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opened heart



it dawned upon me that my memory has been deteriorating further, because my word-finding difficulty is now at its peak, and my memory recall is terrible despite having some time pass from my last currents. and then… i am reminded that everything that transpires in this long journey from nothingness to recovery has a lasting impact on this temporary body which i abuse pretty much. this was something that i might already have known, but was too defiant to recognise and acknowledge. and alas, this leaves me with some regret.


it’s been 7 years at the brink of hell, i’ve always said i’m on the threshold of giving up, and it never seems to be getting better. what gives? i don’t know. the people around me don’t know what to do. they either stay silent, or comment nonchalantly. why are you still like this?; it’s been so long!; you are like that because your faith is not strong enough (i lost a friend for that because it was totally inappropriate);  huh!!! you cut again ah!!!; what did you do this time??? (must i have done something to be not feeling well or admitted???); aiyah i think you really need a boyfriend (overwhelmingly popular comment); etc.

but at the sidelines have been my family and close friends (NO boyfriend), cheering me on in the ways they know. this however, was hard for me. most of those who loved me didn’t know how to support me, and all i could perceive was silence and isolation. the loneliness i felt all these years, imposed by myself and wrongfully felt was crushing. it took years of therapy and retrospection to realise that my family all had their different ways of expressing their love for me.

i isolated myself nevertheless, and took down the facade i worked hard to maintain once i’m alone. i could trust myself most times, but i can say right up till today, i cannot trust a single person. not even my parents. and it actually aches right in the heart to know that. it is hard to put it in words, but the psyche of a chronically depressed, a bulimic, and a chronically suicidal borderline who severely self-harms, is hard to understand (and that is already discounting the fact that i also cope with RA and fibro at the same time, complicating everything!). and even that is a terribly sore understatement. i spent the last few weeks in much agony (although i had all these 7 years to explore this) trying to accept that maybe, just maybe, i am just one who cannot be grasped with the mind and the heart. or maybe i could tell you everything, but would you be able to take it? *hmm* it was difficult to accept this as i repeatedly spoke to my psychotherapist about this. i’m a borderline. i am needy. i thrive on being understood (or seemingly being understood). even as we tried to rebuild relationships, my parents and i, as we continued family therapy, i had my separate life from them when i’m alone. i couldn’t find the courage to integrate the self which i’ve relied on for 7 years and carried the painful pasts, weaknesses and unforgivable failures, together with the fake and detestable self that is fronted by a facade which was built upon lies and lies and lies, but also successes that felt unmerited (and layers and layers of defense mechanisms). how could i ever tell you, or anyone for that matter, that when i’m with you i am not entirely genuine? how could i ever tell you that my lack of authenticity with you at times might be because say, you were talking and i was listening and nodding my head, but ‘because i felt so dysphoric all i was thinking of was cutting’.  (i’m a terrible person. i know that, and i believe that most times. and perhaps i really do deserve all of these.)

anyhow, at the end, i think the goal is that i’m alive. i don’t necessarily agree with it. but no one can say that i’m not trying. dysphoria, anxiety, triggers and chronic suicidality are a lot of factors to deal with when it come to the causes of my self-harm. and more so when my self-harm has escalated in the last 2-3 years. i’m not proud of it. no no no. but i’m here. i’m still here. although i’m merely existing, until i figure things out and recovery becomes a real possibility. i recognise that life still goes on, so in doing so i’ll make sure i’ll finish my honours degree by December. it is one of those times in these 7 years where i have to tell myself “Steph, you can’t afford to fall during this period. You just can’t.” and there were no buts. because i knew the consequences of falling during crucial periods. you fall, you end up in hospital much to the dismay of your teachers, you end up deferring your module/course/graduation (yes graduation, fuck it), you repeat the module with strangers while you see your friends on social media graduating or progressing on ie. you got left behind, and teachers all start asking what happened to you, or what happened to you, or heaven forbid, things like why are you so fat, why are you so weak etc. and the thing is, i already fell so many times during this school year, and only got out of the hospital a few weeks ago. many rules and sanctions have been placed on me to make sure i’m safe. everything was fixated on my crazies. but i think no one thought to make sure i was a tiny bit happier or pain-free?

i’ve tried. i really have. doctors in the e-rooms always ask me if i’ve gone off my meds, and i wish i have, but i have never gone off my psychiatric meds (so why the crises???). i’ve always found it an insurmountable task processing the sinking sadness of depression, BPD’s ricocheting, instability in affect and interpersonal relationships, neediness, self-mutilation and suicidality, emptiness that can never be filled, the deep ache that is so visceral, the rage, all of it even until today. yet somehow i’ve allowed some of it to take over. may there be a day, like the psychiatrists say, that my symptoms (or BPD) may be ameliorated. Dr G (not my psychotherapist) once told me that borderlines usually take 5-10 years with psychodynamic psychotherapy. i’ve hit 7. i guess 3 more years to truly see if things really get better? (then again, psychiatrists have told me i’m the worst case they’ve ever seen.)

at this point where i am ending this post, i am feeling quite sad and it feels quite visceral. but well, i’m just gonna try to smoke it off.

 

 

 

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6 feet under

as i walked into the consult room, i saw Dr T looking at the computer screen. he must’ve been reading my psychotherapy notes from the day before. i sat down and i passed him an envelope. “would you please certify me fit and sign it???” i said, in much desperation. it was an Advance Medical Directive, for in case you are unconscious and incapable of making any decisions, such as life-prolonging decisions… my lawyer friend was dead sure my psychiatrist would never sign it because of my chronic suicidality. but he was wrong. Dr T talked to me as he signed it. he wanted to be sure that i knew what it was.

we talked for awhile, and even though i am not actively suicidal, he says that i am. i showed him the cuts. the cuts i never had before, but have now because this is not living. so he gave me 2 choices at the table. 1) admission. 2) ECT. i conceded to ECT. but later decided that maybe i’m better off inpatient. did some paperwork, found out my ward had no beds available, so i backed out. took my meds, smoked, and went home. might as well. i have too many obligations with school. i really cannot afford to take that time off. not it again.

i don’t like my family and friends to know that i’m in a crisis so bad that i’m 6 feet under. so i try, you know. i really try to seem better (without feeling better). yay.

and oh yes, i’m so fucking hungry. sigh.

wrong

i can’t quite articulate what it is that i am feeling right now. but i feel quite dysphoric.

it feels like everything i am doing is wrong, despite knowing very well that they are indeed wrong or dysfunctional. when faith meets medicine/psychology, i fail so miserably. i can’t seem to reconcile the both of them. and in the midst of existence, of coping, of trying to right my wrongs, i feel extremely fragmented. as i go around picking up the broken pieces, i also leave behind pieces of me that i loath. i am never complete, because there are so many parts of me that are wrong, so many that i want to abandon.

i am always told that my coping mechanisms are wrong.  i try and try so hard to make it right for so many years. but when push came to shove, i tumbled down another rabbit hole. now i’m still wrong. perhaps even more dysfunctional than before. and so, am I wrong again? oh yes I still am. i am trying, for all the wrong reasons, and yet i am still wrong. more wrong than ever.

imprisoned, i can’t seem to break free. i can’t seem to right the wrongs. i can’t seem to truly find myself again. and i can’t seem to regain this sense of normalcy in my life, because something is always wrong and/or dysfunctional. it doesn’t help that i am painfully aware of it. painfully aware that the sum of all parts of me is wrong. 

still i try, but sigh. it is tempting to give up.

ravenous hunger

all over again.

only the numbers matter.

almost forgot how it feels.

but i also forgot

how miserable it felt

to be imprisoned by

the very vessel

i was living in.

all over again, steph.

all over again.

 

what you don’t know

  1. RA and fibromyalgia changes a person. living with chronic pain does that to you. it makes me embittered and disillusioned with life and the healthcare system.
  2. Chronic pain means that i carry a pouch of medications in my bag always. Painkillers that go up the spectrum in its strength. Topical painkillers. Anti-emetics in case the painkillers make me nauseated. Anxiety also means i carry with me benzodiazepines (usually clonazepam). Without this pouch when i’m out, i’m practically nothing.
  3. RA is an autoimmune disorder, and it can only be managed (put nicely, put in remission), never cured. And there was nothing i did to induce such a chronic and debilitating disease. Mine started when i was merely 1 years old.
  4. Fibromyalgia is a legitimate illness. It is not a diagnosis placed on a person if a doctor can’t figure out what a patient is going through (i.e. garbage diagnosis). No my pain is not psychosomatic. No my pain is not because i’m doing everything wrongly (posture, ergonomics at school/work, the way i sleep etc), No i’m not lazy, i’m just perpetually exhausted/fatigued despite the amount of sleep/naps i get.
  5. I don’t find excuses because of my illnesses. I try my best even through the pain and the exhaustion. Heck it even takes courage to admit that i am giving something up, or if i have to say no, when i feel my disease involvement is really being tested and exacerbated.
  6. i have chronic depression, and it happened (and still persists) not because i was weak. it started in 2010 because i gave too much of a damn about something- something that i was passionate about, and was good at, that pride took over. at that point my eating disorder was in full swing for a year already, and it didn’t help with the stress and pressure i faced.
  7. i fight. and i don’t stop fighting. i fought to finishing nursing school, and fought to finish it well. i fought at and for work as a nurse. i gave up my career as a nurse because undue pressure and sanctions were placed on me just to validate my license. it triggered me everytime i had to go down to board’s office to submit the letter from my psychiatrist.
  8. the people who are in the caring profession are the very people who perpetuate the stigma of mental illnesses. this was something i could never understand.
  9. i’ve lived in hospitals- medical and psychiatric- for a total of nearly 3 years. it takes courage to go in, to admit that i need help. it is not attention-seeking behaviour. and to be honest, all these time in hospitals are the ones that kept me alive.
  10. and yes, as much as it seems the opposite, i am fighting to live. i subjected myself to 63 sessions of electroconvulsive therapy (ECT- in layman terms, electric currents that runs through the head), because i struggle with chronic suicidality. if i seem forgetful, this is why. amnesia is the primary side effect of ECTs.
  11. i’ve been labelled as the “worst case” my psychiatrist has seen, “the most difficult patient” my psychiatrist has had. 70 over sessions with my psychologist yielded almost no effect on my mental health. so pardon me if i think i am a hopeless case.
  12. people have asked it, and implore you not to ask it nor even think about it, why i am “still like that”. do you actually think any sane person (yes i am very much sane) would want any of this bullshit? if i can have it my way, i want nothing of this.
  13. i am always fighting to manage my conditions, and that includes working towards recovery. sometimes i am able to muster the strength to stay relatively well (usually from extrinsic motivations). but it doesn’t mean that i’ve done it before, that it cann be replicated. circumstances are always different. and not reaching recovery doesn’t mean i am weak. it means i’m still fighting. whether it is me managing my symptoms because that seems to be more important at that time, or whether it is me fighting my demons because it feels like i’m well enough to work towards recovery.
  14. i am always seeing doctors, and again this is not attention-seeking. i see a rheumatologist, a pain specialist, a psychiatrist and a psychotherapist (who’s also a psychiatrist), with the occasional visit to a gastroenterologist, a nephrologist, a neurologist etc. i am for the record, not the healthiest person around, and no i did nothing to deserve anything that warrants these visits.

  15. when i cancel on you, it does not mean i’m not keeping my end of my promise. it usually means i’m exhausted through and through, either from the disease process of RA, fibro, or even depression. or it means my mood has plunged, and/or i am crippled with anxiety that i can’t leave the house.
  16. when you see me smiling and laughing, talking (sometimes loudly), walking with normal strides with my head held up, 99% of the time it is a facade you see. this facade is quite true to my old self. and it takes immense energy to keep the facade up.
  17. when you see me turn a little quieter, becoming more reserved and isolated, head down, and walking a little slower, it means the energy that’s keeping up my facade has run out. it means you are seeing a more genuine side of me, and honestly, i’m not fun to be with once this occurs. it can dampen the spirits of everyone, and i don’t mean to do that.
  18. i am easily triggered. when i see images or hear about things like suicide, means to kill oneself (like ropes, pills etc), and all, i immediately withdraw. it can mean that self-harm will come later, but that’s just the way i am. i am extremely sensitive.
  19. when i bare my arms to you, it means i trust you enough not to judge me. i am not proud of my scars. but i don’t want to tie it so much to shame as well.
  20. it’ll be difficult to accept me because of the way i butcher myself. but i always hope people can understand that self-harm is my way of coping, of self-regulating. it’s just like how people turn to alcohol, drugs and ciggs. and if you have questions, i really don’t mind being asked, as long as it is done tastefully.

it’s difficult for people, and even my doctors, to see how pain is inevitably intertwined with depression. everyday is a battle for me. i start off my day downing anti-depressants and a cocktail of pain medications. it’s a judgement call to make, for how much pain medications i need to start my day. a painful day makes for a very moody and/or angsty day. on the other hand, there is no happy pill. when i’m anxious, i pop a clonazepam, but it doesn’t make it go away totally. sadness, despair, distress and worry usually accompany anxiety. and if i can, i lie down, hide under a blanket, an try to sleep it off. if i’m out, i try with all my might to get home to do precisely that- hide and sleep. the worst is when my mind decides that my life is not worth living. there is no anti-suicidality pill. there is only self-injury and ECTs. i don’t hurt myself for the sake of it. ironically i hurt myself to stave off the suicidality (at least when i’m not inpatient), and it does help. it’s difficult to believe it, but it really does help. it helps me to at least live till tomorrow. and sometimes that’s all that is important right?

everyday is still a day of self-discovery, of learning who i am and what i am. everyday is a chance to be stronger, more resilient, more accepting, and a chance to desire living instead of dying.

my friend from my community described me as a fighter, as do many others, in different ways and words. i constantly deny them, because depression tells me everything otherwise. but for the past few days, i’ve thought about it. if i hadn’t fought, even as a child with undiagnosed juvenile RA, would i be here? if i hadn’t fought through the pain even as it progressed into adulthood, and then also fighting with fibro, would i be here? if i hadn’t fought with depression and bulimia, would i even still exist? it answers it all.

lastly, without my faith in God, i am nothing. He was the one who carried me through all these years, giving me the strength and courage when there was none to go on. He carried my crosses (which are my burdens and struggles) with me, and never left me even when i turned the other cheek. what can i say? God is good. God is Love!!!

The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be still. -Exodus 14:14

health wise, head wise

admittedly, the physical pain that often plagues me has lessened considerably. i rely much less on pain medications. and to be honest, although it’s a good thing and it is heartening, i am also afraid. my body, my health, and of course life, is ever so dynamic. what i gain today, i can lose tomorrow, and vice versa.

and yes, so i fear.

it’s still a long time before i see a neurologist. i see one late June. although i’ve not had anymore “attacks”, i’ve realised that my clumsiness is not getting better. i asked my mum if i’ve ever been clumsy, and she said no. it’s only been in recent years that i keep finding myself sprawled on the ground, the road, and recently on the escalator. i’ve even fallen and rolled off steps. clumsiness is not a symptom of MS, but it is telling, from what i have learnt as a nurse. and so when i found myself falling on the escalator last week, my 2nd fall in just 1 week, i was just… lost. but i’ll let things be.

i always err on the cautious side with my health because years and years of being sick and being medicated has changed my body in so many unimaginable ways. parents, people and healthcare professionals think i am attention-seeking. but what do you do when you’ve know for years- 16-17 years- that something is wrong with your body, yet no one tries to even get you medical help? when i was 17 i brought myself to doctor and found out i had been living and suffering silently with JRA (RA after that) since i was just 1. and even with a diagnosis from rheumatologists, my parents are disapproving of what was going on with my body. so i learnt it the hard way, to ask for help with a body that does not agree.

after hiking in Chiang Mai, i discovered (again the hard way) that my heart did not agree with too much effort. when i came back, it slowly became evident again that i was heaving walking only halfway to the bus stop. that’s not strenuous, right? i have been getting breathless at every little thing i do. i just registered a heart rate of 140+ at rest today. i know my heart is not doing great, and i’m going back to see a cardiologist again. nothing might have worsened. something might have gone wrong. i don’t know. there’s always fear that my left ventricle has dilated further. hmph.

i guess i am just a really anxious person who needs reassurance that my body is not failing on me again. i am tormented enough with psychic pain, and i don’t know how else to quell the perpetual anxiety in me that something is wrong.

anyway, head wise, i’ve not been doing great. it’s been extremely difficult. my eating disorder is back. full blown. and it really messes things up, after it being so fully latent for a year or so. it’s an insurmountable task, coping with the depression and eating disorder, because they both feed into each other.

so yup. oh and i’m back at school. i’m doing just a counselling module this term, and i love what we talk about in lectures.

 

 

reclaiming my life

reclaiming this life remains to be a constant struggle, and in itself begs to be answered as to how i can do so.

i can’t remember what normal is, and i can’t believe that there is a normal anymore. there is always too much, or too little, sometimes none. every single aspect of life has fallen victim to it. there seems too much to regulate, that in the midst of it i lose my bearings and often fall flat. sometimes i return to status quo, most times i worsen and get triggered.

in my admittingly unwilling recovery, i thread on the thin line between life and death. i take consolation that i am still around, and mind you i do so, so that others recognise my effort. but i’m hypocritical that way. i’m alive, but i’m dead. my foot steps into the realms of death more often than not, and i cannot say for sure if i have even considered taking a step towards life. right in the middle it seems, is safer. i can come and go, and you can tug at me. but i’m still here. ambiguous. there seems to be nothing on this earth that could ever make me step across the line towards life, yet i will fall for anything, across towards death. shit does these to you. how do i reclaim this life?

trespassing the body- literally going against self-defense and survival reflexes and mechanisms- ironically became my way of living in a world i disagreed with. it came, and it never went away. too many times i tried to count the good days, to no avail. it was always doomed to fail, because i had to hurt to live. still i tell those who needed to know, that i’m free from such trespasses, in order for them to know that i am ok. i am not. this violent mind will not go away until it learns how to want to live again. until it finds meaning in life and in living. i ask myself if this sabotaging way is the way to go, if this is the way to survive. i know it’s a no. but i don’t know how else? again, how do i reclaim even some semblance of a normal being?

my body claimed its stake on me in illnesses and pain. my body lessens and lessens by the year. its grip on me ever so tenacious. and i don’t know how i’ll ever set myself free from it. time and time again i try to take back what is mine; regain control. but it doesn’t give. it only threatens to be more, and i keep popping the pills and sleeping. this life, and it seems adamant after 2 decades, it isn’t going to let me reclaim it.

this mind, this body, is not mine to take. i exist in it yes, but every living moment is spent attempting to reconcile what is, and what was. each day i live in fear of losing even what i have right now. this is the bare minimum, and if it’s anything less, i will cease to exist. yet, each day spent living and breathing is a dim spark of hope that tomorrow will be better. that tomorrow i will want to live, that tomorrow i will not trespass this body of mine, that tomorrow i will accept this failing body. that i can reclaim my life- the one i lost 5 years ago.

all these, just will not do.