That’s It, I’m Done, I Give Up

I don’t like the sullen, pessimistic part of myself very much. I should be trying to embrace it with love and compassion, I suppose, but it kicks me in the kneecap every time I get close, and that gets wearing after a while. Okay, fine, you can sit there by yourself and sulk, then. 

The suggestions from the crisis team didn’t work out. Okay, bummer, so call for more names, then, right? No. I tried, I kept trying, I always try so hard, and it didn’t work out and I can’t try any more. (Yes, there’s a good dose of self-pity in with the sullenness, too.)

The thing is, there is another option. When Anna quit she suggested a particular psychiatrist, and this psychiatrist told my doctor she’s willing to see me for an assessment. I was absolutely categorically against it, for two reasons. One is because I don’t want to see anyone that Anna suggested – I don’t want to walk in there feeling like she’s on Anna’s side and not on mine, and wondering what Anna’s told her about me, and afraid to say anything because I feel like she’s ‘spying’ for Anna. Logically I know none of this is true, but it’s a lot of emotional baggage to start with when I already have so much trouble feeling comfortable with someone new.

The main reason I’m reluctant is that she doesn’t seem suited to me at all. Her website repeatedly references working through ‘everyday problems’, and says that she provides support for:

  • Relationship issues
  • Anxiety and panic disorders
  • Depression
  • Stress
  • Bad habits
  • Work-life balance

I just…it doesn’t feel right, to me. In the last three months of working with Anna I was hospitalised three times. Is that ‘everyday problems’? Does starting to self-harm at age 10 count as a ‘bad habit’? It hurts, actually. This is who Anna picked for me? That’s all the effort she put in to finding somebody with the skills and resources to work with me?

But today I’ve thrown my hands up. WhateverI just have to take what I can get. I texted my doctor and told her I’d see this woman, and I’m regretting it. I want to grab myself by the shoulders and shake myself. This is not helping. Seeing someone without the skills you need is not helpful. But I don’t know how to make myself keep trying and keep making phone calls. I’m slipping further into anxiety and I’m struggling to even show up for work.

I’ve been feeling exhausted and nauseous and just generally oh god death is coming for the last week or so, and the lumps in my armpits make it pretty clear that I have yet another staph infection in one of my burns. Last year I was told by a couple of different doctors that if I don’t stop burning and get the staph infections under control, my arm will need to be amputated.

It would be so easy to just go and get antibiotics. My doctor even texted me today telling me to come in for a visit. But I don’t care. I don’t want to. I don’t like feeling this way, and I definitely don’t want to lose a limb, but I don’t want to do anything about it, either. I am so stubbornly against taking medication and I don’t even know why.

I need somebody else to come and take over my life for a while. Just for a little while, so I can sleep.

That’s It, I’m Done, I Give Up

Flora the (Good?) Fairy

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The first time I call the crisis team, I hang up as soon as someone picks up the phone. I take a breath, laugh at myself internally, then call again and leave my name.

When I get a call back 10 minutes later, it’s Flora, and I’m relieved. I wouldn’t say I like her, exactly, but I know her, at least. She’s done all my home visits, before I figured out that I’m allowed to refuse, and some of my you-still-alive? phone calls. I last saw her in January the day after I was released from the hospital, and she seemed concerned though a little unsure of what to do with me.

She doesn’t give any indication that she remembers me, but I know she has my file in front of her.

What can we do for you? she asks, businesslike.

I’m looking for a psychiatrist and I haven’t had much luck, I tell her, so I was hoping you could suggest some for me. 

There’s a long pause. Ohhhkay, she says slowly. Umm….now….was there a specific requirement?

I’m feeling awkward, and confused, and embarrassed. Yeah, I’m looking for someone who does psychotherapy, I force out. There are a whole lot of other things I wanted to tell her, like I want to see someone who can see me long-term, who will let me bring Everest, preferably who has some experience with dissociation or self harm or something relevant to me, but I already feel like I’m demanding something I’m not entitled to just by calling and I can’t bear the thought of being even more demanding by outlining a whole list of things I want. Anyway, the words won’t come out.

And have you spoken to any of your current service providers to see if they’ve got any suggestions? she asks, and I immediately start welling up with tears.

I don’t have any. 

What about any psychologists? she asks, and I’m annoyed. First, didn’t I just answer this question? Second, Anna got in touch with them to let them know she was quitting – that’s the whole reason for all the weeks they spent trying to get in touch with me.

My psychologist left over a month ago, and she told me to get in touch with you guys…she got in touch with you as well….I’m stumbling, not sure what to say.

Yeah, yeah, yeah, she says, part acknowledging and part dismissing. So have you tried the leaders from the DBT group? 

I’m confused – why would I have asked for a referral from the leaders of a group that finished over two months ago and had no provision for ongoing contact? – but I still feel like I’ve done something wrong.

No, I haven’t.

Okay, she says. I can’t think of any names off the top of my head, but I’ll give you a call back in about fifteen minutes. 

She does, and she gives me three names and tells me that if these don’t work out, to get my doctor to call them for some more suggestions. (What I hear is: we don’t want to talk to you.) I’m polite and express gratitude I don’t really feel, then hang up. I’ve already gone into a tailspin of shame and self-loathing and panic and I’m picturing blood oozing from my arm.

State the facts, I tell myself, remembering the DBT skills. I called the crisis team, they asked me some questions, and then they gave me three names of possible psychiatrists. That increases the shame – they gave me exactly what I asked for and I’m still upset. Why do I expect so much from people? Why did I think she would offer me more support than that, after the weeks I spent dodging them?

It’s 9pm and I’ve been in bed all day, asleep for most of it. I still feel exhausted.

Flora the (Good?) Fairy

Fuck.

I love going home, but it keeps fucking with my head. I have a great time while I’m there, but when I come back to the city, I fall apart.

I hate being reminded of all the things I don’t remember. My (foster) brother spent the day at my parents place yesterday. I love him and I’m so happy he’s around, but I feel so ashamed and uncomfortable that I don’t have a single memory of him from the decade he lived with us on and off. Not of sitting around the dinner table, not of the family holidays he came on, not the time he broke his arm, not anything.

I was talking to my cousin about our grandparents farm, and somehow our old sheepdog, Jessie, came up. I loved dogs but wasn’t allowed one at my parents, so I adored Jessie – she was around since I was a baby, and she died when I was about 11.

Remember how sick she was at the end?” C said. “When her legs kept giving out and we’d find her just lying on the ground and she couldn’t get up? I still haven’t forgiven Dad for what he did – she was so terrified of guns, but he took her out in the paddock and shot her so he didn’t have to spend money to have the vet put her down. She must have been so scared.

I still think about Jessie, even mentioned her to Anna last year, but until two days ago, I hadn’t realised that I had no idea what had happened. I don’t remember her being sick. I don’t remember when she died. C is only a year older than me, and she thought I remembered all of this. I should at least remember being sad that my pet was dead.

And sometimes my memories aren’t right. Over a cup of coffee with a different cousin, I said something about how our nanna couldn’t hurt a fly – she died when I was 13 and again, I don’t have a single actual memory of her, but my feeling is that she was gentle and sweet. My cousin looked at me like I was insane.

Seriously?! She used to smack us with a stick until it left welts on our legs.

And, I mean, so what if I don’t remember, right? But sometimes it feels like I’m a stranger in my own life and I don’t know what I’m doing here.

And ever since I was deeply, intensely suicidal last year and all my therapists wanted me committed, I’m only half there whenever I see my family and catch up with my friends. The other half of me is thinking about whether this is going to be the last time I’m ever going to see them. What do I want the last thing I ever say to them to be? What memory can I give them to hold onto when I’m gone? When I hug them goodbye, I hang on a little longer than normal, soaking it up and trying to remember what it feels like, in case this is my last chance to make a memory that I can call up to think about while I’m dying. It’s good, in a way – I tell people I love them a lot more than I used to – but it’s tiring and it’s sad. I don’t even really want to die, right now, but on the plane I was running through my normal checklist – who do I still need to write suicide letters to? have I checked whether my student debt will pass to my family when I die? I really need to write out who I want my stuff and my money to go to.

When I got home last night, I found R had gathered up all the things I had at his house and left them in the middle of my room. That hurt. Including the stuffed dog from Anna, which I’d left with him because I can’t bear to have in my room but didn’t want to throw out.

None of the psychiatrists I’d picked can see me, and my doctor said she’s not making any more calls. If I want a referral I’m going to have to call the crisis team.

I don’t remember why self harm is a bad idea. I honestly can’t think of any reasons why I shouldn’t do it. I’ve cut over 500 times and burnt myself more than 30 – so what if I do it again? What difference does it make?

I caught up with R this afternoon, even though I didn’t want to, and he asked if I wanted to talk about anything. I felt completely, unaccountably furious, and I wanted to yell at him, overturn the table and storm out. No, I DON’T want to talk about anything! Fuck you, and fuck Jen and Aisha! But I do want to talk, just not to him, and not to anyone who’s actually here. I want to talk to Anna.

Fuck.

It Was A Bad Day (But I’m Grateful)

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Today was a bad day. It still is – I can see all the hallmarks of spiralling downwards. I can’t find the pen in my bag and I get immediately, deeply frustrated, so I tip the bag upside down, scattering the contents everywhere. I couldn’t find the words to say goodbye to my colleagues, and I accomplished nothing all day, because I was simultaneously floating outside myself and feeling panicked, and wanting the pain of a cigarette lighter to ground me. I feel completely exhausted and tearful, but I know I’ve had more than enough sleep. I’m just overwhelmed.

R is going to see Jen tomorrow. I was in the office with his assistant while she made the appointment. They’ll talk about me – they always talk about me. Either outcome of their session is going to be bad – if she hears again that I’m struggling and still doesn’t reach out, or if she does contact me and all those messy painful emotions get triggered again. But imagining their conversation is the worst.

“Yeah, apparently she expected me to call her after Anna quit, and she got pretty upset and told me I wasn’t being supportive enough, so I just went ‘okay, I need to take a step back from this’.”

“I’m so sorry you’ve had to deal with that, Jen – she’s being really unreasonable.  That’s unfair after everything you’ve done for her. She’s just pushing everyone away at the moment. If she doesn’t want help there’s nothing we can do about it.”

I hate being in limbo. I hate that I won’t know what he’s told her, and I hate that I’ll be back to waiting and wondering about an email that’ll probably never come.

Kind of the way I was waiting today. I was so desperate to hear about the new psychiatrist, just so I know. Can she see me? Do I have to go back to searching, again? But, nothing.

And then I found out that one of the managers at work, one of my two “Jewish mamas”, is leaving in June, on bad terms with R. Obviously this time it has nothing to do with me, but still. Everybody is leaving. She’s been such an important maternal presence in my life. When I had surgery last year, she was one of only 3 people who knew. After I was discharged, she helped me dress, drove me two hours to my first follow-up appointment, came in to sit with me while the dressings were changed, never once flinching at the wounds, then took me home and put me to bed. I can always go to her with anything, and she’s never afraid to talk to me. She hugs me, close, holds my face in her hands while she kisses my forehead, touches my arm and rubs my back. She tells me I’m funny as hell, smart, gorgeous, and she cares about me. And she’s going.

But all of this is still in my head. I say the words – she’s going – and my brain knows this is a bad thing, that it hurts, but I don’t feel it hurting. I feel empty, and flat.

At lunch, I went to the park with Everest. Normally a friend or two would come along, but today I was by myself. Everest was scared, and I was sitting cross-legged holding her, trying to comfort her, when a little Russian boy came and sat down, cross-legged, in front of me. And we talked.

He was very mature and self-possessed, with an amazing ability to hold a conversation and ask appropriate questions, but he had that beautiful innocence, too, with a touch of little-boy bashfulness. I felt very connected and grounded, sitting on the grass in the sunshine, looking into the eyes of this little stranger and talking about pets and loss, love and family. He called his babushka over to us, and we moved into a little semi-circle. She took Everest onto her lap and tucked her completely underneath her shirt, against her skin, and Everest calmed.

You must have the magic touch,” I told her.

I have it, the magic. Children and dogs. They never cry when they are in my arms.”

He made me a bracelet out of small yellow rubber bands and slipped it on my wrist, then decided we should put it on my key chain. He told me solemnly that I could never take it off, and equally solemnly, I promised him that I wouldn’t. He was so disappointed when I eventually told him I had to leave, half an hour after my lunch break was finished. He reached out as if to shake my hand, but when I took it, he just held it.

You are very pretty,” he told me.

I’m grateful to them both. The rest of my day was bad, but my time with them was simple, and good.

It Was A Bad Day (But I’m Grateful)

Still In Limbo

I feel too humiliated to go back to Jen. I didn’t get a response to my email telling her that I felt hurt and unsupported, and the thought of her reading it, going ‘Eh – delete’ and then not giving me another thought is so much worse than the original hurt of her not contacting me after Anna quit. This is what you get when you expect people to support you. 

I do know that I have no real idea of what is going on for her. Maybe if I went and saw her she would be supportive. But it’s humiliating. Being ignored and going back anyway feels desperate, and that’s humiliating. The very real possibility that she’ll tell me, gently and kindly, that I overestimated our relationship and that her support is only available on her terms, when she offers it, is unbearably humiliating. Imagining being back in her office makes me feel exposed and ashamed and so desperate to hurt myself.

Thinking that I was worth more than I really am is horrible to realise – not only because of the impact on my relationship with Jen, but because it feels like I’ve been tricked, that I trusted in connection and reaching out and my trust made me pathetic.

No response from Aisha to my termination email. No surprise there.

But I do think that I will go back to Jen at some stage. As much as I hate bodywork, it’s an important part of my therapy, and probably not one that can be achieved by working with a psychiatrist. Before I started seeing Jen, I literally had no idea that I had body-related triggers, not even the obvious ones, like things in my mouth or having someone holding and moving my head. I didn’t know that I can’t lie on my stomach because you can’t put your hands up to defend yourself and it takes longer to get up and get away, and it never would have occurred to me that it’s fine to be touched by strangers because if they hurt you you only have to endure it once, but being touched by people you know isn’t okay because even if they hurt you, you still have to keep seeing them and keep being hurt.

So far this knowledge hasn’t helped me a whole lot, I guess. Maybe I was better off ignorant, or maybe I’m just making it up. But it feels important to know.

With all the intense pain and emotion and anger at Anna and Jen and Aisha, it’s been hard to really stop and think about me. I know that sounds stupid – this whole situation is fundamentally about me – but I get caught up in those thoughts of ‘no decent professional would ever act this way’ and ‘how could she do this to me?’, which are focused on her and what she’s doing. I forget to stop and think about what I’m feeling, about why I’m so hurt and what need isn’t being met.

So when I eventually faced the question of whether to go back to Jen and Aisha, I worked through the following questions:

Zanifesto - decision tree

With Aisha, the answer was no – our relationship has too many barriers to be able to meet my needs – time zones, her schedule prohibiting ability to be responsive when I need support, her travel cutting us off for 9 straight weeks a year, her inability to connect me with other services because she isn’t local and isn’t aware of them, and just the physical distance.

With Jen, I think the answer is a maybe. If she is completely unavailable out of session, then I think that could be functional. If that had been our understanding from the start, I don’t think I would have had any issues with it. The challenge is in adapting. She gave me her mobile number soon after we started working together and has repeatedly told me to contact her whenever I need her, and she’s initiated calls and texts to check in whenever things are bad. She was the second contact on my crisis plan, which meant being available for contact 24/7 for the 12 weeks of my DBT course. (I contacted her once, while Anna was on holidays, because I had to take Everest back to the shelter to be adopted out the next day, and I desperately wanted and needed to keep her but my lease doesn’t allow pets.)

This feels childish and petulant, but I don’t want outside contact unless it’s consistently okay for me to contact her and she can consistently be responsive. That feels like such a ridiculous overreaction, and so unrepresentative of real life – people aren’t consistent. But our relationship isn’t representative of real life either and I would prefer to just call for an emergency appointment if I really need to see her or talk to her.

So that sounds pretty settled, right? Why haven’t I gone back to see her and start figuring some of this out with her? Well, because I don’t have any other sources of support to fall back on right now. I feel guilty and wrong for using that as a reason, because most people only have one practitioner and they have no choice but to make that leap and deal with it if it goes badly. But that hasn’t been my experience. My very first week in therapy I started with both Aisha and Jen, and steadily (though reluctantly) added more and more, to the point that at the end of last year, I saw 5 professionals weekly plus a DBT group. When I’m having difficulties with one provider, I’m used to having at least another one there as a secure base. That’s going to have to change, now that I’m looking for one psychiatrist only, and I’m glad it will, but I’m not there yet.

Of course, that’s assuming I actually manage to find a psychiatrist. Today I resorted to trying to sign up for an online psychologist through BetterHealth, but that failed because I don’t have a credit card (and they don’t take PayPal). One of the psychiatrists on my short-list returns from overseas tomorrow, so maybe that will go somewhere. Honestly, I don’t really want to see anybody. Part of me is afraid that I won’t self-harm so they won’t be that invested in helping me, and part of me is afraid that I’ll be so triggered I’ll escalate into severe self-harm and more suicide attempts. At the moment I’m kind of passively suicidal, in that All I’m doing is trying to get through each day so what’s the point of being alive? way.

But I’m doing okay. I’m still here. I may not be happy, but I’m still here.

Still In Limbo

Three Down, None to Go

* Trigger warning for thoughts of self harm

I replied to Jen almost straight away last night. Before I lost my courage, before I lost my mind from sitting with the pain, and (I hoped) before she went offline.

“No, I am not seeing the new psychiatrist and am not seeing Aisha any more either.

You’ve been a great support over the last couple of years and I really appreciate everything you’ve done – thank you.  But I am feeling very hurt and unsupported by you and am not sure when or if I’ll be back.”

I don’t regret it. It was honest, and as skillful as I knew how to be. I didn’t get a reply, and I’m not waiting for one.

I thought about cutting myself. I could see the blood, pooling around me while I sat in the bottom of my shower, and that triggered another thought – maybe I should overdose, too. I could already hear exactly what I’d tell myself: Jen hates you, you stupid bitch. She thinks you’re needy and clingy and too demanding and she wants you away from her. You’re a pathetic whiny little piece of shit and she doesn’t.fucking.care about you. I hate you, you bitch. You deserve this. You deserve this. 

I stopped, though.

Do you really want to hurt yourself? 

I pictured drawing a razor across my arm, and inwardly recoiled.

No. But I don’t want to feel this feeling and hurting myself will push it away. 

Already I don’t know how, or why, but I decided to stay with the feelings. It was probably Rachel’s fault. I sobbed until I was gasping, and I let myself feel all the rage and the hurt and the disbelief – how can this be happening again? why is this happening again? what did I do?

An hour later, I got another email in my inbox; from my friend R to Aisha, my last sort-of-remaining therapist (and his), with me cc’d. He and I are fighting, and he’d taken a screenshot of our text conversation and sent it to her. I was instantly diverted from my hurt over Jen to fury with him, and I decided it was time to terminate with Aisha.

I did hesitate, wondering if I was being reactive to Jen’s rejection and I’d regret it in the morning, but I felt very strongly that this was the push I’d been needing. I’ve been reluctant to contact her because I was scared of the feelings. I still am; I know there are a lot more to come. I love Aisha. I’m crying now, writing this. She’s given me so much unconditional affection that even with all my fears and insecurities, I really believe every part of me is accepted with her. I want her, so much. But that doesn’t mean she’s good for me. And while I’m already feeling crushed and devastated about Jen, I might as well get it over with.

So I typed out a quick email, Goodbye and thanks, and I sent it. The malicious part of me hoped that when she first opened her email, she would see the subject line and think it was a suicide note.

***

Hi Aisha

This [R’s email] has prompted me to write to you to formally terminate our therapeutic relationship.  It’s been 6 weeks since we spoke and 4 weeks since I got in touch to let you know Anna quit and you haven’t responded.  I feel very hurt and abandoned and it has brought home to me that I need a much higher level of support than you are able to provide.

I really regret that we are parting under these circumstances but I’m trying to remember that it’s not about right or wrong, just the reality that our relationship isn’t meeting my needs.  That said, I so appreciate all your patience and kindness and all the humour we’ve been able to share.  I’m very lucky to have had the opportunity to work with you; I’ll miss you and I wish you all the best. 

Everest also sends her regards – or she would, if she wasn’t busy trying to eat one of my pens.

Rea

***

I haven’t got a response, of course. If I do, it probably won’t be for weeks.

So this month has been a series of cascading failures. Anna, then Jen, then Aisha. I’m swinging wildly between emotional states – numb to angry to sad to relieved to self-loathing and back again. I don’t know what I did. It feels like it can’t be a coincidence, but I don’t know what I did. I’m trying to tell myself that even if it was because I’m too much or too hard or too something, that doesn’t mean that I’m bad or they’re bad, just that we aren’t the right fit for each other. It’s not helping much.

I was awake until 4am last night, restless, idly playing fetch with my kitten, but woke at 7am feeling okay, and determined that I have to start moving forward. I texted my GP, and asked her to call the psychiatrist I’d picked as my preference and see if she was available.

She’s not. I don’t even remember why, but she doesn’t feel she’s a good fit for me. She recommended a psychologist in my area she thinks would be perfect, and S pushed me really hard to do it, but the reality is that I can’t afford it. I’ve found 5 psychologists I would love to see, but even with the private health insurance that costs me $55 a week, it would cost another $400 to go twice a week. With what I earn, even if I went back to how I made it through law school, living in a condemned house and dumpster-diving/boiling pet bones for food, I couldn’t do it. Seeing a psychiatrist will cost me $40 – $80 to go twice a week. I know how lucky I am to have access to any level of care, but I’m still angry that my options are limited.

But I stayed calm, and gave her the number for my second preference. She got an international dial tone, and no message bank.

And then I started spinning out and catastrophising. There’s nobody else I can see. I can’t go to another male psychiatrist. Nobody is going to be able to help me. I should just give up. The universe hates me. Why do I even try when nothing ever works out? 

Being activated is full of contradictory states, for me. My head feels empty, but so heavy. My stomach feels like there is a rock resting at the base, but I feel the urge to eat, to fill it. My arms and legs can’t move but they want to flail and kick and lash out. I need to be very quiet and still but the silence feels blurry. I don’t know how silence can feel blurry, but it does.

I’m trying to be kind and gentle with myself. And when that doesn’t work, I play fetch with Everest. It has become apparent that the pen lid needs to be subdued with all possible force.

Three Down, None to Go

So It Turns Out Everybody Sucks

Hi Rea,

Good to hear you are going okay at the moment.

Did you meet with the new psychiatrist and if so how did it go?

When you cancelled a couple of appointments in a row I assumed you had then also gone on to [home state].

You can definitely make appointments to see me when you wish.

Kind Regards

Jen

I just…can’t even believe it. Is this as bad as it feels?

So It Turns Out Everybody Sucks