Chronic Illness, Mental Health, Phase 3

Goal: 50 by 30

While I am no longer in DBT, during my period working through it I spent some time working on coming up with goals. This was in attempt to come up with reasons to stick around and not give up hope. We were meant to list all sorts of things, but my lists invariably comprised of travel. These kinds of goals are really helpful for me, because they are attainable, fun, and I can never run out of places to see. My main short-ish term goal is to visit, even just passing through, every one of the 50 US states. I’ve already been to 28, and we’re about to add another, with plans for 6 more in the nearish future.

A few days ago I had an urge. My girlfriend is amazing when I get these. They help me navigate what’s reasonable and what’s not. I wanted to just take off on a road trip right then, but they reminded me that while that would be fun, we had frozen groceries in the car. My car also needs some work before it’s roadtrip worthy. Did you know that if the hood latch fails on the interstate, the hood will fly up and not only shatter the windshield, but also bend the hood itself out of shape so much it can barely close? I do now. We’re still yet to fix the hood to be roadworthy, but it works to putter around town. Zip ties are amazing things when you use them right.

Anyway, we went home and began planning. Last year I discovered that I love backpacking and hammock camping, so we decided that getting a second hammock would be cheaper than a tent and that set up (we were barely right). It’s also more space efficient, seeing as we will have to carry everything the whole way, and a whole ass tent would not be fun to lug up and down the trail. Also, freakin’ hammocks. Come on.

There are several states right nearby that I haven’t been to, and figured this would be a great excuse to do so. However, after some research, I realized that it’s still cold in Michigan and Minnesota right now, so the original itinerary is going to be postponed. The original plan was about 30 hours of drive time, hitting, in order, Wisconsin, Michigan, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Nebraska, backpacking in Michigan.

Instead, we’re going to go backpacking in Arkansas, then going down through Louisiana (state number 29) to Florida, where we plan to go to the beach under the full moon.

With COVID isolation for almost 3 months and only working at home, I’ve lost a lot of muscle mass, so I’m apprehensive about how my stamina will be on this hike. The last time that I went on anywhere near this long of a trip was almost a year ago. We plan to make a slower pace. I found this to be incredibly important on my last long hike. There’s no destination, you’re just walking for the sake of walking, no reason to wear yourself out by booking it. We also got two different style and shape backpacks, so when one gets uncomfortable, we can swap. I made sure to get trek sticks that were tall enough for me, even though the trail isn’t all that rough. Trying to take into account my abilities and instabilities, experience with this kind of activity, and the general attitude I’m approaching the hike with has been really helpful in alleviating my anxiety.

Some time in the next month I will hopefully be posting about backpacking as a semi-disabled person.

Chronic Illness, Mental Health, Phase 3

Chronic Illness in the Face of Pandemic

It’s been a while since I was able to write. Immediately after rebooting my website my life fell apart. My girlfriend had moved in, and it felt like things were going to finally be ok. We joke that we had a normal life for 5 minutes. Due to certain plans falling through, we ended up homeless and couch surfing for a good month and a half before finding a friend to stay with short term. After that, we had to be separated, them living with a sister, and me living with my parents. This was torturous. My mental state began collapsing around me, and to top it all off, I had to stop going to therapy. Also in this time, I had a car accident, failed to appear in court and got arrested. That’s right, ya boi is an ex-con now. I was in the lockup for 2 whole hours.

Now, things are– ok. It’s not the best situation; I’d much rather be living in our own apartment, but at least we can be together. I’m still not in therapy, and it’s getting harder and harder to cope.

On Halloween I was diagnosed with Psoriatic Arthritis, a complication of psoriasis. Having a name to put with my debilitating joint pain and fatigue was unbelievably relieving. I’m still in a great amount of pain, but at least with my medication it’s not getting worse. Psoriatic Arthritis is an autoimmune disorder, and as such puts me at a higher risk of getting sick because my body has decided that attacking itself is a better idea than attacking microorganisms trying to make a home in my body. The most common medication, and the one I’m on, also suppresses the immune system. So needless to say, I’m effin’ terrified of getting sick.

Enter COVID-19.

As of writing this, I’ve been in isolation for 45 days. It had been ok; I prefer to stay home most of the time anyway. This week though– this week has been hard. Both my BPD and arthritis are acting up (I guess because they’re bored), making me a miserable, sore mess. I had an argument with my Love, and haven’t been able to clean at all. It’s not usually an issue, but one of my other conditions is agoraphobia. I’m usually ok with leaving home with only slight anxiety. I’m usually totally happy to drive my Love to work. But nothing is as usual right now. The world is upside down. All my fears are legitimate. Usually my fear that the world is trying to hurt me and those I hold dear is unwarranted. These are unusual times. The world could kill me. It’s killed nearly 200 people in my state alone.

The worst part of this pandemic, for me personally, is the mental toll. Not only the ramifications of being in isolation for over a month, but also seeing people’s reactions. When I go out for some essential reason and see people who aren’t wearing masks or aren’t wearing them properly, it is a visual example of how many people simply don’t care about folks like me. They don’t care that they are exposing themselves and everyone around them to this virus. They think that because a healthy person can fight it off, they are safe. When I read about people complaining about the shutdown, all I can see are people who care more about money and appearances than my life.

Don’t tell me I’m overreacting. Don’t tell me everything is going to be ok. Don’t tell me that my daily anxiety and panic attacks are unnecessary. Don’t tell me anything. Just let me sleep.

Mental Health, Phase 3

Living on the Border[line]

As I said before, one of the most disheartening things to discover after getting my diagnosis was how little information there is on what it’s like to live with Borderline Personality Disorder from day-to-day.

Welcome to my life

The usual disclaimer, this is just my own experience and understanding, I am in no way a professional. I have several comorbids, most prominently ADHD, Depression and Anxiety. I do also have PTSD, but it’s been under control for the most part and the ways that it affects my life at this point are mainly faulty wiring and memory problems.

In therapy we put a lot of focus into finding the causes of my feelings and actions. Certain things act as “vulnerabilities,” meaning they make me susceptible to my less affective coping skills. That’s shrink talk for bad. These are the things that I do that don’t actually help me, or end up hurting me. The most obvious of these are the ones that leave scars, but I’m learning that there are plenty of other things I do that fall in this category. When I push people away, pick fights, willfully neglect my needs, or purposely trigger myself, I’m not coping affectively. I’m still learning about my vulnerabilities, but I know that alcohol is one of my primary ones. I don’t have problems with addiction, but rather I have to be in a very good mood otherwise I get incredibly depressed and hopeless. Because of this, and other reasons, ours is a reasonably sober household, aside from the occasional celebratory bottle of wine.

Fasten your seatbelts, it’s gonna be a bumpy ride

One of the earmarks of BPD is emotional instability. Some people try to describe it as being an emotional burn victim; every touch feels like a slap. I prefer the simple, it’s like bipolar, but faster. The term and disorder bipolar are more understood than BPD (which isn’t saying much, but still), but instead of the weeks of up or down, a borderliner will feel it in minutes. It’s exhausting. So much so, that I developed a numbness to everything. It makes sense that my brain would do this. I live with chronic physical and emotional pain, so the only way to function is to ignore it. But that doesn’t work long term, and I’m feeling the effects of it daily. I didn’t notice so much of my deterioration that I have several joints that won’t move and now might be at risk of nerve damage, but I don’t know for sure because getting into a doctor to establish care takes a month or so unless you’re really lucky and there’s a cancelation. I can deal with the physical though. What breaks my heart is that when I come home and see my beautiful girlfriend, who I know for a fact I love deeply, sometimes I feel only the whisper of emotional love.

Over my life, it’s proven safer to leech off of the feelings of others instead of having my own emotions. My theory is that this is why I developed into an empath. My own emotions are both unpredictable, and in the past, unacceptable, so it makes sense that my brain would rewire a network to accommodate. Like most maladaptive coping skills, it served a purpose at one point. My intense empathy has kept me out of trouble, and it still makes me a kinder person. Because I not only sense other people’s emotions, but feel them as my own, I’m good at validating and giving advice. This comes at a cost, however. If someone gets angry at me, I tend to fall into a pit of self loathing. Sorting through what is mine, what is someone else’s, and what I feel on someone’s behalf is a task that takes focus and active intent, and it’s exhausting. You would think that because so many of the emotions that I carry aren’t cohesive that it would be easier to sort out which ones are actually mine, but thanks to borderline ANYTHING CAN HAPPEN. Have I mentioned how draining it is?

Having relationships, platonic, familial, and romantic, with numbed but wildly fluctuating emotions is hard. I want things, but sometimes I can’t tell if I want it or just want to want it. The intense fear of abandonment tells me to do my worst and drive everyone away; we all end up alone anyway, right? Then I remember how lonely I’ve been before and how much better my life is now, and I use any bit of energy I can find to keep the urges at bay.

I’m tired.
Mental Health, Phase 3

Hello, Old Friend

It’s been a while.

A lot has changed. I’m not writing from my parents basement; I have my own apartment (well, with roommates). My long hair is gone– and what’s left is purple at the moment. Last summer I worked out of state for an amazing theater company in West Virginia. I’ve got a new string of mental diagnoses, and I’m medicated and in specialized therapy for them. Oh, remember how lonely I was and how much I wanted to be in a relationship? That happened, er– is happening, and it’s hard and wonderful. Maybe I’ll write about that some day, but that would have to be a conversation with my partner first. That’s something to get used to; I’m no longer a free agent, but being with someone who loves you is so deeply freeing. Life’s a paradox.

After spending days on end unable to get out of bed, missing work and class, I finally realized that I need to use all the tools in my box, hence, the resurrection of this blog. Since my website crashed a few years ago, I haven’t really written or journaled much, even though it is one of my most cathartic outlets. Getting the thoughts out of my brain, whether by talking or writing, helps me to process them. Having them in a place where others can see helps me feel validated.

This blog has gone through so many phases. When I was young it was literally just cat pictures and what I had for lunch. Most of those posts are hidden. You really aren’t missing anything, the pictures probably don’t work anymore; they’ve been imported and exported so many times through so many platforms. The last phase was one of self discovery, and I’m so incredibly grateful to have it documented here. It’s a real life coming of age story, recorded in real time. However, this next phase will more structured.

Like any good millennial, after receiving the diagnosis of Borderline Personality Disorder I took to the internet to find more information from people who live with the disorder. Every now and then I look again, but my searching still comes up with essentially nothing of value. There are a plenty of tumblr blogs and meme pages, but nothing of substance. Don’t get me wrong, I spend literal hours looking through memes. But there’s a lack of balanced, informative but personal content about what it’s actually like to live with BPD.

I mentioned this to my therapist a few weeks ago and she posited that I create my own content. So here I am. Not to be dramatic.