A Day in the Life: Disability Edition

I am currently sitting in my bedroom, high on Ativan, at 3:30 in the afternoon. I mean, it wouldn’t be less weird if I was high on Ativan at a different time, but my point is this is where I find myself.

“How did you end up here, Sarah?”

Let me tell you, friend. Take your coat off. Stay a while. There’s a lot of information to cover.

A more proximal reason why I am here is that I wanted to leave campus. This is because I wanted to wear jammies and snuggle my cat and write about my feelings, and these things can’t happen on campus.

Why did I feel the need to wear jammies and snuggle my cat and write about my feelings? Well, I took a half milligram of Ativan, and it hit me pretty hard. I knew I was done functioning for the day and my priorities turned to being cozy.

Now why did I take the Ativan?

This is when the causal relationships start to get fuzzy for me, but I’ll try to figure out my thinking, while I explain it simultaneously.

I took the Ativan because I was anxious.

Why was I anxious?

I have an intake appointment tomorrow for potential trauma therapy, I’ve been feeling weird since yesterday afternoon, and my girlfriend is having a bad day.

Let’s dive into these feelings, shall we?

  1. Why do I have an intake appointment for trauma therapy?

The first part of this answer is that something happened in 2014. I’ve mentioned that something happened around that time because it’s relevant to my eating disorder story, but I’ve never spoken about it. It’s just the bad thing that happened. I put this bad thing in a box and put this box on a shelf a long time ago. Every once in a while (once a month maybe?), something would remind me of what happened and I would be briefly upset, but ultimately fine. Recently, this has changed. There are a few events which I think may have contributed to this, and after some brief fact-checking to establish chronology, I will explain them.

First, September 30th. I was having a meltdown about something, and I started rebelling against my anxiety by doing things that would trigger it. One of those things was writing out an account of what happened. I took the box off the shelf and opened it. I didn’t feel that bad initially afterwards, but I suspect at least part of what I am experiencing is long-term consequences of this event.

Next, October 15th. S (my girlfriend) had a night terror while I was over. They ended up telling me some things about their trauma, and I remember feeling triggered at one point, but I don’t remember specifically what caused this. My main focus at the time was helping S. I didn’t think this event would have any effect on me, and maybe it didn’t. But I think there’s a possibility that this made me think about what happened to me and made me draw an association between a certain kind of trauma and terror. So this may have contributed to my current issues.

Finally, October 22nd. This was the day I had training to be a peer support volunteer. During this training, I learned that something else that happened to me (with the same person involved in the original event) was a lot worse than I thought it was. I knew I felt very uncomfortable about it, but I thought I was being overly sensitive and dramatic. And for some reason, framing this experience in a different way created so much terror in me. I even saw the original event differently, as I realized the person involved was a much worse person than I realized at the time. And since this day, my life has become increasingly filled with intrusive thoughts about what happened.

For a few days, I carefully policed my thoughts all day in an effort to keep these thoughts away. I took a lot of Ativan, which helped in the moment, but isn’t a great long-term strategy. I was terrified to talk about what happened with a therapist, so decided to wait for these thoughts to go away. Then there was an episode at S’s one night where I was high and having graphic flashbacks that left me hyperventilating and crying. After that happened, I figured it would be a good idea to get help with this. The counsellor I was seeing was actually so useless that I skipped my appointment  and am now ghosting him. I also quit CBT for social anxiety, because why not? More recently, I e-mailed a counsellor whom my girlfriend (and others) say is great for trauma-related things. This is the one I will be speaking with tomorrow. I’m currently having intrusive thoughts about the event all day which get worse at night when I have no distractions. I have been taking Ativan most nights so I can calm down and fall sleep, and even then it’s hard.

 

2. I have been feeling weird since yesterday.

This story will be much shorter, don’t worry.

Yesterday afternoon, while taking the bus to my mom’s for lunch, I started feeling very weird. At first, I really couldn’t tell what was wrong, and thought I might just be looking for things to mope about. But then I realized I felt pretty dissociated. I experience derealization (thinking the world isn’t real or I’m in a dream) fairly often, but its severity fluctuates between days. It was pretty bad yesterday. I tried so hard to feel present, but I just couldn’t. I barely remember the bus trip to my mom’s. When I got home from my mom’s, I had a beer in hopes of keeping intrusive thoughts at bay. This just made the dissociation worse. When I headed to S’s for dinner, I was feeling terrible. But it’s always something with me; I always have something wrong. And I recognize how annoying this can get. For just one day, I wanted to answer “How was your day?” with “Good.” Just once, I didn’t want to make everything about me. So I acted like I was fine. This is leading into the next story, but the point here is that I was feeling shitty independent of recent/upcoming events.

3. S is having a rough time. This started when I was over last night, and once I knew they were having a hard time, I knew I couldn’t talk about how I was feeling. That would make me a dick and someone who needs to constantly be the centre of attention. So since then, S hasn’t been doing well, and neither have I, but I have been saying nothing. I’m sure that isn’t helping.

But I always have a very difficult time when the people around me struggle. It makes me extremely anxious, and I have never fully figured out why. I think part of it is that I have some deeply-rooted, incorrect beliefs. For example, I feel very strongly that everybody’s attention should 100% be on the person suffering the most, and everybody else needs to shut up about their problems. This is true to some extent, in that you wouldn’t complain about your coffee being made wrong to somebody who just lost a loved one. But I have been told that I take this idea too far. I believe this causes part of my distress, as I start feeling like I have to be perfect and take care of the other person and have no problems of my own. I also think a lot about whether I do need to be the centre of attention to some degree. I’m not sure whether this is a factor, but it’s possible. Another theory is that I’m hyper-empathic, to the point where someone else’s pain makes me suffer enough that I can’t even support them. I definitely think this is true about me, and that this contributes to this issue. But I’ve never fully put the pieces together, or thought of a way to work on this. But there’s that.

 

Anyways, the heap of text above explains why I was feeling anxious, which explains why I took the Ativan, which explains why I couldn’t function, which explains why I decided to come home and sit in my room high on Ativan. And now, we’re all caught up.

My thoughts currently are all over the place. To be honest, it was triggering just mentioning the thing that happened, and that’s making me feel weird. The Ativan is still impacting me greatly. I’m unsure how much compassion to have for myself, because I’m scared my only problem is that I need attention. I don’t know whether I really am allowed to be upset right now. I don’t know who I’m allowed to tell. I don’t know if S would be mad if I told them I am feeling bad. And I just REALLY fear that I only feel bad because S feels bad. I have other reasons to feel bad, but I was trying not to bring them up because I didn’t want to be a bummer, but now I feel like we’re allowed to be bummers? I meant to explore my current thoughts in more depth, but I am getting very tired, to be honest. I think I will just reschedule everything I need to reschedule from today and tomorrow, and go to bed early. That’s all for now.

 

Sarah

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Doing Something that Matters

I have probably mentioned more than once that I have recently entered into a new relationship. I try to work this fact into most conversations, but I promise it’s actually relevant here. Just give me a minute.

My girlfriend is amazing. I don’t understand how I found somebody so incredible. They have had countless disadvantages in life, but have accomplished more than a lot of people who have been given every opportunity. The one downside to this fact is that I’ve been comparing myself to them a lot lately. And unsurprisingly, I’m coming up short.

They have clear passions, firm values, and big ambitions. Not only do they have big dreams for the future; they have big dreams for right now. These things aren’t true for me. I have been held  back by fear and disability, allowing my goals and passions to exist only in the future, where they can give me hope without terrifying me. Theoretically, I know what I stand for. I know what’s important to me. But what am I doing about it?

Politics and public policy are a huge interest of mine, and the field I intend to enter after grad school. Yet, the only way I actually engage with these issues is by yelling at my computer while I watch the news. I am passionate about fighting racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, ableism, and every other form of oppression, but I skip protests in favour of going to bed early. I have always loved to write, and yet I’ve never had a piece of writing published. I write half-assed blog posts when I’m sad, wanting to be heard but not wanting it enough to invest my whole self into it.

Who am I? What do I bring to the table? What am I doing with my life that actually matters? These questions continue to haunt me, and likely won’t stop until I have finally answered them.

Speaking of writing half-assed blog posts, I need to cap this off because I am very tired. I might write some better posts in the near future. Or I might not.

Sarah

Exhausted

I am exhausted. I got around 4-5 hours of sleep last night, so that is likely contributing. But also there’s everything else.

Doing things takes a lot of mental energy. For this reason, I am often tired. Days are just too long, and I often can’t get through them completely. Recently, this has caused me to miss many classes. It’s great.

Today, I had to function like a big girl. I had to go to all my classes. I have missed too many lectures, and I am really falling behind in one class. I started the morning by inexplicably crying when I was having trouble printing something on campus. (That can probably be attributed to the lack of sleep) I got through the rest of the day. But it was SO MUCH.

I feel like I need a day or two to recover from one day of being an actual person. But my scheduler tells me I have many busy days ahead. I feel so anxious and trapped and tired. I am so tired. One day of proper functioning was too much for me; how am I supposed to live my life? How am I supposed to have a social life, engage in extra-curriculars, get involved in causes that give me purpose? I can’t even handle a full course load without those things. I’m starting to think I seriously can’t do it. Not that I don’t want to do it, or it would be really difficult, or it would cause more suffering than I care to experience. I literally do not think I can do it.

I need to get more involved in the community. It is starting to really bother me that I am doing nothing to contribute to society. But it feels like so much. And I have many friends with disabilities who are able to do all these things, so what is wrong with me that I can’t?

I have more I want to write about, but honestly, I do not have the energy. Again, I’ll probably feel much better after a good night’s sleep. But right now, everything feels like a lot.

Sarah

Future Conversations with my Dad

I saw my counselor this morning.

We talked about a few things, but my relationship with my dad came up a lot. I am currently in a transitional period with regards to my views on my dad. I spent almost twenty-three years living under the assumption he was trying his best to be a good father, and that his best simply wasn’t good enough. I assumed he cared, but had trouble expressing this fact through his actions.

I recently came to the conclusion that my dad was not trying his best. I believe that he never did care, and he never will. I have reached this conclusion in response to a recent event wherein my dad essentially abandoned my sister. I am extremely sad and angry and hurt, but I haven’t told my dad any of this. In the past, he has reacted with a lot of anger when criticized in any way. I am scared of what would happen if I told him everything I’m thinking.

I have also recently been questioning my dad’s level of comfort with my sexual orientation. He was raised in Northern Ireland in a conservative, Protestant family, so I have always suspected that having a gay daughter isn’t his favourite. When I initially came out to my dad, all he said was, “I just want you to be happy,” which I assumed was positive. But I have never understood whether my dad just tolerates my sexual orientation , or is truly indifferent about it.

This train of thought was set off when my dad asked me when he will get to meet my “new friend,” in reference to my girlfriend. Maybe he would have said the same thing if I was dating a man, but I can’t help but think he purposely avoided validating my same sex relationship.

Anyways, in response to both of these issues, my counselor has suggested that I tell my dad how I am feeling. I initially dismissed this idea, but part of me wants to do it so badly. I want to be clear about what my dad thinks of me. I want to tell me dad how much he has hurt my sister and myself. I want to stop smiling through coffee meetups and lunches as if nothing is wrong.

I haven’t decided whether these conversations will happen. But this will on be on my mind for the foreseeable future.

Anyways, I am getting very tired. I hope everyone is well, and I will hopefully post again soon.

Sarah

Panicking

I have consumed a milligram of Ativan, so to be honest, I’m not entirely sure I can get through this post. Adjust your expectations of my writing accordingly.

On my first day of classes, I had a bit of a meltdown. But the next day was okay, so I thought it was the adjustment, and that I would be fine. But since classes started last week, I have been getting extremely anxious about every other day. I feel anxious always, but it spirals out of control in the evenings. And right now, most of my anxiety is about my anxiety, which is fucking peachy.

There are too many feelings and I don’t think I can handle them and I don’t want to handle them and I am scared. I’m scared I can’t take a full course load this year, and that I will have to further delay my graduation. I am scared that I wouldn’t be able to cope with the self-loathing this would cause. I am scared that grad schools and even people won’t take me seriously, because I have so little experience in the field I wish to pursue. I am scared because I don’t know who I am, or what I have to offer as a person. I am scared of these feelings I have for S (a person I’ve been seeing). I am terrified that I would be unable to cope if I fuck this up. Or if life fucks it up. I feel like I’m carrying around a little ceramic figurine trying not to break it, and I just want to put it away so it’s safe and I can stop worrying about it, but I can’t do that for a while. The things I’m feeling are just too much and I do not think I can cope with them. Even the Ativan isn’t working like it normally does. I have taken one milligram and my heart is still racing and my limbs keep feeling numb.

I’m scared that I’m going to die one day, even though I sometimes wish that day would be today. I’m scared that there is no meaning to this short life. I’m scared that S is going to die, because that would make me very sad, and that’s how my brain works. I need to be acutely aware of all the horrible things that could happen, so I can worry about them. Even the unlikely things.

I want somebody to fix it. But also I just want to lie in S’s lap while they pet my hair. I want to be comforted. But I also need practical solutions. But there are no practical solutions to existential dread. Although that’s only part of it. There are just a lot of things.

That’s about all my brain can do. Nobody needs to worry; I’ll be fine soonish. I just have a lot of feelings.

Sarah

Things are Hard

That’s what she said.

TW: SUICIDAL THOUGHTS

I’m typing this on my phone while trying to fall asleep because I feel really shitty and I just need to talk about it. I talked about my ex in counselling today and have been sad ever since. It’s been 11 months since the breakup; when will this end?

I feel like I’ll never feel better, and I’ll always be in this much pain. I know my recent restriction is playing a role, so I need to stop doing that, but ugh.

Maybe I’ll feel differently after a couple days of eating more, but I don’t really want to live right now. There’s so much pain and it never ends. Everything is pain. But death is nothing and that’s scary so we won’t do that. But it seems like a decent deal from where I am.

I’m sorry for this depressing post.

Sarah

My Childhood

I really don’t want to read about inner product spaces, so I have returned to write another post.

I am aware that writing about my childhood as it relates to my mental health is very cliche, but it’s been on my mind recently and I am hoping that writing this post will help me to better understand it.

The thing that confuses me most about my early years is that nothing horrible happened. No traumatic, catastrophic event ever occurred. And yet, I am still profoundly impacted by the things that did happen.

Firstly, I have memories of being anxious as far back as I have memories at all. At 3, I was pulled out of ballet because as soon as my parents left the room, I would sit in the corner by myself ignore everyone. At 4, if someone brushed up against me on my left side, I would purposely brush up against someone on my right side to “even it out”. I got so terrified of the dark that I had extra appreciation for the morning, because it’s the part of the day furthest from the next night. My point is, I’ve always had some issues, whether they resulted from genes or poor parenting before I can remember, or both, or something else entirely. So I am not “blaming” all my problems on things that happened in childhood.  I just believe that these things were one of many factors.

Again, nothing horrible happened to me. I wasn’t abused. I wasn’t kicked out. I wasn’t neglected. I keep stressing these points in my endless preamble because I feel so guilty. I’m sitting here, painting my parents as abusers when they love me and they tried their best, and I’m trivializing the experiences of those who survived much worse circumstances.

Now that we are all on the same page, my childhood:

Things were relatively uneventful for the first few years I can remember. I had minor issues that can be tied to mental illness in retrospect, but nothing that set me apart from my peers. Things were fine.

My parents got divorced when I was 8 years old. I wasn’t too upset, because they had been fighting for a while, and I thought having two houses would be cool. The divorce was fine; the main problem is what came afterwards. But from the beginning of the divorce, I felt the need to protect my sister who was only 2 at the time. I was now the only one living with her every night, so I wanted to provide some stability and protection.

Anyways, when my dad moved out, he immediately started dating a woman named Michelle. I didn’t mind this relationship, as I enjoyed spending time with Michelle’s two daughters, who were 13 and 14 at the time. Within a couple years, my dad and Michelle were living together, along with Michelle’s daughters, and my sister and I. I think this is when they started treating us poorly. My sister and I would be yelled at for making a mistake while doing chores we had never done before, not greeting people properly when we entered the house, and other things with that level of importance. Beyond this, it’s hard to even remember individual events; I just remember how I felt. I remember that I wanted to talk to someone, anyone, about what I was experiencing. But I couldn’t begin to explain it. Again, nothing terrible was happening. At one point, I remember wishing they were beating me, so I could describe what was happening. So I could explain the source of my pain in terms that people would understand. I wasn’t being beaten, but I would dread the days I spent I spent at my dad’s, and felt extremely relieved when they were over.

At one point, I hated being at my dad’s house so much that I told my mom I didn’t want to go back. But still, I couldn’t explain what was happening and why it was affecting me so much. And my mom knew my dad would be furious if she essentially got full custody. I’m tearing up as I write this because I remember the horrible, horrible feelings I had at the time. My sister and I were being treated poorly, and neither of our parents were doing anything to stop it.

I had a dream once that I was in a bookstore with my dad, and a man was attempting to kidnap me in order to rape me. I screamed for help, in full view of everyone including my dad, and nobody noticed. The way I felt in that dream is how I felt at this time in my life.

I know I must sound dramatic, especially since I can’t recall many actual events that took place. But I can remember the feelings like they occurred yesterday.

When my dad said he and Michelle were breaking up, I cried tears of joy. So much dread and anxiety was lifted off my shoulders. But five seconds later, my dad met Sue.

Sue was fine. She didn’t really interact with my sister and I, which was a huge improvement but was also awkward. Before my dad even found somewhere to live that wasn’t my grandparents’ house, he decided to move in with Sue. He asked me if I thought it was too early, I said yes, and he proceeded to tell me why I was wrong. My dad, sister and I moved in with Sue and two of her daughters, and we all managed to live together for 2 years and yet remain strangers to one another. My life was much better during this period, and Sue caused no problems, but my dad’s unreliability started to become a big issue. He had already broken many promises at this point, but now I was hanging out with friends and sometimes needed to rely on him for a ride. Many times, he would agree to give me a ride and then live his life as if he’d never said anything. He would have to work, and would get angry with me when I pushed the issue. I know this sounds particularly frivolous, but when you have very limited ability to take public transit, transportation is very important. Anyways, at some point my dad and Sue broke up as well.

After two failed common-law relationships, my dad promised me he wouldn’t move in with another woman until I graduated high school. I was in grade 10 or 11 at the time. After I turned 16, I told my dad that I wanted to live with my mom full-time (at 16, I gained the legal right to decide this), and he got very angry. We agreed to have coffee to discuss it further, and he was even raised his voice in that public setting. He wasn’t listening to me; he was just explaining why I was wrong.

My dad actually bought a house for just him, my sister, and I. When I first saw the house, I vividly remember thinking, “We’re not going to be here long.” And then we lived there for 6 months. I think my dad started dating Shalaina around the time we moved out of Sue’s house. Apparently Sue and my dad had been secretly broken up for a few months but remained amicably cohabiting while they figured out new living arrangements. So my dad insisted he had really been taking things slow when he began to date immediately upon moving.

I was incredibly skeptical to meet Shalaina, but it happened eventually. And she took the opportunity to buy my affection with designer purses and trips to the nail salon. It worked. When my dad wanted to move in with Shalaina, I was happy, despite the addition to the broken promises pile. Apparently, my grandmother tried convincing them to wait to move in together, and my dad didn’t speak to her for two weeks. So anyways, we were soon living with Shalaina and her two children. They were/are actually pretty cool people, and my sister was close in age to Shalaina’s daughter, so we were all pretty happy.

At some point, Shalaina no longer felt the need to buy or otherwise obtain my affection, and she started being mean. Not Michelle’s brand of mean; there no yelling or confrontation of any sort. She was much more passive-aggressive. Often, she and my dad would agree they were mad at me, but she would send my dad out to play bad cop while she remained innocent.

In 2011, they went on vacation together. They came back and told us they had gotten married and the trip was their honeymoon. My grandma and uncle were invited; none of the kids were. I didn’t express my feelings about this to my dad, because I knew he couldn’t undo anything.

Long after the marriage, Shalaina would also frequently take her kids out and leave my sister home alone. She claimed to want quality time with her children, but a) I’m pretty sure you’re supposed to treat step-children as your children; and b) It’s not like my dad ever had the time or desire to take my sister anywhere. My dad and Shalaina were just generally selfish during this time.

One day, I got in a fight with my dad, so I packed a suitcase and went to my mom’s house. I finally made the decision to live with my mom full-time. To catch you up to what my mom had been up to during this time, she had a couple short relationships, then met my stepdad, and he moved in with us after they had dated for a couple years. My mom hasn’t been a perfect parent, but she has been a parent. This is why she isn’t heavily featured in this post.

At this point in the story, I’m about 18, so we’ve reached the end of my childhood. I did live with my dad full-time a bit later after thinking he had changed, but I won’t get into details about this time. I will, however, list a few shitty things my dad and Shalaina have done, because I’m still angry about a lot of them.

-They prevented my sister from getting diagnosed with ADHD for years, claiming they didn’t want her to be labelled or to be on medication, then randomly decided one day they were fine with it (During this time, my sister had essentially been diagnosed after an extensive process, and she wanted to access resources for ADHD as she was struggling in school)

-They would make up rules and change them frequently; one day, they decided there can’t be any shampoo bottles or loofahs around the bathtub/shower, so we had to take them out every time; Shalaina would get angry when I left my loofah hanging to dry before putting it with my toiletries

-When I was anorexic and frequently cold, I would close some of the windows that were often open during weather cold enough that the heat was on; I asked my dad once if we could keep the windows closed because I was cold and he looked at me like I was the biggest brat on earth; my stepmom began passive-aggressively keeping all the windows open, even though the heat was on, because that’s who she is; I got to sit under a blanket in my room all day

 

This post started out quite serious and has grown increasingly whiny; for that I apologize. The main thing I wanted to talk about was the time when my dad was dating Michelle, as I think that has really impacted me. I also wanted to describe all the moving and instability, but cared less about the details during the Sue and Shalaina eras, respectively. Apparently at some point, I decided to use this post as a place to vent anger I was never allowed to express about things that have happened more recently. So, it hasn’t really turned out the way I planned, whatever that was. And I really wanted to communicate how much these events hurt me, despite the individual events being so insignificant, but I don’t know if I did that. But anyways, here it is.

Sarah