Collateral Damage

One of the worst things about having my cocktail of mental illness/being me is that I can’t control when I hurt people. I mean, I suppose that’s probably true for everyone, but this morning, it wasn’t a matter of me being careless and saying something cruel. Instead, I got thrown off, and started melting down within the first 20 minutes of being awake.

Two impossible situations stood before me and I needed to merge them but couldn’t. Time passed. I was stressing out and hurting The Flutenist, and I knew it, and I got more angry at myself and more ashamed of being caught in this struggle at all, and I got more paralyzed and more frantic and…

It was bad.

Sometimes, stress can empower us- give us extra energy (more blood flow), extra clarity (more oxygen to the brain), and more motivation (tension fuels action). For me, there are days when all of those processes work, but I can’t find an outlet. The energy and tension funnel inwards, my body shuts down, and my mind just becomes a whirlpool of rapid, frantic thoughts. 

Nothing gets done. I know I’m stuck but I don’t know how to get out. Or if I can.

But it’s internal; no one but me can affect it or communicate that it’s happening. But I don’t know what to do!

So I almost made him late to work today and I sent him an email while he was at work, explaining everything that had been running through my mind. (I usually regain writing before speech, so it’s my go to response.) I wanted him to know that I knew that I was hurting him and making things worse for him and that I took that seriously. I don’t know why. 

It’s been a few hours and I can’t see how that could have helped anything.

I’m so stupid.

Yeah- today has been very bad in terms of self-talk. I’m back-sliding and I hate it but I don’t know what to do. I just!


I wish I were normal.

Or that I could tell where my depression stops and where I start.

Or that I knew what I was capable of.

Everything, every tiny thing, is this epic struggle between being too hard on myself and not pushing myself to grow. I never know whether I’m doing it right or not.


Day 23 With Dora

I’m doing better again. It would be easier to evaluate my emotions if they were more consistent. Or lasted longer. Or if I were better able to recognize their sources.

A few nights ago, I was sitting with my husband and my dog on our couch, and I basically said “I’m overwhelmed and I don’t know why,” and he said “Yeah, I’m tired too,” and everything froze for a second. Wait. Tired. We did all the same errands and tasks today and he is tired. Am… am I tired?

It was weird, because just like I lost touch with my emotions after enough ‘how do I feel? hurt. right.’ checks, I also lost touch with the causes of my emotions after enough ‘why am I hurt? because I’m still breathing. right.’ checks. I just assume that all negative experiences are caused my depression, or my social anxiety, or my depression-fueled anxiety. So many of them have been, after all. So when he said that he was tired, I realized that it was reasonable for me to be tired as well.

So as I complained about my emotions above, please keep in mind that I don’t recognize what it is to be human. All I see is mental illness because I remember when it’s been so suffocating that it was all I could see. Things might be awful. Or they might be ok. I just can’t tell the difference.

Crap. Do you know what this means?

All of my negative-emotion responses are probably all still tuned to max power. Like… like… so, let’s say I get scared in a reasonable situation like a car wreck or something… or a near miss or something. So I feel fear, rational fear, and at the first sign of it, I’m like ‘I know this feeling! Brace for impact!’ and it’s full on panic, quick response mode. Forget everything else. Drop all responsibilities. Run. Survive. I’m bracing for the worst.

And I do that for smaller things. Public speaking. Getting turned around on unfamiliar hiking trails. Some days, needing to go outside when I can see people out there. Some days, when my curtains and blinds are just open. 

No matter what, just panic. I will have to watch myself for it, to see if I’m actually doing this or if it’s just a hypothesis that would account for a few things.

… Right. Dora. We’re ok again. I sing to her. I talk to her. We’re walking together much better than before. It’s going to be ok. Today, I believe that it’s going to be ok.

Days 12-14 With Dora

Quick recap:

  • Day 12: I’m so scared of training what if I can’t do it what if it goes wrong I wish I didn’t get nauseous when I’m stressed this is pathetic my brain says it should be ok why won’t my emotions listen what’s wrong with me aaaaaaaagh.
  • Day 13: First half was more of yesterday’s mess. Second half… why was I scared of this? That went really well. I talked to people, Dora was fine, the trainer is friendly. It’s ok. Breathe. Breathe.
  • Day 14 (today): My friend came over to hang out during her break at work. Dora and I went to the park, walked for 30 minutes, and caught 2 Paras, 1 Vulpix, and 1 Drowzee. (I was being a bit more discerning today, plus it’s hard to throw pokeballs accurately with a dog tugging your arm at random intervals, so we mostly walked.) I played video games. I folded two loads of laundry. I emptied and started reloading the dishwasher. I picked up my husband from work on time. The three of us did some leash training in Lowes.

So, it’s been really, really bad, then pretty ok. Then last night, I realized that my life is ok- it’s not going to be ok someday, but it is ok right now. That was really weird, I have to say. Today went pretty smoothly overall, and it was nice to finish tasks I haven’t had time for the last few days.

I wrote my second week’s training log a bit ago, so I’m going to relax now.

When “Meaning Well” Backfires

My poor cat. Poor, poor Kuno.

I bought a topical flea treatment from Hartz, thinking “maybe this will clear up the troubles she’s been having and I can solve everything without taking her to the vet!” I read the directions, I applied it as intended, and I moved on with my day. A few minutes later, she started dancing around our house, trying to rub it off of her neck and generally being distressed. I talked to her, tried petting her back, thinking it was just annoyance at something new. She wouldn’t calm down. She liked being near me, but just kept doing those same things.

So I tried to wash it off with a wet rag, since it was clearly disturbing her. No dice. I got some off, but there was so much there, and her neck still smelled like the chemicals.

Soapy wet rag? More of it came off, but not much. Plus, now I’m making her a little mad.

I tried to rinse her neck in the sink to get rid of the soap and she freaked out and clawed and leapt away. But I got most of the soap first (which I don’t want her eating), so I was satisfied.

So I thought to myself ‘the box mentioned digestive troubles and other signs of discomfort; I wonder what everyone else is experiencing…’ Enter Google. Cue the website full of 1 star ratings written by people whose cats started freaking out and “almost died.” Vets. Baths. Cats pulling out their own fur. Spasms. Neurological damage. Weird pupils.

Naturally, I freak out. Which makes two of us. I chase down my dancing cat after drawing a sink full of dish soap water which is warm (not cold enough to chill or hot enough to burn). Fetch Kuno. Dunk. Fight. Scrub the neck fur with soap after compromising and letting her stand on the beach towel on the counter instead of in the sink. 

She settles down. Breathing slows. Hissing stops. I think I’ve finally got it off her skin. Try to draw rinse water? Goodbye kitty.

I should pause and explain that I was half sobbing this whole time because the whole situation is my fault. I did this to her and I am the one causing her stress as I try to fix things.

*** Sorry. I stopped writing so I could wash and bandage my cat scratches. My train of thought may be broken here.***

I filled a pitcher with warm water, scooped her up with my free arm, put her in the bathtub, and rinsed her off. A sopping wet Kuno slipped away from me, but again, I got most of the soap off first, so I didn’t mind. Followed her with the beach towel. Dried her off a bit. Let her escape to the other side of the house. Cleaned up the water trail in the bathroom. Cleaned up the soapy mess in the kitchen sink. Came to check on her.

She’s not happy. She eventually came out of the box a bit and sat near me to dry herself further. I brought some treats as an apology, and she ate them. She’s well enough to sort out her favorite brand from the mixed treats in my container, so that’s something. I keep looking at her, and she seems annoyed (probably the bath), but it’s not like she was at first. No more frantic running and jumping. No leaping up onto counters, sprinting their length, and tumbling down. Not winding in circles around the furniture, laying down for 10 seconds, then getting up to pace some more.

She just sits in one of the empty boxes and stares back. Not quite trusting me not to try to bathe her again, but letting me get close enough to sniff her neck. (I got most of that medicine off during this fiasco and she doesn’t smell like soap either.)

I hope she’ll be ok. I really do. 

Progress Report #2

So, you may remember that I have had major issues before with being outside around strangers, but it really is getting better. A couple of days ago, I walked around the community without freaking out. That sentence still saddens me somewhat. I remember when being near strangers wasn’t really an issue at all.

Don’t misunderstand; I’m an introvert, and quite happily so, and many of my previous group interactions involved more watching and listening than talking or doing. Even then, I wasn’t living as my truest self around strangers or in crowds, but relationships with introverts are always richer when you hang out with them one on one or in small groups. You just need to invest in them a bit more deliberately, and they thrive.

So, pro-introvert comments aside, what I was trying to say is that my healthy social interactions are different from the American ideal, and I’m ok with it. I am not measuring myself against an extrovert who is energized by meeting new people. I will never be like that, which is fine with me, because I really love having deep friendships, where we can talk about painful topics or meaningful dreams. I can’t find that kind of depth in large groups of people.

But back to the immediate issue… people saw me walking, dogs were barking, I was outside, it was daylight, and this time, I didn’t have a panic attack.

I wish I could express just how happy I am right now, because it just feels so good to be back to my old self. I had my first real panic attack back in June or so, and I am really, really hopeful that this will end up being a season that only lasts for six months. It sounds like a small thing, I bet, but every symptom that goes into remission is a victory.

Here’s to the next six months and the growth that’s still to come!

Accepting Her Imperfection

This is the third time my cat Kuno has knocked down our curtains and the second curtain rod she’s broken. It’s really frustrating because it’s one of those things that go wrong that is completely outside of my control. I usually get frantic when things just explode in my face like this.

There’s nothing I can do, really. She wants to see out the windows, which is fine. I’ve never seen her pull them down, so I don’t know how to accommodate her. I cannot prevent it from happening again without getting rid of my curtains, and I want to keep my curtains because they’re lively.

I feel powerless, and powerlessness makes me panic. I run back and forth between my two bad options and want to cry because it’s lose-lose. So I panic and shut down. It seems like it’s all I can do.

I have left those curtains on the floor for a few hours, just… Too overwhelmed to deal with them. But I will do what I can. I will bend back the rod and rehang the curtains. I will leave them more open so she can get to the windowsill. And I will hope for the best.

And just keep going.