the map is incredible, but it is working for me, right now, where I’m at. It’s a good way to share information and see things without going too deep for the moment. I don’t think I could have done this even 6 months ago, though. Something changed…my parents going to therapy and really changing the perfect story they always tell. But anyway, where we started was just getting all the players on paper. Now that we have gotten everyone on there, and their particular challenges, trauma, facts relevant to my story, ext; I’m not exactly sure where it will go next. I think that’s the thing– there really is no plan with this. I am pretty OCD and need a plan, but Bea is more go with the flow, so she has been a good influence with this project, lol. She has kept me more relaxed about it. I know some of what I want on it, what I want to see, Bea knows some of what she wants to see, so then we work together to figure out how to visually put it on the map. I’m sure of you decided to, your therapist would be on board with a similar project.

      Thank you for getting how big it is to not freak out over this holiday– even if it is “only” one day. I think I do know it’s okay if I change my mind. Funny, because I did not realize I thought it was okay until I read your comment. Just one more thing I love about blogging. I hope you are having a great holiday. Xx

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      • That makes a lot of sense. That’s kind of what I love about this project – you knew you needed to get something written down, but maybe not an exact idea. And as you’re filling it in, you and Bea are working together to add stuff and make connections and talk about the significance of certain things. It’s really neat to imagine it all unfolding and this literal image appearing before you. Also, I did get your message (thank you!) and will respond soon 🙂 xx

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  2. Well, of course, I’m very saddened that the ability to be freely intimate, sensual and close with your husband, or for just hugs in a non-romantic way is not enjoyable. That is such a a great and unfair loss, and one of many. I hope over time that improves for you.
    I am glad you have Hagrid. So many people, with or without partners, find the touch and connection with an animal so very satisfying. I certainly love my cat and she likes to be close to me, and often drapes herself over me like a warm blanket.

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  3. Thank you, Grace. There you go again. Normalizing my experience 😊. I think you were a shrink in a past life, lol. Seriously though, thank you. And, in all seriousness, losing the feeling that hugs are safe is unfair. Although, to be fair, it’s only recently that I even recognize that I freeze and dizpnmect when hugged, it didn’t even register with me before therapy. It was just normal. So I wasn’t really missing anything…you can’t miss what you don’t know is there. I don’t know if that is better or worse. Ugh. Anyway, thank you. And you cat sounds like a sweetie. She sounds like Kat’s cat, who cuddles with her as if they are sisters or something and followes her around . It’s adorable. Xx

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  4. What a beautiful compliment from her! I am so touched. And the sleep… I used to take sleeping meds, then went off. I am back on. I need sleep, or I completely lose it, in all ways. I am just telling you that, in an attempt to normalize and lessen stigma about using medication. I’ve battled myself for years about meds, and now I just do what I need to do, each night. Some nights I don’t take it, but some I do. And that is okay. Physiologically speaking, we need sleep for equilibrium and repair. And therapy requires us to go through a lot of repair processes. Sending support for all the terrific work you are doing.

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    • Thank you…I’m not really against meds. Sleep meds just freak me out. Other meds, I’m okay with. But the sleep meds don’t seem to be doing much anyway– I fight sleep too much– and I’m afraid to up the dose or try something stronger because I have to get up in the mornings and function during the day. Ugh.

      And yea…it was such a nice thing for her to say. 😊

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