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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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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

when i can’t, You always can

i’ve been thinking a lot these days, all the while having thought-provoking conversations with people from my community.

it’s been 6 years since i fell into depression, and it’s also been 6 years since i hung up my pointe shoes for good. to say that the last 6 years was difficult, is a sore understatement. i’ve always found it hard to get back on my feet. each time i seem to be grasping recovery in my hands, i fall even harder. my doctors can only conclude that i am severe case who can’t seem to remit or get better.

loss. loss is something i experience a lot, and I have been unable to properly grief each time. i’m still hung up about each and every loss that i’ve experienced, that i almost seem to live in the past. the what ifs, the could’ve beens, the should’ve beens.

the loss of giving up ballet due to RA’s joint involvement, and the inability to even try to go back to class because of my deconditioning from prolonged hospitalisations and the breathlessness from long-drawn anemia… i never got over that. and now even though i could go back to class, the recent mysterious attack on my left leg has rendered my leg almost useless for ballet. it never really ends, does it? this was one of the two passions in my life, and giving it up hurt plenty.

the loss of my sanity in 2010, my fall from “grace”… i never got over all that i’ve lost from that fateful day when i finally called it quits and downed all those pills. i continued losing a lot more because i could never reconcile with myself the fact that i am imperfect, flawed and only human. i continued to battle with myself, against the words of others and the self-deprecating beliefs about myself. and right here right now, i’m still clawing my way up the deep dark hole that i fell in.

i lost my calling. the calling which I was so passionate about. even though i was the one who chose to give up nursing, it still aches so bad. but between getting hurt by the people around me as a nurse, and hurting because i left, it’s easier to choose the latter. nursing is unfortunately my only other passion that gave me some semblance of a meaning and purpose in my life. it’s been a year, and although i moved on to study psychology, i’d return to nursing in a heart beat once my doctor gives me full clearance.

i lost my freedom to be free and active. the fatigue from RA and fibromyalgia can be very debilitating, and it’s something very few people can understand. the fatigue, amotivation and insomnia from depression piled on top of it. and then i gave up trying. long days overwhelm and tire me. physical activities scare the shit out of me. crowds and excessive noise drive me crazy. the hot weather test me each time i step out of the house. if i could i’d curl up at home and watch the telly. and that’s what i’ve been doing. commitments are hard to maintain because i’m not the energetic bunny i used to be. i’m now the lethargic sloth who’s tired everyday and tries all ways and means to stay at home and not practice any self-care.

i lost my ability to be fearless. to be uninhibited. all the what ifs hold me back and hold me captive. tomorrows are never certain. i could be all fine and dandy today, tomorrow i could be a disaster. today i could be walking, tomorrow i could have one limp leg, or joints that are angry. everyday is a surprise. on one hand my life is a monotonous unending cycle. on the other hand it hits me like a hurricane each time i get up, or with each conversation i make. nothing is ever stable. nothing is static. i can’t be fearless. i live in fear, inhibited by the memories of past.

i essentially lost myself. i lost who i used to be in its entirety. how do i get over that? how do i tell myself “i’m sorry you had to lose so much, but look forward and not back. live. your future is in your hands.” it’s something i’d tell someone else, yet not to myself. reconciliation has never been more difficult and under-managed. the Steph that is now, is not the Steph who lived till 20. that Steph died. and me, this Steph that i am, has been damaged, and broken, shattered into smithereens, put together haphazardly with craft glue, scarred, and yet still on the verge of falling apart. so flawed. so imperfect. so damaged. so unloveable.

this is not a pity post. i put it here because i know i would forget this aspect of my insight into myself. i want to reclaim back my life. yet what tugs hard at me is the “NO”, because i’ll fall and get hurt again. how do i ride against the tide and the waves physically? my body feels extremely incapable of doing anything physical without having any adverse effects on my body. and how do i stop looking back, and look forward instead? how do i forgive myself for going savage against myself? how do i forgive the people who took it too far with words?

at the end of the day, no matter what, it is always God whom i should turn to.

“when i can’t, you always can.” -Kari Jobe

words of love and wisdom

i thought they were nagging at me, even though they had my best interests. i always filtered what i didn’t want or like to hear. but sometimes, if they were dogged enough, their words were kept neatly at the back of my mind. perhaps my subconsciously, i was saving it for when i was ready for cold, hard truths. after my wounds and emotions weren’t so raw. and after i’m ready to face my past- what happened and how i had reacted. i’ve tried visiting it everytime these loving people ‘remind’ me of not what could have been, but how to rise above defeat (or perceived defeat actually).

it’s been about 4.5 years since acetylcysteine dripped into my veins. depression and bulimia, they said. but if i hadn’t poisoned myself, it would’ve gone on and on. the “abuse” from some people in what was a heck of a deal to me. they took it away from me, told me when the antidote was still dripped in my veins. i’ve cried the most in my life in the past 4.5 years. i made my friends into strangers because the pain was too much to bear. i delayed my studies, and then sabotaged a potentially promising career because i kept going into the hospital. 2 perpetrators became many as more and people made ‘scathing’ remarks as i fought my battles. i have thousands of scars to show for all of these, something i’m not proud of.

and till this day i remain bitter, unable to let go of the deadweight.

i retrieved a file from the back of my head, even during this period when i think i’m never gonna rebuild my career like i should have. this file said that i had not lost- i never quite lost anything nor did i lose the real competition. the competition wasn’t even in the curriculum. it was a bonus, an add-on. and therefore when i lost it, i just went back to status quo. does it make sense?

i only see the light in those words of wisdom now. it’s been a little long, but never too late. i hope there isn’t a backlash, that i won’t start to regret that i should have realised it earlier, and save myself from so much mental torment and physical wounds. in the mind of a depressed, it can definitely happen.

because of the loss i grieved very hard and for a long time, although some would beg to differ because such a loss wouldn’t seem ‘legit’. my treatment team might agree that i am still grieving. now i think it’s time to let that ‘nagging’ which i abhorred so much turn into love, and let love’s arms pull me into a long overdue embrace.

merde (in ballerinas’ lingo of course).

 

God provides

image
in ballpoint pen, near my wrist scars

i had a terrible day at work yesterday. it was so bad, i was on the verge of quitting. it involved an overseas patient, and i was on the frontline bearing the brunt of his mistakes. he later pretended as though there was no mistake on his part. i was fuming. but what could i do?

this morning, as usual, i tossed and turned in my bed since 4am. thought about work, my aches and pains, life, everything. then i thought about Keele. my interview with them was more than 2 weeks ago. surely they have some answers?

i flipped my phone over to check the time and saw an unread email. it was from Keele!!! they’re offering me a place!!!

KEELE. A PLACE. NURSING DEGREE WITH HONOURS. BRITAIN.

i cannot contain my excitement!!! i almost sobbed with joy. i shook my mum up to tell her, then went back to bed to calm myself down and wait for my alarms.

God always provides.

Better

image
in my nursing scrubs, but as a patient

It slowly became apparent to me how i have improved psychologically, and i am beginning to see more of me in myself. It’s finding myself again- the real me- having lost myself to depression. And i take heart and revel in it.

Dr S, my psychiatrist, and Dr T, my rheumy, both gave me their widest grins as they looked and listened to me during our consultations. I was getting better, it seemed, and they were happy for me.

But i ask myself how i am able to be like that, and still be as disordered as i’ve been in my thoughts and in my ensuing actions. I don’t understand it.

In this period of recovery, i guess it has never been more right to say, that having no choice may be the best choice afterall. How many times have i proved that to myself? A good few, i would suppose.

It’s now my 3rd week into work as a registered nurse, and i’ve just ended my 3rd day working the grounds in the cardiac ward. I am back into direct patient care, and it soothes me so much to be there for them. (I don’t know if anyone of you can appreciate. It’s simply inexplicable.) There’s been some ups and downs along the way, but they are inevitable. I’m trying to be ok with that.

Late last week, i was informed by mail that i am actually graduating with merit. (In other words, i am graduating on the dean’s/director’s list.) Please don’t congratulate me. Although it’s been what i’ve wanted since some 4-5 years ago, i cannot help but have mixed feelings about it.

a quick one

A really quick update about the past week.

Done with corporate orientation. Started on nursing foundation program. 3 more days of lecture this week, and then we embark on extended nursing foundations- i’ll be in my ward starting Thursday, going back to basics all over again.

Saw my psychologist on Tuesday. Dr P suggested using my passion as a shield against the arrows that came my way, instead of letting them get to me. Didn’t think of that, but it was a good idea! We did some EMDR too, on a specific memory from secondary school. It worked out better than previous EMDR attempts, which surprised both of us.

Saw the higher-ups from school last Thursday. It turned out better than expected. They listened to what i had to say, and why the ‘breach of confidentiality’ incident was so distressing to me. It was inevitable for me to reopen old wounds and talk about Worldskills. The director of nursing needed to know what the assistant director covered up. She was shocked, the least to say, that some things happened the way it did. Shared with them too, how the school became such a huge trigger to me in the end. They must know what their charges have been up to. I’m just glad i did well for PRCP, or else they really wouldn’t give a damn about what i said. They told me they’re going to relook and rework the processes so that what happened to me wouldn’t happen again. I hold them to their word. I didn’t get the apology that i originally wanted. But honestly, i walked out of the meeting room feeling free and liberated. The huge arrow that came my way proved to be pretty harmless.

Well change is possible afterall!

My sister, who studies fashion design, had her graduation fashion show on Thursday. As i looked at her models strutting the dresses that she made, i beamed with pride. The dresses were so well designed and made! So proud of my little sister!!!

Attended an orientation at HPB on Saturday- i’d signed up to be a Health Ambassador a few weeks back. It’s the first of the many, and i hope that i’ll be able to be more and do more in the community. In the meantime, i have many dreams for rheumatology nursing, and in mental health. Not for myself, but for my patients. Hoping to be able to put them into action. I need to get started, and be on my way now!!! 

I think i need to find myself a mentor to help guide me. But how?

RA is putting things in perspective for me again, and i just need some time.

Work as a registered nurse is starting proper soon, and i’m scared. 😦

That’s a pretty long post for a quick one eh?