Last week I had nothing but good news to share with my therapist. I had just submitted 3 job applications, and later that evening I was headed to the first readthrough of the play I’m stage managing. We discussed the week’s diary card in record time, and she asked if I wanted to end early. I thought for a moment, and came up with one concern that I wanted to discuss first: the fact that I’m still having negative urges even when I feel what I think they mean by “euthymic”. It was suggested that these urges have been comfortable for me in the past and that I can learn to be comfortable with better coping methods.
We still weren’t out of time after that discussion, so we did end a few minutes early. My therapist asked how I would feel about meeting less often. I said I wasn’t quite ready for that, and she agreed but started planning for that future reduction in appointments. She proposed that we soon reduce appointment length to 30 minutes, and after a while we’d then switch to every other week. I left feeling both thrilled at the progress I’ve made, and saddened at the thought of seeing her less often.
I know my therapist is not there to be my friend, but as I thought further on this I felt abandoned. It’s a simple case of transference – I have had a number of experiences of people being there for me in a crisis only to disappear as soon as my life started to improve. It makes it very tempting to stay in crisis mode indefinitely. This is not what I want for my life, so I was determined to keep my cool and let this transition happen without falling into old habits. The last thing I want is to look like I’m being manipulative.
Then I read Loud in the House of Myself by Stacy Pershall. I’ve been holding onto this book for months, waiting to enjoy it. I didn’t. I mean, there was nothing wrong with the book, but instead of being inspiring it made me feel inferior. Boring. Books about mental illness typically do that, because I end up feeling that my life has been horribly damaged and yet I haven’t done any of the exciting things that normally come along with manic impulsivity. No spontaneous travel, no tattoos, no tumultuous romantic relationships. I’m too bad to be good and too good to be bad, and I fear that telling my story will just lead the “real” mentally ill people to laugh in my face.
Upon reading this book, I felt convinced that I cannot write a book of my own, that my life is not even remotely worth writing about. Given that the idea of writing this book was a major source of joy in recent weeks, this turn of events left me feeling very depressed. I felt as though my life had to get worse in order to be interesting enough to warrant a book, and I ended up cutting myself. No major injury, but a large number of minor cuts with minor bleeding. The kind of thing that gets described as “cuts” (with the quotation marks) in my medical records, which furthers my sense that I’m too pathetic to even do mental illness correctly.
The next day, still feeling this disappointment that my book could not be written, I started feeling increasing destructive impulses. Toward cutting, toward alcohol and nicotine gum, toward binge eating. I fought with myself all day, trying to force my way into alternatives. A walk on the walking trail. A drastic haircut. Just buying some more coffee and going home. Instead I ended up at the grocery store with nicotine gum and half a dozen Krispy Kremes in my cart. I told myself to leave the cart and walk out. I told myself to put the gum back and just buy the donuts. I checked out anyway.
I made another stop to buy more coffee and headed home, where I started eating the donuts. And finished them. I started chewing the nicotine gum, and the combination of way too many donuts and the gum made me very sick to my stomach. I was already inclined to try purging, and the way my stomach felt made it an inevitability. It was completely unsuccessful. I spent the rest of the day miserable, and unable to admit that being sick was my own fault.
I was disgusted with my behavior and felt that if I couldn’t control my negative urges and I couldn’t do anything productive like write a book then there was no sense in living. I knew deep down that I had things to live for, like the play, but part of me questioned whether that even mattered. If I were gone, I wouldn’t know what I’m missing. I was a bit scared of what I’d do, and handed over all my pills, prescription and OTC, to my mother. Naturally this just left her alarmed and nagging at me to explain what could possibly be wrong when I was in such a great mood just days ago.
It wasn’t until the next day that mom noticed the cuts. She asked if all this was a reaction to my therapist wanting to reduce our appointments, which was very upsetting as that’s exactly how I feared it would look. I tried to hold out until Thursday and go into my regularly scheduled appointment cheerful and ready to put this incident behind me. However, I felt like I was going to be dishonest if I did this, and I sent an e-mail to my therapist to explain that I was not doing so well and that mom was guarding the pills. She offered me an appointment the next day, and I took it, while saying to her that I know I should decline to prove that I don’t depend on her. Her response was to say it’s okay to ask for help and to thank me for my willingness to come in. I wondered whether the unwritten end to the sentence was “so I don’t have to call the cops on you”.
I must admit the appointment turned out to be very helpful. We did a thought diary together regarding the book, and established that I can’t know whether people will find it interesting until I actually write it, and that writing the book will be beneficial to me even if no one else ever reads it. I acknowledged that my story may need to be told for all the other people out there who are feeling that their pain isn’t legitimate just because they don’t measure up to the stories that normally get published. I started to feel interested in writing again. However, I’m still really disappointed in myself that I needed to go in for extra help right when things had been looking up.