Thursday, June 12, 2014

V Is for Volatile

I had an honest-to-goodness breakthrough with my therapy this week. It's a mixed bag, honestly. I feel both good and bad about it.

It happened because I've been doing group therapy on Mondays. It's a group to develop awareness, which is supposed to teach me various methods to calm myself and be more present-focused, and it's been very interesting. I'm surprised by what works for me and what doesn't. But doing guided mediation and being more calm made me realize exactly how and when all of my issues started, and probably the most surface reason that I can't ever relax.

Unsurprisingly, it's all left over from my sister's death. Ellen died in 2006 at the age of 13 after a yearlong fight with bone cancer. I've never really gotten comfortable with that. I honestly thought I had, but I really realize now that I just forced myself to think that. I have a lot of feelings of guilt from it that I've never faced.

The biggest issue for me is that ever since I was a child I've believed the "fact" of my own insignificance. I live my life with the deep, ingrained belief that people don't like me, even--or maybe especially--those closest to me. When those beliefs are challenged to harshly, I get angry and scared. And what comes down to is my inability to reconcile the fact that she's dead and that I'm not. Why should I be alive--insignificant me--and she not be? Her death was the last in a series; within a six-year period, I lost my grandmother, three aunts, an uncle, and then Ellen. It just got harder and harder to take. And after that, I was burying my feelings and running from them, and that feeling of guilt added to all of the other issues in there and made it impossible for me to slow down or to let myself feel good for very long.

There's a lot going on with me. In my mind, there's a big ol' mountain that's just my issues. This thing is really the looming, volatile storm cloud hovering at the top. Realizing this didn't give me closure or cause those feelings to go away, but those feelings are at last truly acknowledged and ready to be examined, and just that step has helped me immensely. So I still feel bad because I haven't worked through it, but I'm happy that I was finally able to stop running from this and recognize it.

You know what kind of scares me? Looking back at my life, it seems kind of... obvious. If that's the top layer, what's further along that I can't really remember?

The reason I didn't write this yesterday is that I suddenly got very, very sick and had a panic attack. This one was scary, because I'm not really sure what triggered it. There is a lot going on right now.

1. My therapist is leaving the mental health center I go to. She started as my case manager and then, in January, when my original therapist left the center, she became my therapist. Now I have to transition again, for the second time in a year, and I'm nervous about it because I've never even met this person before. I don't want it to set me back; I know how I can shut down and I'm trying hard to process this. When my first therapist left, I thought I was okay with it, but then I had a violent panic attack on my final day with her that was debilitating. I can't do that again, and even though I'm aware of the possibility, I'm scared of it happening. (Which is part of what anxiety is: fear of the feelings associated with fear.)

2. That whole thing this week with Feedly not working. I know the issues, but it threw off my whole day yesterday. Technology not working the way it's supposed to is a surprisingly huge trigger for my anxiety, but I was okay with it. This morning I was just annoyed and started looking into other RSS readers, but for the most part I've been patient with it. A couple of pissy posts on Facebook rather than yelling about it.

3. I'm worried about having a giant spin-out in the next month or two because of my terror over my student loans. I haven't started paying them back. I can't work. My weekly salary is zero dollars with no benefits. I can't defer them anymore, though, so I'm a little overwhelmed at the thought of going into default. There seem to be programs available to help, and I'm terrible at tackling things like that, so my case manager is going to meet with me tomorrow so we can go through them together. I'm feeling a bit better about it already; at least someone will be able to explain what I can't understand because of my focus problems.

4. Also, I just had to work out a giant thing with my W-2's from when I was a substitute teacher. There's someone out there with the same name as me, and I've had problems with him before. Well, turns out that my W-2's had his social security number on them and not mine because of a clerical error. No one noticed, including me, him, payroll, social security or the IRS, because it was never enough money to turn heads. I paid taxes on them, yes, so everything's square, but social security needs me records. It was just a big... thing, but it got taken care of and I'm not mad about it. It's actually kind of funny.

So I'm not sure why I panicked so badly yesterday, but it was huge. My wife and I were just watching an I Love Lucy rerun and eating dinner, and then I couldn't stop eating for some reason. I didn't feel full, but I was tired of eating, but I couldn't stop, and then it started to hurt, and then I was crying and crying. I took a Xanax and talked about what I was feeling, but I don't know what triggered it, and that kind of bothers me. It's that thing I said before--what's down there that I don't know about? Did something just hit me the wrong way? Was it just this feeling of unease that I have? More far-fetched, did sitting there and watching old reruns the way I always did as a kid just somehow re-create the feelings of being neglected, abused and terrorized from back when I was a child?

It scared me. I spent the next hour willing myself not to vomit. It worked. I calmed down soon enough, but I felt grim for a while. And my stomach ached for hours.

I haven't felt this volatile in a while, and I hate it happening now, during my favorite time of year (the late spring and early summer, before July rolls around and my irrational guilty feelings about my birthday resurface).

Therapy is a mixed bag. It takes a long time to understand why you're holding yourself back and when you finally do, it's not easy to face. And this is just one aspect. It's better than feeling that way the rest of your life. But the hardest thing I've ever done is getting to know who I am, and why.

ABC Wednesday


Yasmin said...

I'm really happy to read that you're working on it. Even if it's incredibly hard. And I think that even if you fell like you are about to take five steps back, like having to switch therapists again, you will be able to take a step forward after that. Even if you don't believe it, even if you can't see it happening. You have started this process, which was something you maybe didn't think you could do, but you did. And you got through yesterday, which must have been so difficult, which means you will get through tomorrow. And you've already switched therapists before, panic attack and everything, which means you will be able to do it again, even with another panic attack. You are worth it. Believe me, I know you're default setting of not feeling like you deserve anything, I'm like that, too and just recently have started to realize how much this particular issue has fucked me up. But you are worthy of help, of everything positive. You are worth a good life.

Funny thing, a few weeks ago, when you did your AMA, I meant to ask a a questions regarding triggers and how you deal with them. I decided against it because, well, you don't want to trigger someone by asking about triggers... But I just wanted you to know that I did have more questions and maybe I'll ask them next year :)

SamuraiFrog said...

Thank you so much for your encouraging words. And for the question you did ask; you can ask me any other questions at any time, really. I just ran out of new ones.

Please remember that you're worthy, too.

Roger Owen Green said...

So I'm glad you're better.

I always feel like you do, only not quite as deeply. Technology failure spins me out, e.g., and the only reason it's not worse is that I (miraculous for me) figured out stuff.

Last week, I was particularly fragile; still haven't written about that yet, but I (probably) will.

SamuraiFrog said...

I think for me it's feeling cut off and also knowing I can't afford to fix or replace anything. It causes this disruption to my routine, which can be hard for me to bounce back from.

Kelly Sedinger said...

As ever, all I can offer is my encouragement and continued appreciation for your posts here and online friendship, with hopes that you continue to make progress, no matter how slow. I hope it's not too macabre of me to quote Hannibal Lecter here, but "The world's more interesting with you in it!"