A Fall/The Fall

I’m not going to sugarcoat anything in this post. The last six months have, with only a handful of bright spots, been a long, dark, terrifying descent into the unknown. There has been setback after setback, outright defeats, hate brought literally to our door, and more fear and uncertainty clouding my mind.

Whether depression aided or not, my body is not doing what it needs to be doing. For two months, I have managed, at absolute best, a meal a day. Most days, it’s been a struggle to eat and keep down even a couple of bites of anything. I see cognitive function that isn’t up to par, but can’t seem to fix it. In a rejection received just this week, my fears that my writing style had diminished were confirmed with the scalding critique that they didn’t believe the same person wrote my samples and what I had just sent them about a month or two ago for potential publication. Failure to commit even simple tasks without confusion or error has pervaded my daily life. My emotions are more out of my control than they have ever been, leaving me feeling like a child. My sleep has suffered, sleeping during the day if I sleep at all. I am terrified of driving for fear of one moment of error leading to disaster. My pain is worse, particularly my nerve pain. Medications only seem to just take the edge off, but with the current war on pain meds, I hardly dare ask for more, even though neither of my doctors would likely hesitate. They know I don’t ask or use frivolously.

I’m left with the question I can’t imagine any ill person wants to ask: is this it? Is this the beginning of the end or just a flat tire?

Changes are in the works to attempt to make the situation right. If those changes don’t work, other changes will be made until we’re out of things to do.

That’s it. A few lines of dry whining, a sad retelling of a few months of struggle. I started the blog with so much more to offer, but find myself coming up so terribly short lately in nearly every way I can imagine doing so. This isn’t the end of Lemons and Spoons, but another plea for your continued patience as I try to reset and find some semblance of “me” again.

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My Cross(roads) to Bear

I’ve been ignoring my writing. I’ve been ignoring my family and friends, ignoring responsibilities, ignoring my wants and needs.

I’ve been ignoring living.

The last two weeks have been some of the hardest days I’ve ever endured. The reconditioning program assigned to me by Dr. Blackburn of Cleveland Clinic is exhausting, school is leaving me anxious and feeling as though I’m not in the right place at the right time, and being rejected from a partial program because I couldn’t afford to pay nine hundred dollars out of pocket lauched my already suicidal and anxious self into an even deeper depression. I stopped eating, only managing one or two half meals a day. Not just a lack of appetite, but a true repulsion for food. I’ve cried…God, how I’ve cried. I’ve disconnected from people who matter to me and I’ve felt their sadness at the loss of it and buried myself further in my guilt and shame and sorrow. I’ve been afraid to leave the house, afraid to reach out, afraid to write and see on screen or on paper how much my pain has piled up.

This week, I have to make a choice; one I keep making and unmaking, an ouroboros. Since school has started, I have felt nothing but dread and anxiety and the chaos of the universe is content to throw all manner of obstacle, tragedy, and catastophe in my path. Fate, if you believe in such as I do, seems to be dead set against me progressing. After two leaves of absences in a row from two literature classes that should have brought me joy, leaving me with only a single class passed and roughly two months behind in my program, I’m questioning if school was the right choice at all.

In the meantime, I feel pulled towards writing. In church, during the first sermon on a series about second chances, someone said “turning mess into message“. I don’t remember who said it because I was so overcome by inspiration, by hope and purpose, that I clutched at the pastor’s wife, a published writer and far more successful and dedicated than I, and looked at her with what I’m sure was a rather desperate and crazed expression. I was living in a moment of cliche, the “lightning strike of inspiration”.

But anyone who knows me knows I endure this cliche often. An idea comes at me like a phsycial blow and I’m consumed, obsessed. It’s all I talk about, all I think about, all I dream about. Days or weeks pass and I remain fixated on this point on my map, until depression seeps into my veins again and robs me of even the notion that I could succeed, complete, or even do anything at all. I retreat, defeated again.

Will this be another moment I look back on and regret? Another choice made on a road littered with mistakes and missteps, lost and forgotten inspirations, and dreams I couldn’t, or wouldn’t, make happen? Is every agonizing moment spent asking myself this same question, my mind an endless loop with a new concept inserted in each time, just the way my mind will function until it can no longer function at all? Will the one decision I ever make with certainty be to end the need to ever make a decision again?

I am safe, but frightened and tired. I will continue to live and push forward and try, but for what, I don’t know yet. Maybe I’m still waiting for the one lightning strike that sticks.

I pray for peace, readers. For myself, for all of you, for the world and worlds we live in, for our choices and the freedom to make them, whether we have that freedom or not.

I pray for understanding and patience. I thank those I have alienated with my hurt and sadness. I urge you to believe me when I say I’m not going anywhere, that I am safe.

In short, I try to live. What else can I do?

 

The September From Hell

This has not been a good month. It’s had bright spots, but for the most part, it has been a stress filled ball of anger and confusion.

The first trip to Cleveland (5th of September) yielded a few slight changes. New medications and the news that I was roughly following along with the projected prognosis of my illness. In other words, everything was still “on track”, which was sad. I was scheduled a test to return for in two weeks.

On the way back from Cleveland, we received word of a relative (I will not say who for their own privacy) that had been in an accident. We got home and prepared to leave first thing in the morning to see them, which would involve about the same amount of driving time as the trip to Cleveland.

As we’re gathering our things that morning, our power goes out. “Rotten luck”, I think, until I realize its not the building. Our power has been turned off. Unable to deal with that issue at the moment, we just left and dealt with it while we were gone, which meant coming home to a fridge and freezer full of bad food. Food we couldn’t afford to replace. There are a few people we have to thank for helping us with all of those situations, but again, privacy, so I’ll just leave it as a general “we would be lost without you and you know who you are” and be grateful. We got back on track, sort of.

A bright spot: we got to go to Renfest! A friend, heartbroken over the idea that we would have to cancel probably the only fun thing we’d been looking forward to all month, decided to sponsor us, so we went and had a glorious time.

Then we left for Cleveland Clinic for the second time this month (20th of September). Despite involving a second trip to Ohio, I actually count this as a bright spot. I did a physical stress test, which I’m proud to say I did not have to cut short and was able to do the full twelve minutes, plus the five minute cool off walk. That test gave us some pretty great insight into how my body is doing and, from the results, we created a unique to me, tailored to my conditions program to recondition my body. This program has a great success rate, with 70% of the people who complete the three month program not even meeting the criteria for a POTS diagnosis. This doesn’t mean I’ll suddenly be cured, but it does mean very good things for the length and quality of my life if we can manage a major aspect of my symptoms and struggles.

We came home, feeling cautiously optimistic. Then, this week struck.

Monday, September 25th, I left for church and found a derogatory message written on our door. With the unpleasant word was the message “found you”. For those that don’t know, we endured several hate crimes at our previous apartment, which was the reason we moved to our current home in the first place. The message, along with the same handwriting, had me shaking as I called the police and reported it.

Tuesday, the 26th, yielded two death threats. Wednesday the 27th was quiet, nothing appeared. Today, the 28th, we got two, one death threat, one disgustingly terrible derogatory insult. I mean, honestly, learn to spell, bigot!

So here we are, two days away from the end of what could quite possibly be the worst month in my memory. Sincerely hoping the trouble ends with the month.

Ifs and Buts

Hello. It’s me. It’s the writer that abandoned you for about a month at least.

I do a pretty good Adele impression, wouldn’t you say?

There are probably a few reactions happening as this is being read. Some of you rolled your eyes and stopped reading after the poor attempt at humor above. Some are probably relieved. “Oh my God, she lives”. Others may think “finally, I was starting to think she’d never come back”.

I’m relieved. This month hasn’t been an easy one and the only thing that is going to make my future look any brighter is me. And I’m terribly unreliable when it comes to doing what I need to do for me.

I attended the partial hospitalization program for only a week and two days. Rather than help this time, I came home a little worse than I started out. Not a good direction when “where you started out” was desperately wishing you had the courage to kill yourself. Instead I found a regular therapist who is helping me respect myself.

In the time between my last post and now, I’ve had a family member go through a risky surgery, the depression hospitalization from hell, I was denied Medicaid because Nikki makes too much, my current insurance refuses to pay for anything that would actually benefit me (with the exception of my primary doctor and some of my prescriptions), a tenuous grasp on my relationships, and had to take a leave of absence from school because I simply stopped working for two weeks.

No, let’s be honest; I stopped living for two weeks.

Wednesday, during a routine appointment, it was decided that it was time for me to start receiving weekly infusions and use a walker, both to assist with the POTS and neuropathy. I’ve been referred back to the same psychiatric unit that I left for my own sense of safety because its what my insurance will cover. In short, I hit the bottom.

Mom visited yesterday. She picked me up, we spent probably two hours at Culver’s, then another hour tag teaming the dishes that har piled up in the kitchen because none of the three of us had the energy to deal with it. We’ve been a mess here.

I felt better and it allowed me to step back and consider how good the last month has been. I went up north twice and enjoyed the company of people I love deeply. I celebrated my wife’s birthday, my grandmother in law’s birthday. Pam, Nikki, and I started up with Pure Romance (I know, the asexual is selling sex toys, laugh away) and it went better than any of the three of us dared hope. I feel more prepared for school, I made new friends.

Tonight, I caught the tiniest little glimpse of who I could be. She wasn’t what I pictured when I was younger: a performer, standing tall and oozing confidence and pride. She was still perfect, though. She was worthy because I am worthy. The only thing between me and a future I’m happy with is me and the choices I make.

I choose to be worthy. No ifs or buts about it.

The Wrong Idea

Another celebrity suicide in the headlines means another open door for judgement. “So selfish”, they say. “He had a family. What about them?”

Fuck that.

Suicide is not a selfish act. It is a desperate one. It is a clawing, suffocating need to make the pain, physical or emotional, go away. It is the belief that others will be better off in a world without you in it. It doesn’t make sense to those who don’t experience it.

I’m four days into the partial hospitalization program at my local mental health facility. The work we do there, in order to attempt to tame our inner demons and reach a place of stability and safety is hard. Beyond description hard. Each day, for six hours, our little group drags out every hard topic, every fear. We open up wounds and poje and prod. We cry and shake and try to make sense of ourselves and each other. We laugh together too,  though. We often find it much easier to find compassion for each other than we do to be compassionate towards ourselves.

At the end of the day, I come home and I sleep. I sleep for hours, no matter how much sleep I got the night before. The first day there, I was only awake for 8 hours.

I try to be patient with those who react with anger towards suicide. Those who call it selfish and cowardly simply don’t understand.

If you are at risk, reach out for help. To anyone, or just to the hotline. No matter what your own mind says, you are worth it.

suicidepreventionlifeline.org

Hurt

There’s been an honest, but hurtful mistake made. It’s caused things to be thrown into chaos.

There was already so much chaos.

My chest is too tight, my anger simmering a little too close to the surface and it makes my skin feel too hot. Or maybe that’s just the inescapable nerve pain. 

I’ve never been one of those types to get insanely excited about my birthday. This year, in particular, I am absolutely dreading it. I wish it didn’t exist almost as much as I wish I didn’t exist.

I don’t have anymore to offer you. It’s a short, vague, and hopeless post to juxtapose the long, heavy post from earlier. When everything is falling apart, why bother stringing words together? It isn’t as if they’ll be heard anyways.

The Aftermath

It’s been one week and two days since I tried to kill myself. It’s getting easier to talk about, but as reactions pour in, I find myself overwhelmed by different people’s feelings and my own. Some have responded calmly and quietly; a gentle hug, an “I’m glad you’re here”. They tend to be the ones who have been here before. They’ve experienced this aftermath, they know the quiet is the easiest to manage.

Others are louder. They are shocked and scared and their emotions are wild. I feel frightened and cornered, ashamed and burdensome. I want to crawl away and out from under their scrutiny, away from their fear and grief. There’s anger in their worry and it feels as if I’m drowning.

Then there’s me.

A small, barely flickering flame has taken up residence here in this broken heart and mind. I donated my birthday to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and Project Semi-Colon. I let my post about my attempt begin to circulate a little more widely so that others in my position might see it and feel a little less alone. A project that I had considered over a year ago that had no direction, no purpose, suddenly falls into place; a non-profit dedicated to collecting and sharing resources for at risk individuals of all ages. A single source for information, assistance, advocacy, and education for those impacted by suicide. A place for loved ones to honor those they’ve lost to it, a place for those facing it to find each other and grasp each other tightly.

A few I’ve shared this with have urged me that I’m taking on too much, that I have to be careful.

“Maybe when you’re done with school.”

“Give it a couple years before you take on any more.”

I don’t have the promise of a couple years, though. I don’t have time on my side and the feeling that every second wasted just thinking about it is another second that someone could be getting help they need, but couldn’t find before. If not for the sake of other people, I need this project because the world needs as many lights as it can possibly hold. One single light extinguished because that person felt as if they weren’t worthy is one too many.

Reach out if you need someone. I’m throwing the link to the suicide hotline on this post again if you feel like you truly have no one, but I promise, you are not alone.

There’s a whole tribe of Lemons and Spoonies with you.

https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/

A Lengthy, Heavy Post (AKA: The Writer Has Been Gone Too Long)

Trigger warning: I’m gonna be talking about some heavy stuff in this post and some of it will probably be upsetting or triggering to some. Proceed with caution.

Yeesh. My last post was the 16th and as off the rails as the title suggested.

This is the reason I don’t go back and read my blog posts. Pam, almost every time I post here, texts or messages or (if she’s in the room with me) looks over and says “Uh, your friendly neighborhood blog editor checking in here” and will point out typos that I didn’t catch because my author style for this blog is apparently “keep it wild by never editing. At all. Not even a quick read-through or scan for typos, just post it and run the other direction,” which I’m sure all the writers reading just hardcore cringed at.

Or maybe you all nodded in understanding, because writing is hard and the worst critic a writer will ever have is themselves and sometimes, the only way to get something out is to just do it and not look back.

My Inner Editor has been in full force and she isn’t satisfied with just my writing. She’s been looking to cut out friends, rewrite scenes of my life with risky decisions and more action, and finding a lot wrong with everything about who I am.

This past Monday, she almost got me to delete the entire work in progress.

That was really new and probably very startling to a lot of you and I’m sorry for how many people are going to find out about what happened by reading this instead of talking to me. If you can believe it, this is way easier than telling people you love directly that you tried to kill yourself. I am safe, I have reached out to the appropriate channels for help and I’m getting myself taken care of, but it still leaves a dark stain on anything and everything it touches.

Things haven’t been going well. I know, “obviously,” was probably what you just said to your screen as you read that. “Understatement!” you guffawed. But it needed to be stated. Some of it I can’t and won’t get into here because some of my problems aren’t for the world to read about, but most of it boiled down to finally reaching a point where I decided that the best course of action would be to stop living. I’ve come to this decision a few times, as anyone who struggles with suicidal thoughts tends to, but this time was different. This time, I grabbed the means to do the job and I left the house, started walking down a main road with the intent of finding somewhere off the beaten path where some random passer-by wouldn’t happen upon me and be scarred forever (Nikki and Pam not finding me being the reason I left home at all), composing an email and setting it on a timer to send to the local police, and carrying out the deed. (Disclaimer: For the safety of readers that might be struggling with suicidal thoughts and for the sake of the sanity of those that read this and would be better off without details, I won’t be going into detail on what it was I planned on doing.) As I walked, Nikki and Pam kept messaging. I tried being evasive and not telling them what exactly I was doing, tried saying I was just going for a walk, but the more they poked, the more scared I got until I lost my nerve entirely. After roughly an hour, I stopped walking, I threw away what I had brought with me to do it and sat on a swing in the schoolyard I’d stopped at because I’d walked nearly a mile and was too emotional to continue. I confessed to them both what I’d planned on doing, that I had gotten rid of any means of harming myself, and started walking back home after taking some time to rest and compose myself.

Needless to say, it was a pretty shitty night.

The next day was Nikki and I’s second anniversary. It was, without anyone save for a couple of people knowing, exactly what I needed to banish the previous night’s thoughts and feelings. The day was filled with love and well wishes from family and friends. Nikki and I took time to not only celebrate together, but to examine our relationship and see what we could do to make it better and stronger. We had friends over for DnD later that evening and had a blast like we always do. It was demonstrated a thousand times over just how many things I would be missing if I had succeeded the night before. I think about how differently Tuesday, June 27th would have looked for everyone I care about and everyone that cares about me. The news would have slowly broken over the course of the night and day. Instead of congratulations and celebration, Nikki would have been subjected to the Hell of having to telling my family and friends what I had done. Instead of well wishes and fun, my loved ones would have had to manage the loss. Instead of laughter, there would have been anger and grief. For every comment I read that congratulated Nikki and I, I saw a message of condolences for my family. Shame and guilt for my actions turned to awe and a gratitude so profound, I could never conceive of the words to describe it. Gratitude for the people surrounding me, for the fear that made me hesitate, for the love and acceptance that ultimately stopped me.

This was a long one, and I’m almost done, but I didn’t want to post this without posting a few things first.

First of all, if you or someone you know is thinking about suicide, I’ve included some links at the end of this post for different resources like the National Suicide Prevention website, which you can call or chat online with 24/7, and a couple sites dedicated to providing listeners free of charge for those struggling with life in general and who need someone to talk to.

Secondly, I’m gonna get political for a minute. Mental health resources are already scarce and, if you manage to find them, they are often expensive and impossible to obtain for some of the people that desperately need it. Our government is currently working on legislation that would make it virtually impossible for ANYONE to provide or access mental health resources. We, as a nation, need to pull our collective head out of our ass and actually start taking care of each other. We need to recognize and fight for the idea that healthcare is not a privilege, but a basic human right and it is not for sale. We cannot allow anyone to put a pricetag on human life anymore. In 2018, 268 seats (33 Senate seats and all 435 seats of the House) will be up for grabs. We need to make sure that the people that fill those seats have our best interest in mind and heart. Educate yourself on who is running in your state, in your local governments, where you vote, your rights as a voter and how to identify and stop voter fraud or voter suppression. If you aren’t registered, register. If you’ve never voted, figure out how to and get yourself registered if you haven’t done so. But for the love of anything and everything you hold dear, FUCKING VOTE, PEOPLE! And in the meantime, it takes literally five minutes or less to call your House and Senate leaders. Do it. Tell them to do the right thing and remind them that the American people deserve proper and affordable healthcare. Write letters if you’re shy or anxious about talking to people on the phone. I’ll include a couple ways you can reach out to your representatives, but a quick google search can give you pretty much anything you need to get the job done.

Finally, don’t forget how fucking amazing you are. Every single one of you reading this, you are a beautiful, wonderful, perfectly imperfect human being and you are worthy. YOU ARE WORTHY. You deserve happiness and love and acceptance. If you aren’t getting that, reach out. You will find it and it will find you. Reach out to me through the Lemons and Spoons Facebook page or email me (lemonsandspoonsblog@gmail.com). You are not alone out there and even if I have no idea who you are, I already love you because you deserve to be loved just for existing and being you. Tell other people how much you love them every single chance you get. You have no idea how much they might need to hear that. Do silly shit, be crazy sometimes. Accept that we’re flawed beings and that’s okay. Accept that, sometimes, we need help and that there are people in the world who want to help you. And finally, recognize that life is nothing but a series of moments, and all moments come to an end. Try to fill your life with as many good moments as you can. Try to remember that the bad moments end and that your life is too precious to let the bad moments define you or worse, convince you that life isn’t worth living.

Life is the only thing worth living. That’s why we live.

https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/ -The National Suicide Prevention website, suicide prevention hotline and online chat available 24/7

https://www.7cups.com/ – 7 Cups is a site that provides free chats with trained listeners on a variety of topics. You can also undergo training and become a listener yourself to be there for others who need someone to talk to. They also have lots of resources for self-care.

https://www.superbetter.com/ -Superbetter makes a game out of self care. You are the hero and everyday, you fight bad guys (overcome obstacles), activate power-ups (things that give you strength and energy), and complete quests (reach goals).

https://www.mentalhealth.gov/ -Information on some of the resources available nationwide. For more local resources, a simple google search can usually give you a few ideas of where you can get help or, at the very least, point you in the direction of someone who can help you find help. Side note: don’t underestimate your own community. Your local library or local churches might have some really great resources you never knew about or might be able to help you find resources!

https://greatist.com/grow/resources-when-you-can-not-afford-therapy -A good list of mental health resources for when you can’t afford a therapist. Full credit goes to the author, Katherine Schreiber.

http://www.house.gov/representatives/find/ -Find your House Representative!

https://www.senate.gov/senators/contact/ -Find your Senator!

https://www.eac.gov -A website containing plenty of information on federal voting rights and general national voting education. Personally, though, nothing beats going straight to your state and local government websites and finding voting information that way, since each state has its unique voting laws and processes in addition to federal laws and processes.

 

A Little Off the Rails

I am existing in two states.

The first is perpetual dread and intense desire to escape. I have come up with no less than four ways I could slip away and disappear for several days or more, depending on how I felt.

The second is numbness and stillness. Taking enough or laying still for long enough for sleep to take over so I don’t have to deal with the dread. A sleeping Katie can’t make any rash decisions.

Tonight, I’ve had two drinks and gotten through another unit of classwork. I’ve been tossing and turning over the choice of going out to a party that I can’t even afford to get into, where I risk feeling at best overcrowded and worst just plain unwanted, or staying here, continuing to numb things out and getting things done.

Even my impulsiveness is fraught with indecision and second-guessing.

In my head, I show up and every head turns. I look good, I’m there as my own date and everybody wishes I was theirs. In my head, I show up an anxious, clownish slob. In my head, I show up and can’t even get in in the first place. In my head, I go and find my presence wasn’t really wanted in the first place. In my head, I don’t go at all and sleep until someone bothers to wake me up tomorrow for Pride. In my head, I run away in hopes these feelings can’t keep up with me. In my head, I fall asleep and wake up feeling perfectly fine. In my head, I don’t wake up.

Processing these feelings and thoughts out loud makes me feel crazier. I feel over-dramatic and egotistical, but the little reminder on my phone told me I hadn’t written in 4 days. So I write. In my head, it’s good writing. In my head, it doesn’t get read anyways.

Strange and Powerful

Actor Ben Platt won a Tony Award last night for his portrayal of the titular character in the musical Dear Evan Hansen, a musical about a boy with severe social anxiety disorder. For the musical’s performance during the Tony’s, he blew everyone away once again with the song I’ve talked about on here before, Waving Through a Window. His incredible voice, along with his heart-wrenchingly accurate depiction of social axiety, had my parents and I in tears (not that it’s hard or new for me at this point) as we watched the lyrics mirrored in brilliant choreography. Evan rushing to be in the crowd’s line of sight and the crowd turning their backs at the precise moment at which he could be seen by them, if only they hadn’t turned away. It was a powerful statement made with music and lyrics, just as intended.

During his acceptance speech, he had a message for every person in the world that needed to hear it. He said “the best thing you can be is you because what makes you strange is what makes you powerful.”

It’s exactly the message Dear Evan Hansen tries to make. That if you’re lost, you will be found. If you are strange, you are still valid. If you are scared, you are not alone and you will always find someone to help you feel brave. There’s a reason the show’s poster holds the key hashtag “you will be found”.

They were words that Ben Platt knew so many people needed to hear. That it’s okay to be you and it’s okay to be different. He offered empowerment when people are feeling vulnerable and exposed. It was something I know I needed to hear.

Take it to heart, Lemons and Spoonies. “What makes you strange is what makes you powerful.”