Therapy

8292989918_6be37a8844_kImage via blgrssby on Flickr

Therapy is still something I really don’t understand. I get what it is, and what it’s supposed to do, but… How does it achieve those things? If it’s a science, how does it differ so vastly from therapist to therapist?

I’ve gone to a lot of therapists. I have a lot of issues with anger, and I think they stem from childhood abuse and general feelings of helplessness. I often get angry when I read the news because I can’t affect change in a real way where I can see results. I get angry when other people don’t use turn signals or try to police my driving speed by cutting me off constantly. Often, my anger is disproportionate and I make really bad snap decisions that luckily haven’t resulted in me crashing my car and dying, or getting beaten to a pulp after picking a fight. Yet.

I had one therapist who, during our first session, laughed at me when I suggested talking about my childhood. She derisively told me that therapy isn’t about childhoods anymore, it’s all about being in the moment. Then she told me to draw a picture of my anger as a balloon, then to draw a picture of it floating away. So basically, we wasted 20 minutes and a bit of colored pencil. No help in managing anything because by the time I imagine my anger balloon as a dot on the horizon, I’ve already reacted and am dealing with the negative consequences.

I’ve tried CBT and immersion therapies too, which rarely make sense to me either. I can say I’m changing my thinking all I want. I can want it so bad, and repeat mantras over and over, try distractions that are relabeled as coping strategies, but my anxiety and negative thoughts always overcome. If immersion therapy worked, how did I get this way in the first place? Having a job I forced myself to go to every day propelled me even further into Agoraphobia. Every time I go out and do something stupid, it reinforces the idea that I just shouldn’t go out at all.  Where in the immersion do I learn to control myself and get around this?

Exercise is another big one people like to throw around. And it really does work, at first. I get a moderate amount of exercise through my hobbies, but sometimes I get into the “working out will fix me!” mentality. For a day or two, an hour of intense exercise makes me feel so good, and I always sleep so well on those first nights. Then, an hour of exercise isn’t enough to make an impact. Then two isn’t enough, then three isn’t enough, and on and on into eternity. Pretty soon, I’m miserable and forcing myself to work out so much that I’m neglecting other things. So then I give it up totally and wait for the idea to seem fresh again.

I know this all sounds like a bitter and pessimistic asshole looking for fault in literally everything, but I can’t convey how excited I was to try each of these out when first presented with the option or idea. I was always so sure this next one was really going to help this time, only to be left disappointed and scouring my insurance’s list of providers for a new therapist.

I’m just really tired of the one size fits all approach to treating mental health disorders. Any time you discuss your problems online, you get a flood of people offering the thing that cured them. And if you already tried that and it didn’t work? You failed somehow. You didn’t commit yourself, believe, or try hard enough.

Sorry but, maybe your thing just doesn’t work for everyone! Maybe you were misdiagnosed, got lucky with your meds, or are deluding yourself into thinking you’re okay. There’s a whole myriad of reasons why treatments may not work, and constantly blaming the patient feels kind of counterproductive.

I really wish I could find a therapist I can simply talk to, and get advice from. But for now, all I can find are anger balloons.

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Noise sensitivity!

I keep forgetting I have a place to actually talk things out, but I’m resolving to try to post more often. Even if it’s just for my own benefit.

But, one thing I often have a really hard time dealing with is noise sensitivity. It can be totally crippling at times, and causes a lot of arguments. Marijuana helps with it exponentially, but like I mentioned before, I can’t constantly use it throughout the day. I’m working on finding other ways of coping with it, but my reactions can be pretty intense. I’ve noticed about three different reactions I commonly have to irritating sounds.

One is an all out fiery rage. I can’t usually distract myself with something fun or interesting, because I get so angry I just want to smash the source of the noise. It gets to the point where in the back of my mind, I get really worried about what I might do. My angry reactions feel like the cause of my agoraphobia too (I’m constantly worried about getting into a fight while I’m out because someone did something rude and set me off, or because I can’t keep my mouth shut when someone annoys me), and I still don’t know how to deal with it. My go to coping mechanism is usually self harm, which I almost always instantly regret. But when you have a sudden and uncontrollable burst of intense rage, you sometimes go off and punch a wall before your brain has a chance to think it through.

The second is kind of similar to the first, but with a pretty long and painful build up. Whatever noise(s) is bothering me causes me physical pain. It’s a little like that feeling you might get from hearing nails on a chalkboard, but a lot more intense. It’s really hard to describe, but it’s like having a migraine and really intense nerve pain throughout your body. The only way I’ve found to stop it is to get away from the noise.

The last is a weird one. I’ve googled around and found a few other people mention it, but not too many. If I keep hearing a really repetitive noise, it starts to morph into screaming sounds in my head. Like, one day, my husband and I were sitting around. I was crocheting, and he was playing a Super Nintendo game that played a 5 second song on an infinite loop. I wasn’t too bothered by it, but then the screaming started. It was quiet at first, but over time, it was so loud in my head, all I could do was think about it. And I couldn’t decipher what was being screamed, it was like being in a room next to a screaming match, except way louder. After a while, it started causing pretty severe anxiety. Even after muting the song, it took a while for the screaming to fade away.

I’ve experienced all of these more than once, and it can be so damaging. Other people don’t get it, and just think you’re being unreasonably mad to cause trouble. Because of that, all of these also come with a nice layer of guilt and shame too. Because why can’t you control how you feel the way everyone else does? Why do you have to be so sensitive and disrupt other people’s lives?

It’s also kind of hard to research on your own. When I Googled it, I was met with a few helpful blogs and forum posts, but mostly it was articles about Misphonia. The two seem pretty similar, but from what I read, Misphonia seems to be triggered by specific noises. The noise sensitivity I experience can be triggered by literally anything if I’m already in an irritable mood or close to one.

I’m hoping it gets more research, or even just acknowledgement. I’ve explained all this to some of my psychiatrists and therapists in the past, but it always gets brushed aside as another general irritability symptom. No one has been able to help with any solid coping mechanisms, and it sucks.

Just getting some stuff off my chest (TW: Talk of suicide)

So, I made this blog with the intention to talk about my struggles with mental illness (in part, at least). Of course, just after setting it up, I ended up in a really severe depression episode.  It was several days of sobbing uncontrollably, extremely paranoid and delusional thinking, and very strong urges toward committing suicide. I’m still depressed now, but it’s taken the turn into the more apathetic and tired variety.

I’m currently self medicating with Marijuana which helps with my mania a lot, and my anxiety a little. It also helps a lot with depression when I can actually use it. I’m responsible for driving my husband to and from work, and since I can’t drive when I’m high, I can’t take any until after later on at night. So, all day I just sit and wait, trying to cope with however I feel, until I can make it go away.

When I was first diagnosed with Bipolar, GAD, and Panic Disorder I was also diagnosed with mild Agoraphobia. I was prescribed Paxil and Lorazepam by a nurse practitioner who apparently didn’t know much about Bipolar. Surprise, SSRIs aren’t good for it! I had been mostly manic with shorter episodes of depression until taking Paxil, but it kind of fucked me up, I guess. About a month into taking it, I ended up in a weird psychotic rapid-cycling state. I thought I could hear my neighbors talking about me through the walls, and I was sure everyone was out to get me. I actually drove 40 minutes out of town after dropping my husband off at work. I was just going to leave because my mind was telling me he was cheating on me, he secretly thought I was disgusting, and he wanted to kill me. I ended up pulling to the side of the road and sobbing for a couple of hours before calling my husband. He talked me down, and I ended up getting off Paxil.

After that, I had more frequent and severe episodes of depression and was eventually diagnosed with severe Agoraphobia and PTSD. I’ve been through every mood stabilizer, anti-psychotic, and Benzodiazepine that could be prescribed for my conditions. Nothing has worked for more than a few weeks (with the exception of Lorazepam for panic attacks. But of course, even with no history of abuse, I can’t get those anymore). I stayed with Lithium for two years, and Depakote for three. I wasn’t ever happy. Mood stabilizers make me feel overheated, stupid, and agitated constantly. I punched through walls and doors in fits of rage. I broke fingers and toes constantly from violent outbursts. I also had constant anxiety over all the possible side effects. It was horrible, like a really low point in my life that lasted years and years.

Finally, I got fed up with it and went off meds. It wasn’t a great time either, but at least I was a little less angry. It wasn’t long after though that medical Marijuana was legalized here, so I decided to try it. And for the first year or so it was like a miracle. I felt so amazing, like I’d finally crawled out of the hole I was fated to die in and saw sunlight. It sounds silly, but I can’t even describe what a difference it was.

Fast forward to now… Things aren’t as amazing. Yeah, they’re better than with Paxil or mood stabilizers, but it’s not great. I still get a lot of depression cycles, and my cognitive abilities have definitely declined. I’m not sure if that has been caused by age, Marijuana, or the parade of meds I’ve dealt with, but it sucks. I’m at the point now where my perception of time is totally fucked up. I can sit and crochet or play a game and think maybe an hour or two has gone by, but it’s really been ten hours. I have clear memories from recent experiences but I can’t place what day or time they happened, or put together much of a timeline of recent years. I will frequently jump up in a panic telling my husband about some errand we were supposed to do or bill we were supposed to pay, and he’ll calmly inform me that we took care of it the day before. But that memory feels like it happened weeks ago. It doesn’t sound that serious, but it’s extremely disorienting and causes me a ton of anxiety.

Between that and my Agoraphobia and Depression, things feel pretty hopeless. I’ve tried all kinds of therapies, and it just seems like I get worse as time and treatments go on. Every day is a miserable struggle, even when I’m not actively depressed, so I constantly wonder what the point of it is if getting better isn’t in my future. I haven’t been able to hold down a real job or leave my yard by myself in over two years now. I’ve never been the type of person to be accepting of the idea of death. I’ve always wanted to become a cyborg or upload my consciousness and live forever. So constantly feeling like everything is pointless and I should take my own life definitely seems like part of the illness. But, I still can’t shake it.