Tune-Up

I haven’t written in over a year and thought I might check in. Last time, I wrote about the one-year anniversary of my suicide attempt and how different I felt coming out of the experience, having realized what an amazing support group I have and how I need to use it. Since then, things have been going really well. I’ve been mostly stable, with a few depressive blips here and there, but they’re not severe and typically only last a few days as opposed to, like, months as I was experiencing before my bipolar II diagnosis.

Lately though, things have been…weird.

I’m having a personal issue (what it is isn’t important) and it’s something that keeps  cropping up every now and then. The shame is that it’s a surmountable problem, but I don’t talk about it until it’s reached a crisis level and I’m totally fucked and in a panic. I don’t even talk to my therapist about it because I hate talking about it so much. (This, for those of you not in the know, is called avoidant behavior –  if I don’t face it, it’ll not be a thing.) It causes me to need help that’s hard to ask for. My behavior has made my relationship with my parents very strained, and I can’t stand that. They help me endlessly, not without questions (and sometimes yelling) but in the end they’re always there. So to have a wedge driven between us really hurts. In my darkness moments, I really do have those stereotypical thoughts like, “They’d be better off without me.” They deserve a better daughter. I get into a thought spiral where I feel horrible guilt over being sick and the ways that’s impacted them as parents, and crushing guilt that I’ve always been the one they worried about. I have a brother and I’d never say that my parents have never worried about him, but dude has his life together in a major way. Pretty much always has. I have this view (maybe it’s skewed, I don’t know) that I’m the one that’s always been the worry, the major concern, the cause of stress and sleepless nights. I’m the one who clung to my mother three years ago in the hallway of their house and just sobbed, “I’m so sick,” over and over again. We’re not a hugging family, but she held me and just said, “I know baby, I know.” I think about putting them through moments like that and I can’t even imagine the horror and panic and pain I caused. I can’t imagine what it’s like to see your child, your baby, feeling that way and not knowing how to help. I couldn’t help being sick. I know that. But my illness has had consequences beyond my own body and mind, and sometimes I feel wracked with guilt about that.

My depression and anxiety have been out of control lately, and the aforementioned issue reared its ugly had recently, and my therapist, for the first time, seemed truly upset with me. “Why don’t you talk to me about this before it’s a crisis? Is it something I say or do that makes you not want to tell me?” “No,” I sobbed, “it’s nothing to do with you.”

Later that night, she gently put out the idea that maybe I would benefit from going back to an intensive outpatient program.

I’m crushed. I don’t want to do IOP again. It was so hard last time, and while I know that it taught me so many crucial skills and was such a positive experience, I feel like a failure for having to go back again. I feel completely overwhelmed by the idea of going back to two hours a night, three nights a week, for six weeks. It’s so, so hard. I don’t mean for that to come out whiny, but it’s just the truth. It’s painful and exhausting and completely mentally draining. You have to think and talk about the last things in the entire world that you want to think and talk about. That’s the point, especially for me, the reigning champ of avoidant behavior. But there’s a good sense of community there, though, that I do like. You get to know people and their problems from week to week, and you root for each other. The trouble is that I’m an empath and when someone is in pain, I’m in pain. If they cry, I cry. So I spend most of group therapy struggling not to steal the show and basically hiding in a kleenex. Then I go home and sob until I feel all cried-out. Doesn’t sound therapeutic, but in the end, it is. IOP taught me coping techniques that I couldn’t have learned anywhere else, and I’ve carried many of those lessons with me ever since.

So I’m trying to keep the good stuff in mind as I embark on IOP: The Sequel. My first session was yesterday and it went okay. Didn’t cry too much. We did a unit on social anxiety that I found really helpful. So it’s off to a good start.

What I’ve been struggling with, though, is the thought that I have to do this again. I feel like a failure. Why wasn’t once enough? Where did all that knowledge, all those skills, go? I’m sad and depressed, but I’m also angry. Why the fuck can’t I just live a life that doesn’t require professional help to manage? Other people do this all the time. I mean, I’ve been saying for years that basically everybody would benefit from going to therapy at least once in a while, but what I mean to say here is that I’m pissed off that I’ve been in therapy for four (five?) years, I’ve had three stints in various psych hospitals due to suicidality, 6 weeks of IOP, not to mention a whole cocktail of medications, and I’m still all fucked up. Why can’t I navigate a functional life without needing all that shit? Is there some piece of me that’s missing, and if so, did I ever have it? Was I always going to be like this, since the beginning? There are millions of people like me in the world, but more millions of people who aren’t. What shitty short-ass straw did I draw?

I’m scared, too. I pride myself on being very self-aware. But these last several weeks have shown me that, sometimes, I’m a mystery to myself. And I don’t like that feeling. What other fucked-up-ness is hanging around in here?

I sound really why-me whiny right now. Maybe I am being whiny. I’m just really pissed off , more mad than depressed, that I have, and have had, all this help and I still just cannot get. It. Together. I try so hard. I really do. And moments like these make me feel like it’s just not good enough. A friend told me this week to think of myself as a car that just needs an occasional tune-up, that’s all. And that’s a nice way to think about it, except that I feel like I’m that sad abandoned El Camino up on blocks in the weedy abandoned lot next to the mechanic’s garage.

In my better moments, I decide that I’m just a work in progress, like we all are. Maybe my path is just a little longer and has more twists and dead-ends than is typical. I’m depressed and angry, but I’m still going to go to that goddamn IOP and learn everything they have to teach me, even the stuff I learned last time. Can’t hurt to hear a lesson more than once, right?

Eventually I’m going to move past the resentment and self-blame and all this other shitty stuff I’m feeling right now. IOP is going to help. I know it will. And it’s okay that I need to go through it again. It’s okay to need whatever it is that I need to be safe and stable and something at least resembling happy. In my good moments, I know that. I’m just struggling with the bad ones right now.