Wolves in Sheeps’ Clothing.

When I think of the act of rape, I imagine strength, physical force, and weapons.  I imagine struggling, kicking, and screaming.

But that’s not always the way it happens, is it?

I had met my friend’s cousin on a Friday night.  My initial unattraction to him gave way to curiosity and innocent kissing.  That went on for two long nights before he made a joke about rape.

“What, you enjoy raping men?” I joked back.

“No, just women.”

We both cringed and there was an awkward silence before I replied, “Worst joke ever.”  I laughed, but I should have listened.

The short story is, that’s precisely what happened a short time later, somewhere between me telling him no and then silently staring at the ceiling.  I ran the gamut of emotions: I chalked it up to a misunderstanding, I blamed myself for allowing it to happen, I tried to forget the whole thing happened.  I figured he must have been into me, became confused when he didn’t call, and then… I became furious.  With him, but mostly with myself.  I saw doctors, talked to a therapist, I dropped off the radar.  How could I have been so naive??

It was a wake up call.

I will never allow myself to place trust where it isn’t earned again.  Predators in sheep’s clothing have fooled me more than once.  I am okay being alone.  Far better off than being with… that.  Crying wolf is not my style.  But I will not be playing with any wolves again.

 

 

Worthy.

Coming to terms with and accepting one’s inherent worth is a staggering process.  It’s a series of realizations, which would require a lifetime to describe, that first bring you to your knees, then graciously lift you up like the proverbial phoenix.  A new you.  The real you.  There’s no merit in ruminating over the time wasted coming to this ultimate conclusion; the only real value lies in the success in reaching for it.

–When I say “inherent value,” I mean the perfection of the true self, ego removed from the assessment.  Here is the basis for good self-esteem, self-worth, and self-respect; the foundation for healthy boundaries, healthy relationships, and a healthy lifestyle.  It is perpetuated by positive thinking, and perpetuates joyful living.  It requires awareness, attention, consistency, the courage to visualize the seemingly impossible, faith, and oftentimes, an outside perspective.

As always, for me, it began, continues, and surely will end, with prayer.  Some people are turned off by the term, and I suppose I could paraphrase it by saying something like “speaking with your higher self,” but I am not ashamed.  There’s empowerment in the yielding of control; some of us go insane hoping to manage everyone and everything else’s moves on the biggest chess board.  For me, prayer seems to be one of the best methods for seed planting. I trust that seedlings will grow from my earnest prayers, and recently, I began sowing the very real and very new harvest of remembering who I am.  Who I really am.  And you know what?  It’s not just an essence.  It’s a reality.

I remembered that I am a beautiful woman.  I remembered that I don’t deserve to settle, and that I don’t deserve subpar treatment.  I remembered that who I am, today, right now, instead of my perceived potential, is enough.  I realized that I don’t owe anyone anything. I realized that my only real obligation is to remain true to my true self.  I realized, then reveled, in these basic rights.

Of course, the journey will continue, up and down and across plateaus, but thank god for His glorious compass.

rose gif

Firing a BFF.

Have you ever had to break up with a friend?

I remember the day I met Kelli.  I was a week and a half into my inpatient stint at the eating disorder unit, and the CNA on duty told me a new girl had arrived, and that she was really upset.  She asked if I would talk to her.  The extra smoke break was worth the trouble, so I agreed.

Upon exiting into the harsh sunlight, I was confronted with the thinnest person I’d ever seen, with the exception of in portraits of Holocaust victims.  As I took her in, from the bottom of her American Apparel leggings to the top of her frizzy curls, I felt immediately protective.  This would come to be almost everyone’s reaction to her.  I noticed that she was wearing all black, like I was.  “Hello,” I said tentatively.  “Do you mind if I smoke?”  She withdrew an identical pack of American Spirit blues, her teary eyes hopeful.  I noted the vegan tattoo on her wrist.  “I’m vegan too.”  We both smiled.

We were instantly inseparable.  We were even accused of starting an anorexic gang, and I let her epilate my armpits one night.  We were in the same group, and ran covert searches on the staff members, with shocking results.  Almost a year later, Kelli was “dishonorably discharged” for purging, which she maintains until this day to be a bald faced lie.  I cried for a week when she went back to her apartment across the country.  I visited a few months later, and we spent the majority of our time counting calories on packaging at Whole Foods, smoking in her lower east side bay window, and sleeping.  Life was a blur of pills, negative calorie foods, and hidden scales.  But we had each other.

skeleton bff

That was six and a half years ago.  We have both changed a lot, but in that depressing, growing apart sort of way.  I call it depressing because I honestly thought we would be friends until we were old and grey.  “You can’t ever kill yourself,” she whispered from the top bunk.  “If you did, I would do it too.”  So instead, we agreed to live, and always be together.  When I remember it, it was so innocent, in that mind fucked sort of way only veterans of psych wards and codependency can really understand.

And that brings me to what I’ve come to understand as the ending of the story.  Kelli didn’t do anything wrong.  She is brilliantly creative, magnetic, and charming.  She is also manipulative, still enmeshed in her eating disorder, and a horrible trigger.  I love her all the same.  We even have matching tattoos.  But sometimes you have to call it, for your own sanity and general well-being.  It’s heartbreaking, and harder to initiate than my toughest breakup.  I still haven’t found the words, and the knots in my stomach accumulate with her voicemails and texts.

Let the grieving process be gentle on both of us.

 

Poison.

I was working on a project when the screen of my phone lit up.  I ignored it as I finished up stringing the last row of beads, then casually flipped it open.

How have you been?  I still wish my summer was with you.

I didn’t recognize the number.  My mind took a quick inventory, and my heart dropped as I suddenly realized who it was.

Motherfucker.

It was the last guy who broke my heart, the one from the nightmare, the one with the affinity for emotional (and let’s be real, probably physical) cheating.

drink me

I closed my phone, and as I continued working on my project, my movements became more tense and more terse.  I can see right through the thin veil of loneliness and meaningless attention seeking.  A dozen responses ran through my head:

I’m fine.

Don’t you have a Craiglist sex ad to answer?

Lonely?  Guess your fuckbuddy finally left the country.

FUCK YOU!

…Me too.

In the end, I said nothing.  I let my silence whisper into him all the things he most feared, and take the place of all the things I could have said that would have tainted my self respect.  My adrenaline slowed, and I deleted his text.

Anyone can send a text message; words are cheap.  What I want is someone who can be demonstrative.  Until then, I’m playing my cards close.  I don’t have any more time to give to users.

 

Chemical Lobotomy.

I was 24 years old when I received my chemical lobotomy.

pillHEAD_1

I had first flirted with SSRIs (Zoloft) my freshman year of high school.  I was 13, and having trouble coping after my parents’ divorce.  I took this drug on and (mostly) off over the years, but my real psychiatric disaster would come more than a decade later, after being admitted to an inpatient eating disorder unit in my hometown.  Upon entering, my only experience with psych drugs included Zoloft, and three Xanax in total, given to me by a friend in beauty school to help me with the awful panic attacks I was suffering as my weight dropped.  When I left the psychiatric unit 3 months later, I found myself on the maximum dosage of anti-seizure medications like Lamictal and Topamax; an antipsychotic called Abilify; sedatives including Xanax XR and Klonopin; and the uppers Provigil (an anti-narcoleptic) and Vyvanse (an ADD/ADHD medication).  My pill case included, as Hunter S. Thompson put it, “a whole galaxy of multi-colored uppers, downers, screamers, and laughers.”

My mother was the first one to raise concerns about this protocol.  She was shamed by my psychiatrist, who blamed my issues on her, and was shut down.  After all, all of the other patients were on a similar, if not the exact same, regimen.  Some of my family praised the medications.  I just numbed out.  Whenever I addressed concerns like feeling dead, emotionless, etc., I was told that that was just what it felt like to be stable.  To be normal.  To be at everyone else’s level.  Per my psychiatrist’s implicit instructions, my dad would spray me in the face with water if I refused to get out of bed by 8:00 am.  I would literally crawl down our carpeted stairs to the sofa, where he would bring me my morning regimen of uppers, downers, screamers, and laughers, and then I’d lie there waiting for the nausea and fatigue to lift before rising.  At night, I’d take a few sedatives, plus Benadryl, and pass out until the next morning.  Wash, rinse, repeat.  No wonder I had trouble waking up.  He later removed my psychiatrist off her pedestal when she instigated a blowout fight between us, and he tearfully accused me of being a betraying liar.  We later discovered she had had her medical license revoked (but reinstated) after illegally providing a client with drugs, resulting in his death.  She was also accused of drinking on the job, hiding her bottles under her desk.  She blamed this behavior on another therapist, who was fired.  My former psychiatrist, and alleged murderer, is now the medical director at the facility.

In all honesty, I accomplished much academically initially, particularly after the introduction of the ADD/ADHD medication Vyvanse.  And why not?  I was maxed out on, essentially, meth.  Small issues began to arise when I’d run out of my medications.  Often, physicians were hesitant to prescribe more, declaring it a liability.  I never abused my pills; I took them as directed, and so I would become hopelessly frustrated when I’d go through a few days or weeks of withdrawals, only to begin the protocol again and have to deal with increased side effects.

It was 2010 when I took my last Vyvanse.  I had run out, and couldn’t get out of bed for the week it took to secure a new prescription.  When I finally filled it, I experienced a terrifying heart event that landed me in the hospital.  I decided to discontinue it for good, and I slept 20 hours a day for weeks, only rising to make breakfast and dinner for my then-husband.  I left him shortly thereafter, and that’s when the nightmare really began.

I had run out of a couple of the medications, again, and decided I’d had enough.  I wanted out of the chemical prison.  I went cold turkey, without any idea of what would follow.  The next two months were literally a 24/7 panic attack.  I experienced terror beyond terror for eight straight weeks.  It was a hell unlike anything I’d ever experienced: a bad trip that wouldn’t end.  I tried to check myself into a psych ward, and the psychiatrist on duty, perhaps an angel, informed me that I was experiencing withdrawal.  He prescribed a beta blocker called Propanolol for two weeks to ease the transition.  My adrenaline was checked, and I entered a period of severe derealization and depersonalization that lasted for nearly a year.  For that entire year, I knew I’d lost my mind.  I developed an enormous fear of my own brain.  The bad trip continued.  I began to pursue an interest in holistic health, and began to actively recover from my anorexia.  My skin broke out in disfiguring acne, which made me cry every day.  I forced myself to attend classes at the community college, and earned an AA over the course of the next year.  Depression, anxiety, and strong feelings of DR/DP persisted.  I had periods of agoraphobia, especially when my skin was at its worst.  There were many, many days and nights during which I plotted my suicide.  I told myself that this ride would end, someday.  I just had to get through the worst, which I figured would last two years at the most.

It’s been two and a half years since I made the best decision of my life to discontinue nearly 10 high-powered psychiatric drugs.  My two friends from the hospital are still taking the same drugs, plus some.  I’m still not totally recovered from my chemical lobotomy, and I need to figure out how to forgive the prescribing hospital staff because the rage I feel is tangible.  My central nervous system was damaged by following their protocol, and I don’t know when I will be back to feeling fully functional.  I’ve had an eye twitch for almost two full years, which might be permanent.  I tire extremely easily.  I live in a fog of depression, derealization, depersonalization, and anxiety.  I have PTSD from the sheer terror I felt during the worst of the withdrawals.  It’s hard for me to relate to others because of these things.  I am just… so angry.  And so tired.  And so ready to wake up from the nightmare.  The thing is, I know this can only happen with time.  As long as I can keep myself alive, someday I know it will be better.  It just has to be, because this is no way to “live.”

Informed consent, truly informed consent, should include a frank discussion about the very real and scientifically measurable withdrawal symptoms, which will occur after even a short duration of use, before the prescription of a single psychiatric drug, let alone 10 of them.  This discussion should include the patient and his or her loved ones.  Some of these symptoms are transient.  Some are permanent.  What is fact is that these medications cause damage to the central nervous system, disfigurement of the brain, and disruption of the neurotransmitters.  It’s much worse than even a bad tattoo, because it messes with your physiology, sense of self, self-confidence, your trust in the world, and those people in it.

Please take these things into consideration before consenting to your own chemical lobotomy.  You’re signing in blood.

 

 

 

Nightmare.

Image A nightmare about my ex boyfriend woke me up in tears.  It took me about an hour to work up the courage to smash the canvas he had painted for me.  I flew out of bed and picked it up, giving it one last look before I tried to rip it with my bare hands.  They trembled from the effort, and it remained thanklessly intact.  I strained to break the wood frame in half, with no luck.  I considered putting the arm of my elliptical through the center, but, in tears again, threw it in the closet, image down. 

I’m going to box everything that reminds me of him.  The necklace he gave me out of guilt for betraying me.  The sketch he drew of my cat.  The CD he made for me.  The little book with all the hand pressed flowers from our walks. 

Fuck that guy.  I want to be the girl who doesn’t care; the one who can compartamentalize all the good memories we shared; the one who can remember him with indifference.  Not this barrage of painful passion.  But I’m just not.  It’s not that I want to grow a seed of bitterness.  In truth, I don’t think of him very often, but the nightmare combined with all my current worries and loneliness to yield a monster of a morning, awakening all the ill hopes and naïveté that accompanied my poor decision to engage with someone who was incapable of meeting me at my level.  The sad truth was that I knew it from the beginning.  I have a habit of ignoring my gut, and in your twenties, that doesn’t seem to matter too much.  Suddenly, you’re 30, single, and realizing that your closest friends are pregnant and there is a distinct chance that a similar path will elude you because you wasted your time with someone, hell, multiple people, who could were unavailable.  I don’t even know if I want children, but you know what?  I’d like the fucking option. 

I will reframe all of this in my mind as I pick up the pieces of my day, of myself.  I will learn from my mistakes, and remind myself to be patient.  I will put away the sentiments in a box, and remember who I am. 

The Death Process.

My grandma died.

She had been diagnosed with a cancerous brain tumor just before Christmas, and had decided not to treat it.  She was 90 years old, spry in body and mind, and living independently.  She loved her iPad, and had, quite literally, the best life (and death) of anyone I have ever known.

Now she’s gone, and it feels like my childhood died with her.  No more holidays at her house, the same place I had played and talked and enjoyed time with 8 aunts and uncles and 25 cousins.  Irish Catholics; there are a lot of us.  No more weekends at her beach house, no more cocktail hours with Grandma.

The services are all over now and I am exhausted.  I wasn’t expecting an open casket at the rosary, and my cousins and I broke down in front of her rigid body.  My brother placed his warm hands over her cold ones and it was all too real.  I managed to quell a massive anxiety attack, my legs shaking and ears ringing, as I placed the crosses over her casket in front of a crowded church.  The wake was a bustle of family and friends I have known all my life, and I couldn’t help but wonder what would become of our group without our spunky matriarch.

I know that a new life and new identity will spring from the waters of grief and loss and death.  I know that my grandma was so happy to live, and to die, and that she wants us to really LIVE too.  Such a life is hard to aspire to, especially when you’re a black sheep fuckup like I am.  She accepted me always, though.  She was an incredible woman.