Messy Interpersonal Situations

I didn’t have therapy last week because Sadie was off work.  It was sort of a test run for the every other week method, which we’ve tried unsuccessfully in the past.  This time around, I was finally feeling ready to try it, whereas in the past I was reluctant.  However, it was a really rough week and I don’t know anymore how it’s going to go to see her less.

I had one evening in which all the hope I had for job hunting and college and general life improvement came crashing down.  I’d done a lot of “life management” that day, and the prospect of having to deal with that sort of thing on a daily basis was overwhelming.  I was crying and thinking about how wrong Sadie and Brent are to say that I could work full-time.  I was thinking about taking too much of my medication, which was actually possible to do since I’d been feeling so much better that Sadie called mom and told her to let me have my medication back.

Then I was crying even more because I have this list of people I can supposedly contact in a crisis but I felt like there wasn’t anyone I could actually contact because they’d all just be fed up with me for intruding on their lives.  After many hours I was over the crying, but still needed to talk to someone.  Deputy Wayne had told me I could call either him or his wife if I needed anything, and I wasn’t about to call and he doesn’t reply to texts, but I did text his wife.  I was worried that she’d be irritated he volunteered her for that, but we ended up texting for a while and even made plans to get together a few days later.

Our conversation went well, but she is very religious and I am not, and although she said she wouldn’t push it on me I felt a little uncomfortable.  I wondered if I was talking with her for the right reasons.  I like her and want to get to know her, but was I really doing it because of her, or because of her husband?  If the latter, I feel like that makes me a horrible person.

In the meantime, I may have accidentally gone on a date.  I’m not sure, because I’d never been on a date before and the situation was kind of weird.  A guy I know asked me if I wanted to hang out, and although I never say yes to spontaneous plans I had a built-in end time due to a meeting for work, so I agreed to meet him at Dunkin’ Donuts.  I was thinking on the way there that it was obviously just friends hanging out, because he has a girlfriend.  Then he told me that he broke up with her.

He talked a lot, and I didn’t get to say much in return, and then some friends of his happened by and they were very dominating.  I ended up driving him home because he had walked there, and he mentioned possibly going to a movie sometime.  My panic system went off.  He’s a very nice guy, but has a lot of baggage.  We are completely opposite.  Yet I believe that people deserve to get a chance to straighten out their lives.

I spoke with my best friend about it, and although she told me what I’d already been thinking, I hated what she had to say.  She told me not to get involved until he had his life straightened out, and what that said to me was that people don’t deserve love until they have everything together.  Given that I don’t have everything together and don’t foresee when I will, I started crying over the fact that I don’t deserve love either.  The idea of overdosing was back at the front of my mind.

Someone commented in her blog recently that she gets more anxious in the evenings.  I notice that my emotions tend to go haywire in the evening as well.  All the little things that I could handle earlier in the day start piling up and bringing me down.  I have fortunately learned to use the Moment to Pause skill to stop and identify what is triggering the feelings, which lets me recognize that it will seem less overwhelming after I get some sleep.  If it’s too early for sleep, then I find a distracting activity, such as coloring or scrapbooking, to fill the time.

I had asked Sadie if we could go over the Interpersonal Effectiveness skills again because I rarely mark them down on my diary card.  I may be using them, but not consciously and I can’t name what I’ve used because they are all a big jumble in my mind.  Funny that before we even got to do this I wound up in two messy interpersonal situations.

A Guardian Angel

I was anxious yesterday as I drove to an anniversary party for my coworker, Bea.  Partially it was anxiety about the huge crowd of people I didn’t know, but mostly it was about one of the few people I did know.  Deputy Wayne is her son-in-law.  I had known about their relationship since a month or so into my job, and held out hope that this meant I would someday see him again.  Now that it was happening, I was worried.  Worried that he wouldn’t remember me.  Worried that if he did remember me he’d tell me to eff off.  Worried that he’d be nice, but then be really disappointed when he found out that I still didn’t have my life together.

I was three minutes late to the party, and he came in after I did.  I stood across from him at the buffet, filling up my plate and not making eye contact, and he didn’t say anything to me.  My anxiety grew.  I ate my plate full of food at a completely empty table.  Bea showed me a framed poem her granddaughter had written.  I sat it back in the display and turned around and Deputy Wayne was standing nearby.  When it seemed like his conversation with others had faded out, I walked up and nervously asked, “Remember me?”  He said, “Of course I remember you” and hugged me.  He asked how I was.  Without even thinking, I said I was okay and then kicked myself for not being honest.  I said, “I work with Bea now” and he said, “I know.  I’m keeping tabs.”

I did end up telling him that I’d had a rough few weeks, but hopefully the latest med adjustment would help.  He asked if I’d met his wife, and I said that I know her and she was the one who invited me.  He told me to call anytime I need anything, or to call his wife.  I said that I’ve thought about it a few times, but always talked myself out of it and he assured me it was okay to call.  I got a second hug before he stepped away to talk to a relative, and a third when I went up to him to say goodbye.  He said, “Bye, sweetheart” which made me laugh inside given the story of how we met in Celebrating February 14th.

I felt cared for at the party.  Not just by learning that I do still have a cop for a guardian angel, but also by the rest of the family (at least the ones I already knew).  Bea told me that another coworker and I were like having sisters.  I had just made her cry by telling her how lucky she is to have so many people who love her, and she nearly made me cry in return.  I got hugs from Bea and her husband and daughter and was thanked for coming, especially considering how hard it is for me to handle crowds of strangers (I lasted for an hour and twelve minutes before I felt like I really needed to go).  Bea’s husband told me that he knows two women (Bea and our other coworker) who think very highly of me.

I’m really glad that I fought against my fears and attended the party, and so touched that there are people thinking of me when I’m not even around.

Memories of Grandpa

Today is the 21st anniversary of my grandpa’s death.  Everyone in the family had to have some sort of collection: grandma’s clowns, mom’s mice.  Grandpa’s collection was model trains.  As a child I watched trains go by while I was at recess, and would count the cars as they flew past, disappointed when the bell would ring before all the cars could be counted.  We still have some of grandpa’s trains on a shelf that hangs above our garage.

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I absolutely adored my grandpa, so it pains me that the few clear memories I have of him are of negative events.  They were so out of the ordinary that they were seared into my mind.  One positive memory that I do still have is of the two of us playing school – me as the teacher and him as the student.  I would grade his homework and he would intentionally get some questions wrong so that I actually had to know the answers in order to check his.  The school was in the entryway to our house, the one that he designed and we built as a family.  His huge desk was my teacher’s desk, and we had an orange plaid armchair that he sat in to do his homework.

When I was young, my mother and grandmother both worked nights, so it was grandpa who woke me up for school with a special song, draped my clothes over an electric heater to get them warm, and fixed me peanut butter and jelly sandwiches every morning for breakfast. I have never had a peanut butter and jelly sandwich since he died. I don’t eat jelly at all, and rarely eat peanut butter.

Grandpa’s death was extremely hard on me. I was closer to him than anyone else in the world, and I felt completely lost and alone after he died. Last night as I was pondering what to post today I found this story called The Train on Facebook. It was too perfect to not share.

Memories of Grandma

In therapy last week, Sadie and I discussed ways I could honor my grandparents on the anniversaries of their deaths, which both occur in February, and which tend to send me spiraling every year.  I agreed that I would take a picture that each of them would like, and write blog posts to go with the pictures.  I took the pictures on an outing a few days ago, but yesterday was the 9th anniversary of grandma’s death and I couldn’t bear to write the post.  I was feeling too bad, and thinking about what I would write kept bringing up much less pleasant memories.  Today I think I can handle it.

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There is no Chick-Fil-A in my local area, and it’s rare that I go to one because we usually do our city shopping on Sundays when the restaurant is closed.  I’ve been going lately as it’s the closest restaurant to my Monday night NAMI Peer-to-Peer class.  Eating there reminds me of grandma.  I don’t actually remember this happening, but I remember the retelling over the years.

When I was a small child and we ate at Chick-Fil-A, grandma would share her meal with me.  She thought anything on the menu would be too much for me, and since she wasn’t a big eater it made sense to share.  That is, until one day she realized that I was eating more and more of the sandwich and not leaving anything for her to eat.

The older I got, the less we were able to share food, and not just because I ate too much.  Our tastes were wildly different.  Grandma liked the down-home fried chicken, mashed potatoes, gravy, biscuits, vegetables cooked in bacon grease.  I prefer foreign cuisine, especially Mexican and Asian.  Very little about my current diet resembles what she raised me on – the closest I’ve come lately is the hamburger with mustard and dill pickles that I ate last night, and I’d much rather have a veggie burger.

After our food preferences diverged, we were still able to share many things.  TV shows, such as Crossing Jordan and 24.  Books, such as Piers Anthony’s Incarnations of Immortality series.  Jigsaw puzzles, where  one of us started on one side and one on the other and we worked toward the middle.

Most importantly though, we shared conversation.  I was raised by my maternal grandparents, and grandma was raised by her maternal grandparents.  I resented her as a child, not wanting her to tell me what to do when I had my real mother in my life, but I think she understood.  My perspective changed as an adult, when she became the person I turned to for guidance.

Grandma never thought much of psychology, but I believe if she were still here with me she would try her best to understand what I’m going through.  It breaks my heart that I can’t find out if that’s true.

The Silent Rejection

About a month ago I woke up in the middle of the night with terrible heartburn.  I ended up having to spend the rest of the night sleeping upright on the couch.  The heartburn has been recurrent since then – never quite so bad as that first time, but then I’ve also started taking medication when it crops up, so I don’t know how bad it would really get.

At the same time, I lost my appetite.  This normally only happens when I’m manic, but I am decidedly not manic.  In fact, I fluctuate between normal and mildly depressed, with about 1/3 of days in the past month spent in a mildly depressed state.  When I’m depressed my typically healthy appetite turns into non-stop eating, but right now the exact opposite is happening.

I manage to eat half or less of most meals, if I even bother getting a meal at all instead of opting for a cup of Jell-O (which I don’t always finish).  On Thanksgiving I gave half my turkey away to my cats.  Tonight I went to a friend’s house for her belated Thanksgiving and despite taking the smallest portion imaginable of each dish I was still having to force the food down by the end of the meal.

My coworkers have been nagging me to reschedule my December 17th doctor’s appointment for an earlier date, and when I finally did give in and call the office was closed for Black Friday, which I pretty much expected when I called.  This is probably why I was willing to call then, because I knew it wouldn’t lead to anything.  It occurred to me tonight that some part of me is putting this off in the hopes that it’s serious and could be fatal if left untreated.  I can’t actively try to kill myself without jeopardizing my graduation from DBT group, but I can let a serious illness go unchecked.

I screwed up tonight.  Two people who I’ve been involved with via their professions have been in some community activities I participated in.  There is only the slimmest chance I would ever again have to deal with them as professionals, so after months of waiting and wondering if it was okay, I tried to friend them on Facebook tonight.  I’d just given them a Christmas card when I saw them at an event, and one of them even hugged me.

I don’t know what I was thinking.  I had myself convinced they were going to accept.  Not only did they reject my friend requests, but they untagged themselves in the photos I posted from tonight’s event.  There was no hesitation where they could have considered the possibility of accepting.  There was no message to say “I’m sorry, but I can’t accept.”  Just the silent rejection.

Now I’m trapped.  Not only do I have to face them for at least two, maybe three more events in the next couple of weeks, but I also can’t ever again make use of two services.  If anything ever goes wrong with my job, I can’t get help finding a new one.  If I’m ever unable to keep myself safe, I can’t be protected from myself.  And right now I don’t even want to keep myself safe.  All I can see is how I can never do the right thing and am always going to be a completely worthless failure with terrible judgment.

I’m seriously thinking about cutting myself and lying on my diary card.  I wonder how long it would take before I caved in and confessed to Sadie?  I’m counting on not going back to DBT group after this year, but I wonder if I even care that much about actually graduating?

Object Permanence

My local Community Mental Health Center has a 24-hour hotline staffed by an on-call therapist.  During weekdays, this is generally going to be one of two staff members from the inpatient unit, but on nights and weekends other therapists are assigned to the task and you have to leave your name and number and have that person call back.  The first time I was introduced to the concept was when I signed my first Contract for Safety back in February 2014 and part of the agreement was that I would call the on-call therapist if I were a danger to myself.

I had made use of this service twice, in two very different experiences.  First, I called once on a Sunday, during a lunch break at work.  The call was returned within 5 minutes, and lasted for another 5 minutes, in which we discussed a few stressors that were compounding in my life and how to avoid self-harming while I was at work.  It was very helpful, and I decided to keep an open mind about calling again in the future.

The other time I didn’t call, but walked in to the main CMHC office to speak with the on-call therapist in person.  It didn’t end well for me.  I was hoping to sort out some issues that were weighing on my mind, but the on-call therapist, Jan, was convinced I was a danger to myself and needed to be in inpatient.  That was in August 2014 and though there have been many times since that I felt I should be calling the on-call therapist, I would play that scenario out in my mind to what I felt was the inevitable conclusion, and not call.

Today I am less than 2 weeks away from making it a whole year without being admitted to inpatient.  Speaking to the on-call therapist would seriously endanger my ability to accomplish that goal.  However, I spent my whole work day having vague thoughts of hurting myself to avoid having to go to my job for a while (if not forever).  This feeling has come up a few different times since I started working there, and right now it’s due to interpersonal conflicts.  I’m no longer insecure about doing the job well enough, but I’m feeling very unsafe in my work relationships.

I don’t want to get too specific here, but I had a very hard weekend working alone last weekend, and in a moment of panic I asked some coworkers for help.  This ended up backfiring on me, with other coworkers becoming involved and ultimately going to the supervisor with information designed solely to get me in trouble.  Some of my coworkers gave me warnings about other of my coworkers, and I became a massive ball of paranoia, not only distrusting all my coworkers (including the supervisor), but also distrusting virtually every person I’ve ever met.  I mean, I was to the point of wanting to cut off contact with everyone but my family, around half a dozen friends, and my therapist.

I knew suddenly removing 90% of my friends on Facebook would be a total overreaction in classic Borderline Personality Disorder fashion, so I used the Wise Mind skill (balancing emotional and rational minds) and instead deactivated my account for a while.  Same effect of removing information from access by potentially untrustworthy people, but much more reversible after I had time to cool down.  By lunch today, I was to the point that I could reactivate my account, along with defriending and blocking some coworkers, but even the coworkers who remained on my friends list got demoted from “Close Friends” status as I was still quite suspicious of their intentions.

After work, I was pretty sure I’d be safe through the weekend, but really needed to share how I was feeling and didn’t have a lot of options for who to share with.  I sat in my car, staring at the phone in my hand, with the CMHC hotline pulled up in my contacts.  I tried to dial it, but I was shaking and near to hyperventilating with anxiety.  After a few minutes I thought, “This is really stupid.  The on-call therapist is right next door.  Go see her in person.”  So I put the phone away and walked over to CMHC and asked the receptionist if the on-call therapist was available.

I was required to fill out paperwork, again, which I questioned her about because last time I had nearly finished the paperwork when Jan came to get me and told me that as a current client I didn’t need to fill it out.  The receptionist said I still had to, so I sat down and scribbled my answers in as quickly as possible.  When I handed it in, the receptionist didn’t even get to call Jan before she happened to come out to the waiting room of her own volition, and moments later she took me back to a tiny little office – the same one where she had coerced me into inpatient last year.

I told Jan that I was having some trouble with work and had thoughts of hurting myself to get out of it.  I wasn’t able to be specific about the thoughts, as they were flitting around among options.  All I knew was that I didn’t actually want to die.  Score 1 point for me.  I had to endure reviewing all the background questions that would have been asked if I’d been assessed in the ER, although since it was a review of information already on file it went fairly fast.  I had to update her on the medication I’m taking – her records still included trazodone which I stopped over a year ago – and correct her on my tobacco history.  She asked about smoking and I said no, so she congratulated me on quitting.  What?  I was never a smoker, unless you want to count less than a pack total spread out over several years of hanging with the theatre crowd in college.  She deleted that from the file.

We did come up with a plan regarding the work issues, sort of.  She encouraged me to talk to my supervisor, using my Interpersonal Effectiveness skills to plan out my objective in the conversation and figure out what to say to achieve it.  Primarily, I’m to ask for guidance on how to prioritize when the work load gets overwhelming.  My difficulty on the weekend was that I was getting bombarded with calls and faxes while also trying to do the usual checking and replenishing of supplies, and I felt like I didn’t even have the time to take 5 minutes to take care of myself so I could handle it better.  Jan asked me what my Mindfulness skills would have told me to do in that situation.  I said, “Focus on one thing at a time.”  I wish I’d been able to do that in the moment, as maybe this whole situation would never have happened.

Jan asked if I needed to be in inpatient to stay safe and I told her no, that I could go home.  She said, “If I remember correctly, you’re the one who doesn’t like safety contracts.”  I laughed and said, “I’ll sign one if you want, but I think they’re a joke.”  She asked me to promise that I would reach out for help again if I were in danger, and said that on Monday she’d be available again and if I needed to come in I could specifically ask for her.  Or I could say, “I want to speak to the on-call therapist but not Jan” and she wouldn’t be offended.  I talked about how scary it is to ask for help, and she said that I shouldn’t be scared of her since we’ve met 9 billion times.  That sounded bad, but she clarified that she didn’t just mean in this context, she was including the numerous times per week that we pass in the halls of the hospital.

I was also asked to promise that I would tell my mother how I was feeling, I suppose so she could keep an eye on me.  I really didn’t want to do this, but my choices were promise to tell her or let Jan call and tell her, and I didn’t really enjoy it when Sadie called mom for similar reasons.  So I promised.  Jan said she had to go consult the psychiatrist to be sure he agreed with our plan, and when she left the room I chanted over and over, “Please don’t send me to inpatient.  Please don’t send me to inpatient.”  Finally she came back and told me I could go, without ever asking me to sign one of those silly safety contracts.

What was weird about the conversation was that Jan kept talking about my progress.  She had commented that when she sees me at work I seem happy to be there, and I said that I fake it really well.  She told me that was progress, that when I worked at my previous job I wasn’t able to fake it and that now I was much more consistent about my work attendance.  Even weirder was that she used lack of inpatient admissions as a measure of progress, and said that she had just recently been talking to another inpatient staff member about how long it had been since I was in there.  I always get a bit creeped out when I find out people have talked or even thought about me when I’m not there.  Similar to how babies have to learn about object permanence and understand things still exist when they aren’t seen, I have yet to learn about my own permanence.  I feel that no one should or does think about me unless I make my presence known.

Nothing is Broken

When it was time for Sadie to return to her office Thursday, I replied to the e-mail I shared in Asking for Help.  I included a link to that post, and explained that when I called her I didn’t really know what help to ask for.  I said that I’m conflicted between always wanting to see her and wanting to avoid seeing her, and the part of me that should be deciding what I really need was clueless about what I need.

I was busy that morning taking mom to have surgery, but expected to be back in time for a 1 o’clock or later appointment, if there was one available, but only if Sadie thought I actually needed to see her and wasn’t just being an attention whore.  In the afternoon, I got a reply stating that she hadn’t had any openings but had repeatedly tried to reply to my e-mail and kept restarting because she felt she had to choose her words carefully.  She asked if it was possible other people feel that way, and don’t respond to me because they are afraid of how I’ll interpret their words.

I went for a walk outside and tried to cry.  I was so hurt, but the tears wouldn’t come.  In the evening, I sat down to write a reply, knowing that if I didn’t do it then she wouldn’t see it before Monday.  I told her that in being careful with her words, she had ironically said the worst possible thing.  In DBT we talk about how Borderline Personality Disorder develops from a combination of being emotionally sensitive and being exposed to an invalidating environment.  One way that my family always invalidated me was by saying “I can’t say anything to you.  You always take it wrong.”  It was their way of avoiding responsibility for the hurtful things they did.  It was never that they had done something hurtful, but always that I was just too oversensitive and was misinterpreting everything.

Sadie didn’t know she was stepping into a mess from my childhood so even though my impulse was that I wanted a break from therapy, I told her I would see her Thursday.  She could have just said, “Okay, see you then” and everything would have been fine.  However, Friday morning during work I heard the notification tone on my phone and looked at the e-mail she had sent me in response.  She said that saying what she wanted to say had backfired on her yet again and maybe e-mail wasn’t the best way for us to communicate.

I went running to hide in the bathroom where I sobbed so hard I threw up.  E-mail has been very helpful for us in the past, and we’ve never had this sort of miscommunication before.  I knew she was saying that we shouldn’t continue this conversation by e-mail but I couldn’t let it go unanswered and just wait for nearly a week before seeing her.  I told her I was sorry for taking everything so wrong, and that I felt like I was breaking everything good in my life.  I told her crying over it had made me throw up, and that I wasn’t sure if it was entirely the situation that caused it, or also the fact that I’d skipped 24 hours worth of medication.  You wouldn’t think that skipping it for just one day would have an impact, but it always does.

I was a mess, and I went to ask my crew lead if I would need to clock out in order to go out in the parking lot on lunch.  I felt sure I’d need to talk to the on-call therapist and wanted some privacy.  My crew lead panicked a little, thinking I’d been crying over work, but I explained.  She told me to go take a break if I needed to – go sit down with a drink or go to my car for a bit if I wanted.  She told me that I didn’t need to work on my big reorganization project that day if it was too much to handle, but I felt it would be a good distraction.  I was still talking to her when Sadie replied again.

I dreaded opening the new e-mail, but it had a totally different tone.  She told me that I didn’t need to apologize and that nothing was broken.  She advised me to take my meds and distract myself from my thoughts and feelings, and said if I still felt bad on Monday I could check and see if she had a cancellation.  I’ve looked over and over this e-mail since I received it.  I find it fascinating that within hours of each other I could get one e-mail that hurt me so badly and another that comforted me.

I work on Monday and Sadie only has 2 time slots that are after my work day ends, so the chances one of those two clients will cancel are slim.  The same is true Tuesday and Wednesday, and I’m scheduled to see her on my off-day of Thursday.  I don’t want to wait that long.  I’m considering the possibility of telling her I can take an appointment that’s during my work day, and asking if I can leave and then come back.  As long as I’ve got my early morning work done before then, I imagine I’d be allowed to do it.