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Here’s me dreading most social activities, including blogging.

Obviously, I’m one of those bloggers. Well, it’s not even fair to call me a blogger because I’m one of those people who blogs in spurts, usually separated by months, if not years, of silence.

Courtesy of my sweet-ass new therapist (*fist pump*), I learned recently why I don’t have many friends, and I think this information actually might have some bearing on this topic of being a shit blogger.

I am not a bad person. I’m a pretty decent person, I think. I’m probably pretty screwed up, though, to be honest, I don’t think that’s exactly rare. But, despite all the ways that I have no idea who I am (thanks, C-PTSD), generally speaking, I know. I’m a decent person whose intentions are good. I am a deep and wide thinker, and feeler, for that matter (these things are neither good, nor bad, but maybe often both). I treat others much better than I treat myself (working on that). I have many, many, many interests. I have a handful of core interests and while most peoples’ order of importance in terms of their interests drop sharply after that core list, mine tend to fall away very gradually, and they spread out. And when I say interests, I mean everything–the superficial stuff that we generally have “in common” with other people (movies, music, books, etc.), but also various topics, ideas, experiences, philosophies, etc. Basically, anything that fills my head, day in, day out.

Most folks have a handful of core interests that float around outside things like their significant other/family, their job, religion (or lack thereof), etc. Perhaps they like baseball, hiking, and romance novels–just about everything else is entirely off of their radar. This makes it much easier for them to make friends. Here’s something I didn’t know before, well, last week. My definition of a “friend” has been very different from your average definition. This isn’t surprising because I had a lot working against me growing up when it came to learning how to socialize. So, I thought that a “friend” was someone with whom you related to most–the person, or persons, who checked off the most boxes for you, personally. Apparently, that’s not what most folks do. And how hard it is to find those people anyway, amiright? (I thought I found one once, but it was a mirage) Turns out, most people have 3-5 “close friends,” and rather than each of them checking off all your boxes, they check off one. Maybe two. So, those people with fewer interests require fewer people to meet their needs. You got all your friends who have spouses, kids, jobs (you can all get together on that shit), and then there’s one for baseball, one for hiking, one for romance novels…you get the picture.

Based on this theory of friendship, you can see where my trouble lies. First, the idea of having more than, say, three close friends horrifies me. I mean, that sounds tremendously time consuming and stressful. In that sense, my initial idea that close friends should be the people who click the most boxes works–except, it doesn’t. Very, very few people click enough boxes. And let’s not forget that they must also fulfill other requirements–like not being a complete douchebag. No racists, misogynists, or homophobes. No one who says things like, “The poor are just lazy!” None of that, no. No people who make themselves feel good by openly belittling others. You know, that kind of shit. So, we just narrowed the pool down even more, because, wowee, is it me or are there just an ass-ton of jerks out there?

Second, the fact that my interests/needs are many and they are all over the place. I have never come across a group of people, a clique, a club, an organization–anything–that I have felt completely comfortable with. It’s usually because while I like/believe/appreciate whatever the thing is that brings those people together, I’m just as likely to like the opposite as well, believe that something counter could exist, or appreciate other things entirely. Most folks can narrow in on things–I can’t. So, in order to have enough close friends that actually fulfill my needs–who check off all the boxes–I would have to have more friends than I could possibly ever hope to spend any meaningful amount of time with without cutting into my sleeping and bathroom time.

So, what do I do? I throw up my hands and go, “Fuck it,” and isolate myself into an agoraphobia diagnosis (seriously, I was like, really?). I get completely overwhelmed with the idea that I require that many people that I shut down. Also, it’s often hard for me to focus on one thing, or even a few things, long enough to be “present” for any one person who is, at that moment, representing this or that need. Can you see how much easier it would be if I could just have 2-3 friends who were, basically, exactly like me? No pressure there. The polar opposite of that is the scenario where I have to socialize with people with whom I have absolutely nothing in common with. This, to me, is hell. And they could be the nicest people on earth…seriously. And I feel terrible about it. But having to talk to them–small talk, any topic, whatever–is liable to push me into an anxiety attack.

It’s fucking ridiculous.

But what does this have to do with blogging and why I’m so shitty at it? I guess I’ll have to tell you tomorrow, because, well, I’m a terrible blogger. No joke, I saw it on a list of dos and don’ts for blogging, on the Internets, so it’s obviously a fact.

#4 – Keep it short

Lengthy posts are rarely read.  Limit your content by telling your story in a succinct way.

See? Oops. But I’ll get into that in my next post…

 

 

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It feels much worse than this.

I’ve been feeling pretty shitty for a few days now and not really knowing where it was coming from. Here’s what’s tough about C-PTSD and starting therapy for it–you know something is wrong, so being depressed, or what have you, is expected. It doesn’t make it even a little bit tolerable, but it is expected. The trouble is trying to figure out which of a thousand things it could stem from. For me, at least, it’s very often almost impossible to tie it to one thing, and without being able to do that, I feel completely helpless to address it and work through it. So, I’m just completely overwhelmed with this bleak, worthless, piece of shit feeling.

Well, Father’s Day, obviously, right? Am I upset about the father who consistently told me how lazy and stupid I was, or the one who wasn’t around 98% of my life and showed up just to tell me: 1) that he didn’t actually think I was his daughter, and 2) he’d rather have been able to talk to my sister (whom he believes is his), but he didn’t have her contact information? Both? Great. So, let’s say that’s bothering me…

…except that it’s probably also the stranger online that “complimented” me on my “gut” the other day. You, relatively well-adjusted person who thinks I’m probably just weak as fuck, would probably blow that off, because who cares what a stranger thinks? My conscious, rational mind says that too, but here I am a few days later, without even thinking of that guy, except I am thinking “I need to never eat anything again.” What? Just because of some idiot online? Of course not. I weighed 99 pounds when I graduated high school at 17. Throughout high school, I was called “anorexic.” I worried about my weight and was very self-conscious about my appearance. I ate everything I could fit in without puking, but nothing worked. At home, my very overweight mother and older sister treated me like the enemy. They acted as if my life was somehow blessed to be perfect because I was skinny. All of my social and psychological issues didn’t matter, nor did the fact that I wasn’t thin. I was grossly underweight. I suspect a normal parent would have looked at her 17-year-old, 99-pound daughter and thought, “Christ, is this a medical issue?” Especially when that daughter is crying and drinking protein shakes all fucking day, trying desperately to put on a few pounds. But no, while I did that, I was verbally abused and treated like shit. My dad? He said it was my fault. He said I’d have a normal weight if I stopped “eating shit all day.” “Shit” was protein shakes and pasta. A lot of pasta. Whatever the case, no one thought to take me to doctor. And when my metabolism shit the bed when I was 23, I piled on about 50 pounds over the course of 3-4 months. I was horrified. It didn’t help that when I went home to visit my family, my mother and sister made fun of me, welcoming me to their social hell. They thought it was funny. They started calling me “fat.”

So, yeah. “Nice gut,” the guy said. I am 41 years old. I weigh about 137-138 pounds. I’m 5’6″. I work out 5-6 days a week, an hour to an hour and a half per day. And I’m thinking that I should never eat anything again. So, okay, that’s what’s bothering me…

…except I got a text today from the cat shelter saying they want to have a new person join me on the days I volunteer to clean there. A couple of the things I like about going there is: 1) I’m just surrounded by cats (who aren’t calling me lazy, stupid, or commenting on my gut), and 2) quiet, alone time. It was good and therapeutic for me, since I’m having such a tremendously terrible time with people lately. But now, I guess I’m supposed to drive 45 minutes one-way once a week to spend 2-3 hours engaging in uncomfortable small talk with a stranger. And by “engaging” I mean “white-knuckling it,” and by “uncomfortable,” I mean, “I’d rather slit my wrists.” I’m not exaggerating. Just thinking about it pushed me into an anxiety attack. Right now, I’m trying to figure out a way to get out of it. The thing to do is to just be honest, but, let’s face it: Who wants to tell someone they don’t know very well that they can’t come in anymore because they’ve gone through so much fucking trauma in their lives that the idea of having to spend a few hours with a stranger every week makes them think dying in their sleep would be preferable? And sure, I can go on and on about this shit here, to the faceless Internets. But it’s different when it’s someone who don’t know well and you have to see them, even just sometimes. Because after this, I’ll never be able to be around this person ever again without assuming she thinks I’m a fucking nutcase.

And all I can think is: I really liked going there and seeing the cats. I liked the cats. Cats are good. People are not good. I will miss them.

So, I’ve pinpointed by problems, right? Good. Except…it doesn’t even fucking matter. I have no idea how to actively address any of it. I often feel like I’d have been better off without having figured out what my problem is. Sure, I’d have kept going through life experiencing shitty emotional flashbacks and hating myself, but even then, there seemed to have been reprieves. I had coping mechanisms, healthy or not, and they got me through. They were stepping stones keeping me out of the lava. Now it’s just lava, all the time.

Once you figure out it’s C-PTSD, there’s no where to run. And the episode I had a few months ago–there’s really no getting over all of that. It didn’t just rip off some scabs; it ripped off my skin. I can’t come back from it. There isn’t any kind of going back. Everything terrible that’s ever happened to me is no longer occupying some bullshit closet in the back of my brain. It’s all up front and inescapable, and it’s triggered by everything. Literally everything. From the shit I mentioned above to things like: articles of clothing, places (for instance, cabins: I can’t go into why, but any cabin will do–actual cabins, pictures of cabins, the word “cabin”–that is one example out of an endless supply), certain objects, sometimes just shapes or colors, smells, times of day, my own body and face (seriously, try that one on for size), everything. All of this and more will trigger feelings of deep loneliness, abandonment, self-loathing, etc. and these things roll over into a sort of numbness, which is really just a blur of everything until it becomes indecipherable, which seems to stay settled in this extremely nihilistic enveloping cushion of depression. And then I start thinking that this will never end–this cycle of feeling okay for a handful of days, and then, exactly what I described. It is going to keep happening, over and over, and this will be the rest of my life. And then I want to kill myself, because this shit isn’t living. It’s unbearable. And it’s not fair because it’s not my fault and I didn’t ask for it.

You might think I can just smile, or think positive thoughts, or whatever. Like all the super-awesome memes say. Happiness is what you make it, right? You just have to decide to be happy. Do you actually believe that shit? Well, if it works for you, that sure is nice. But that doesn’t work for people like me. These feelings, when they come, they don’t feel like they’re coming from any particular place in you. It really feels like something unconnected to you that is happening to you. Something that is completely out of control. Imagine having this stranger in your real life who is ten times your size and strength, and who, without any warning whatsoever, comes out of nowhere and beats the living shit out of you. Like, really beats you absolutely bloody, and then he disappears. He is never apprehended, never punished. And you don’t really know why he does it. In fact, you have no idea why. Maybe he sometimes kind of looks like your mom, or dad, or sibling, or friend, or ex-, or just some nobody. When he’s somewhat recognizable, you think maybe you know why it’s happening–because maybe your mother treated you like shit. But see, that’s not even the reason, because when you’ve been abused and neglected from Day One, from before you can even remember, you have never known why she treated you like shit to begin with. And chances are, you’ll never know. But your infant brain was wired to believe it was your fault. So, this guy who beats you and gets away with it–you hate him, you don’t really know why it’s happening, but God, you hate yourself for it.

And frankly, if you don’t nod your head immediately and know exactly what I mean, then I don’t think it’s anything you can ever understand.

But this is where I am right now, here on this fucking Father’s Day. Social media isn’t an option for distraction because it’s just a sea of love for fathers everywhere. I hate my biological father. And while I loved my step-father, I can’t deny that he was verbally belittling and verbally abusive (and yeah, maybe you thinks that’s not a big deal, but I already had so much going against me at that point, it’d have taken a feather to knock me down). And he’s dead anyway.

I don’t know how to process this. Any of it. Any of the deep-past, the recent-past. A lobotomy at this point seems like a viable, reasonable, more pleasant option. I’m not joking.

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What Happened To Me

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One of my more pathetic Instagram moments.

So, here’s something that happened…

Some folks have been wondering what’s been up with me. Others, don’t give a shit (*high five* …thanks). I realize that, for almost two months now, I’ve been erratic, angry, depressed, a little crazy. A lot. Why have I been such an intolerable fucking bitch? I’ve made it no secret on social media, which, though I’ve I lost a number of rather dis-compassionate “friends,” was absolutely necessary to help me get through what I’ve been going through, for no other reason than as an escape for feeling as alone as I did. And in some ways, still do.

Actually, a few things happened at once, but the two major things were: 1) withdrawal symptoms from an anti-depressant had kicked in, and by “kicked in,” I really mean to say that they kicked me in the teeth. And 2) someone whom I considered a very close friend and whom I care a great deal for, quite suddenly removed me from their life. These two things happened at exactly the same time. I honestly can’t tell if one compounded the other, or vice versa, but the effect was like having been emotionally and psychologically nuked. I am the emotional equivalent of Ground Zero and I’m not exaggerating even a little bit.

I’ve been able to figure out a number of things, in terms of depression, medication, and my life, as a result of all of this. On one hand, that’s a good thing. On the other hand, it was a hell of a lot to go through to finally have the tools to get a handle on something that should have been handled years ago. I’m talking in my childhood, or at the latest, in my early twenties.

Sometime last spring, I hit a wall. I woke up one day—seriously—and I couldn’t function. I was overwhelmed with racing thoughts (much worse than usual) and I couldn’t figure out how to get going—how to do anything. It was a little like trying to step off a rapidly moving merry-go-round, whereas before the ride would stop occasionally for me to get off. It was no longer stopping and I couldn’t get off. It was immediately noticeable and pretty much hobbled me. A lot of projects fell by the wayside. I got very depressed. But I didn’t stop trying to figure out what was going on. It’s not really the kind of thing you can pop by the doctor’s and say, “I have this particular kind of pain right here.” I had happened across a few articles, independently of one another in a helpful confluence of good luck, about ADHD, which isn’t something I’d ever considered before, because I’m female and I’m not hyperactive, and nothing in our culture pointed me that way. Turns out, though, that the knowledge of ADHD has changed drastically since I probably should have been diagnosed, which would have been as far back as age 7-8. Nine at the latest. Age nine is the earliest I can pinpoint depression with no discernible pattern, which isn’t normal.

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But the things discussed in these articles were things I understood instantly, and my God, I’d figured it out. I thought back to my childhood and the difficulties I’d had—the terrible grades, the inability to concentrate or retain certain forms of information—a ton of stuff—and unfortunately, the labels “stupid,” and “lazy,” and the cute, but ultimately deflating “space cadet.” Then, the depression. I’ve concluded that I very likely suffer from inattentive type ADHD, which manifests more in females than males. Unfortunately, in 1983, girls weren’t believed to exhibit any form of ADHD, and so we were ignored and undiagnosed. It didn’t help that my parents, frankly, could safely be labeled as dumbasses in terms of meeting the needs of all of their children above food and shelter. Not to mention the bootstrap, we’re-a-military-family-ness of my general upbringing. If I could not perform as expected, it was absolutely my fault, and me, being a kid—I didn’t know how crippled I was in that environment, so I believed it. All of it. Stupid, lazy, space cadet. Because no matter how hard I worked, how hard I tried, I failed the vast majority of the time. So, the fact is, I learned how to compensate for these failings by pushing myself ten times as hard as anyone around me just to get by. I was also incredibly hard on myself. I also learned unhealthy coping mechanisms, like bottling everything up, and misdirecting my righteous fucking anger inward.

Is it really any wonder I got “depressed?”

Since I was about 17, I have been diagnosed as bi-polar, manic depressive, and/or psychotic–all different times, different doctors–and I’ve had doctors try very hard to medicate me for these things. Turns out, I’m pretty positive, I am not and have never been any of these things. What I can say for sure is that, at age 20, after about 11 years of pushing myself to exhaustion to achieve “low-to-normal” standards of success in academic and social pursuits (and often failing anyway, and sinking periodically into stretches of a depression I could not pinpoint the source of because I had no reason to believe that this wasn’t just some pathetic weakness of character in me), I had a nervous breakdown.

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Without going into the gory details, it’s important to note that I was medicated at the time—an anti-depressant and sedative, the names of which I can no longer remember. I tried to kill myself. Took a bunch of pills. Obviously, I survived, but just barely, and I spent the next month and a half or so in a psyche ward (where they decided I was “psychotic,” though I gave them no reason to think this). Here, they tried to put me on Lithium (which is absolutely ridiculous). I didn’t want to be on anything at this point, but they insisted on sedatives to help me sleep, against which I did not argue. They proceeded to overdose me and I spent months physically recovering from that (their excuse: “Oops.” No kidding–I am not fucking kidding).

I swore I’d never do that again.

Fast forward about twenty years. I’ve spent half of my life, more so, really, believing my depression was clinical. Chemical. Something I would just have to live with. And while I went through periods of my life coping with various downturns as well as anyone could be expected to, I think, much of the depression was still without a pattern. Thus, it must be chemical, right? Right. Meanwhile, I’m still running circles around myself and my own brain to manage to accomplish anything. The shit I had to do to get through undergrad and grad school, I can see now, was ridiculous. At the time, I just thought, “This is how stupid, lazy space cadets get through school. It’s all-consuming and it’s what you do 24-7.” By the time I got my MFA (literally, the final semester), the stress, anxiety, and depression blew out my fucking thyroid (they still have no “explanation” for that, but I know what lead up to it).

That said, my depression at this point, though still out-of-the blue, so to speak, was manageable. It was something I came to look at as this inexplicable thing that was terrible for the time it lasted, but would always go away. So, when it came, I just sank into myself and waited. Eventually, it would go away. Not the most awesome way to live, but much better than how I’d been handling it in my teens and 20s. I wasn’t anywhere near wanting to kill myself.

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So, when I realized last spring that, hey, it seems very likely—I have far too many of the symptoms to dismiss it—that I actually have this inattentive form of ADHD, I decided I would tackle it like an adult. I’d go get it diagnosed and treated. (I should note here that in terms of my many so-called depression diagnoses, my symptoms might only have matched one or two out of twenty of thirty, but depression was always the go-to diagnosis. It was the 90s. It was too bad I didn’t get a psychiatric degree just to have been able to figure this out on my own…I guess I was too busy trying to survive with literally zero guidance and zero support).

I suppose another important detail is that I’d managed to inadvertently cultivate a general social anxiety disorder (with agoraphobia gravy, no less) in the last six or seven years. This is another thing, apparently, that happens when you go through life with ADHD and don’t know it. You do just about anything to stay away from anyone who could possibly look at you like you’re worthless—you steer clear of anyone that might notice how screwed up you are—how stupid and lazy and spacey. Pretty soon, you don’t leave the house. It happens slowly, so that you don’t even realize it. Then one day, because you can’t just be a hermit and you must sometimes be around people, you get knocked down by an anxiety attack. And then another. And another. And they don’t stop because you can’t live in a bubble. Once again, not depression, but pretty standard for undiagnosed ADHD.

I made an appointment at the local ADHD treatment program here. They made me fill out the most ridiculous, anxiety-triggering forms that I can’t imagine anyone with ADHD or general anxiety filling out without at least one meltdown (I had at least one). These forms, I found, didn’t allow me to fully explain what my symptoms were, nor did they really ask. They were, though, all about focusing on my supposed depression (though, at this time, I was pretty at peace with all of that—I dealt with it). What they said sounded reasonable. We would treat the depression/anxiety and then once that was under control, we’d address the ADHD issue.

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Okay. Fair enough. And I thought, hey, it’s been twenty years. I can’t let that experience twenty years ago stop me from possibly getting this crap taken care of, right? I had dreams of thinking and living “normally.” I fantasized about starting projects, working on them, and finishing them all within a tightly organized framework. I was so optimistic. So, I got medicated. First on Zoloft, which helped, but wasn’t awesome in terms of tolerable side effects.

Meanwhile, after a few months, I finally got an appointment for an assessment to determine if I have ADHD or not. Mind you, this assessment is, by and large, given to children, not adults. In the end, they concluded—and, get this, because it’s almost funny—that I once had ADHD when I was a kid. But I somehow grew out of it (which isn’t actually possible, but okay). No, not ADHD, but clinical depression and that depression was what was causing me the anxiety and current ADHD-like symptoms.

Got that? I had ADHD, but it magically went away and now my ADHD symptoms (which predate any kind of depression and have occurred unbroken from before I can remember) are just the result of my depression. Right. Also, part of what they felt proved I didn’t have ADHD now was that I had a Masters degree. Apparently, no one with ADHD pushes themselves through higher education without special provisions (or at all…they never asked me about special provisions). That I just about fried my nervous system doing it didn’t seem to make any difference.

Now, I’d been on this medication and it was absolutely helped with the anxiety. No more anxiety attacks, which was wonderful. And, no, no depression, but then, I wasn’t really having an issue with that to begin with. However, the ADHD symptoms persisted. I told them this and was promptly ignored. They insisted it was just because we hadn’t really tackled this depression/anxiety thing, despite that I was feeling pretty good about that, actually. Their diagnosis was, apparently, far more important than the symptoms I actually felt and told them about. My experience in all of this had no bearing whatsoever.

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I tried to give them the benefit of the doubt, and I liked not having the level of anxiety I had been experiencing, so I went on with it. I switched the Zoloft to Effexor, because there were side effects from the Zoloft that didn’t really excite me, so why not try something else? Mistake. On the Effexor, at first the side effects were okay, but then they were worse than the Zoloft, so we added some Wellbutrin to the mix to mitigate that. It was okay for a few months—and, again, my anxiety was almost non-existent—but then I started having side effects that really weren’t the kind you messed with. Dissociation, depersonalization. Just a few, very brief moments, but if you’ve ever experienced that, you know it’s not something that should (can) be tolerated. So, I told my doctor at my next appointment that I need to get off of this shit. The plan was to taper off the Effexor and stick to the Wellbutrin…see how that does for a bit.

Well.

A couple of weeks after starting the tapering (which ended up being far too fast and too extreme), I started having these emotional issues that weren’t normal for me. It was hard to pinpoint, but I knew something wasn’t quite right. And then, very suddenly, I lost my fucking mind. And it coincided exactly with this terrible loss of this friend who’d meant so much to me. It was a double whammy, which no one—and I mean no one—could possibly have dealt with well, let alone in any sane manner.

A little bit into this, I saw my doctor. According to her reaction, I went from being a fairly pleasant, jovial patient to someone who looked like they’d been dragged into an alley, beaten, and left there. We slowed down the tapering and she prescribed me yet another drug. Klonopin, a sedative. I knew nothing about it, but she talked about it in the same breath as Xanax, which I have taken before and is one of those take-it-as-you-need-it drugs.

It was not only too little, too late, it was actually pouring gas onto the fire. Here are some of the symptoms I experienced from the Effexor withdrawal: agitation, anxiety, confusion, impaired coordination, dizziness, dry mouth, dysphoric mood, fasciculation, fatigue, headaches, hypomania, insomnia, nausea, nervousness, nightmares, sensory disturbances (including shock-like electrical sensations), sweating, tremor, vertigo, and vomiting.

Sound like fun, right? It gets better. I started having anxiety attacks again, one after the other, which, for me, goes a little like this: I feel this building tightness in my chest and when it gets bad enough, my throat constricts, making it hard to breathe. Gee, if only my throat wasn’t constricted…well, it didn’t matter because once that happened, my lungs will also just…stop. They just stop working, voluntarily or involuntarily, and it’s always on the exhale. Which is fucking terrible. This invariably leaves me on my back on the floor sort of staring up at the ceiling trying to will my lungs to just inhale. Just inhale. Veins feel like they’re going to burst. Vision starts to get a little hazy. Banging on my chest with my hand doesn’t do anything to help things along, but at a certain point, you start to get a little desperate and more than a little scared. But eventually, before I can black out, finally, a wheezing, pathetic inhale through a still-constricted throat.

Now, imagine that every fifteen minutes or so.

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Surely you can understand that, along with my thinking Klonopin could be taken like Xanax, I popped a few more. I really, really needed those attacks—the product of the Effexor withdrawal—to stop. Funnily enough (because all of this is just hilarious), the dose my doctor had me on to begin with—I learned later—was far too high. So, I was already on too high a dose of that shit, and I popped a few extra, hoping to make this mortal horror of sequential anxiety attacks stop. Well, here’s what can happen when you take too much Klonopin: confusion, unusual thoughts or behavior, unusual risk-taking behavior, no fear of danger, weak/shallow breathing, unusual/involuntary eye movements, pounding heartbeats, easy bruising/bleeding, drowsiness, problems with thinking or memory, muscle weakness, loss of balance or coordination, slurred speech, dry mouth, loss of appetite, nausea, blurred vision, headache, insomnia, weight changes.

These are some side effects. Well, they’re the ones I experienced. I should clarify that “loss of appetite” and “weight changes” was actually vomit-inducing aversion to eating of any kind. I had an appetite. I was hungry, absolutely starving, but it was a good day if I could keep down a protein drink and about a cup and a half of food. That explained the rapid, unhealthy weight loss. I spent one night (just about all night) alone in a hotel room on the floor in front of the toilet trying to get down a single protein shake, because it’s all I had there that I could even realistically keep down, but even if I thought I could have eaten anything else, I was literally too weak to move. I should also mention…”problems with thinking or memory?” I could barely put a coherent thought together. And there’s about a week in early March that’s pretty much gone. Missing. There was one night that was gone pretty much immediately, but as time has gone on, that memory loss seems to have seeped both forward and backward into the proceeding and preceding days, where I recall some things, but it’s all very fuzzy and completely unreliable.

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I have absolutely no memory of taking or posting this. This, though, I know, was a particularly bad night.

Let’s talk about depression. Remember how I described what it had gotten to be at this point in my life: “It was something I came to look at as this inexplicable thing that was terrible for the time it lasted, but would always go away. So, when it came, I just sank into myself and waited. Eventually, it would go away. Not the most awesome way to live, but much better than how I’d been handling it in my teens and 20s.”

Compared to what I was now experiencing, any level of depression I’d ever experienced up until all of this bullshit was a fucking cake walk. Now, I have lost people that I loved, and I would count my deepest grief until this to have been when my father died. In fact, it is that grief that gives me a reference to this most recent experience. Those of you who have lost a loved one will know that the sadness and loss and depression that is grief is unlike anything you’ve felt. It’s its own thing. It’s all of these terrible things, but there is a certain tone to it, a depth, or a harmonic that resonates in every part of you. It’s very different from your run-of-the-mill depression. What I experienced for about a month was this, except a hundred times worse. It felt like everyone I knew and loved had all died at once. Not just a bit worse. Not just super-duper sad. I’ve never experienced anything like that and I’d chew my own arm off if I thought it would guarantee prevention in the future.

During the month of March, I tried to kill myself twice.

That’s pretty much where this whole thing freezes and my brain goes, “Wait. What?” Part of me feels like this should be embarrassing, but…it’s a fact of these drugs. It might be important for someone reading this to have this information. I would have liked to have had it.

I went to a doctor to get help for ADHD symptoms. They said they’d tease out the ADHD symptoms from the anxiety/depression and we’d move forward. The ADHD symptoms have never stopped. And here I am trying to end my life. Twice. This didn’t begin because my depression was so intolerable that I sought medical help, but because the doctor could not move past “a history of depression” on the paperwork, despite what I was currently feeling and suffering from–ADHD. And I’m trying to kill myself. Because I wanted to think more clearly and get a better handle on my life now that I knew what the real problem was and could learn healthier coping mechanisms/tricks to maneuver around the ADHD.

Suicide.

What the fuck?

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This week, currently, is the first week since the second time I took a bunch of pills that I’ve felt mostly okay again. In this particular case, trying to OD on the Klonopin rebooted all of those shit symptoms, including, for a little bit, this whooshing sound in my head when I move I eyes. Also, accompanying that, the sensation/sound of someone banging on a metal door, loud and hard, inside my head. Yeah, that couldn’t go away fast enough. I’ve only recently been able to drive again, and to walk down the stairs in the morning without sliding most of the way down with my arm against the wall because I can’t stand up straight. It’s all very similar to the overdose of sedatives they’d given me twenty years ago.

On one hand, I’ve been angry at myself for having gone through it again, but really, wasn’t it reasonable to have thought that over the course of twenty years, something might have changed? That they’d have a better understanding of not only how these drugs work, but how serious they are? These are not drugs you should fuck around with, even under a doctor’s supervision (because, honestly, they seem the worst prepared to administer them correctly, let alone to follow-up responsibly). I stopped going to my doctor and finished tapering off with what I had. I stopped the Wellbutrin altogether. She didn’t call to follow-up until two weeks later.

(Just for fun, here are some side effects of Wellbutrin: confusion, trouble concentrating, hallucinations, unusual thoughts or behavior, delusions, hostility. It might have contributed to my issues with all of this, but it might also be applicable to my next post).

Story time: In the spring of 2010, we had a friend who stopped taking his anti-depressant a few weeks before he had a complete psychotic break and murdered his girlfriend. This was an acquaintance for me, but actually a good friend of my husband’s. He’d stopped seeing the campus counselor who prescribed it and that counselor never followed up with him, despite having still been a student on campus, completely contactable. He’s doing 26.5 years in prison; she’s dead.

This isn’t shit that you fuck with. Anti-depressants are fairly well known at this point in actually causing suicidal thoughts. Two weeks, my doctor waited to call me. And the times I’ve been suicidal and actually tried to follow through were while I was medicated by a psychiatrist for a mental illness I never had.

Fact: ADHD, particularly undiagnosed and untreated, can cause severe depression and anxiety in adults. It’s hardly surprising—I spent 32 years trying to force my brain to work in a way that it simply could not. I was judged repeatedly, constantly, for not functioning “normally.” My nervous breakdowns weren’t the result of being bummed out, or clinically “crazy.” They were the result of the constant strain of having to keep that shit up. When I hit that wall last spring, it was just my mind telling me, “Enough of this shit. I’m done. I can’t do this anymore.” No professional person seems to give a shit that these symptoms predate any form of depression. I was a fucking kid, for fuck’s sake.

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If I’m not mistaken, I took a bunch of pills this day.

I’ve been belittled and told I’m defective my entire life. Anytime I tried to get any kind of help (I challenge you to figure this shit out on your own when your family doesn’t want to deal with it and no one knows you well enough to see the exact ways in which you are struggling), I was drugged, and not even responsibly. I feel like a guinea pig. I almost killed myself three times in my life all because depression, I assume, makes more money and more headlines than ADHD.

So, I’m currently still working my way out of that. I am leaps and bounds better than I was two months ago. Better than a month ago. Hell, better than two weeks ago. But I’m still depressed, though it’s not the I’d-rather-die-than-feel-like-this-for-one-more-minute kind of depression. It’s the regular ol’ existential depression when your experience of something turns out to have been, apparently, some kind of mirage, and of loss. Actual loss, not drug-induced pretend loss. But I can’t get into that.

Note: In case you’re wondering why all the selfies–no, I’m not a narcissist. I’m pretty sure. But I posted all of these during the last couple of months and I can tell you…these were not good times. I am heartbroken, miserable, desperate, and very often contemplating killing myself. This is pretty much what this shit looks like, but, needless to say, I did not record and post the worst of it. None of what you see here touches that.

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Weekend Reading

EditorFactCheck

Just a few articles about editing for your weekend read. A couple are older, one significantly so, but all totally still applicable. First, Blake Harrison’s “Black Day for The Blue Pencil” (2005), then Alex Clark’s “The Lost Art of Editing” (2011), which refers to Harrison’s piece. Finally, Barry Harbaugh’s “Yes, Books Editor’s Edit” from this month last year. All great, all worth reading for editors and writers alike.

Enjoy your weekend. Read and write a lot.

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run-onHere are a few punctuation tips. Read it. See which mistakes you’re guilty of, so you can stop making them. And, for the record, before writers start losing their minds about the punctuation police coming to ruin their genius and that we editors are all a bunch of dogmatic fundamentalists, I’ll say now that…I disagree with #9. Yes, I disagree. I will read a run-on sentence all day long (if that how long it is) so long as it’s punctuated correctly, reads wells (is not awkward and clunky), and is not confusing. And no, you can’t just keep adding “ands” and “buts.” And yes, it’s good to recognize when it’s more appropriate within the context of the piece to go ahead and split it up into two of more sentences. Just be aware.

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GSS Banner Final FinalMy quest to find out about more black folks in horror for my unofficial, impromptu Big Black Horror Month led me to this website that I’m actually embarrassed I did not know existed: Graveyard Shift Sisters. I was around when Pretty Scary started to give women in general a louder voice in the genre, but I bowed out when it became clear that men were dominating the conversation on the message boards (you know, where women were supposed to feel comfortable) and if anyone complained, we ladies were being “sexist.” Yeah, that old yarn. And, of course, there’s the “official” Women in Horror Month. But I can only assume that what exists out there for women in horror isn’t sufficient to also embrace fully women of color in horror. Or else, I suppose, there wouldn’t be a need to Graveyard Shift Sisters.
While I regret that this site is apparently necessary (the same way I regret that women need a special month to get recognition for their work in horror), I’m certainly glad it exists.
Here’s an article interviewing Nicole Renee Simmons:
…my first years giving this whole film thing a go, I had no idea. I wasn’t clueless; I just hadn’t experienced anything that necessarily pointed out me being different. The horror community is not just all guys first off. So I didn’t really feel the difference of gender until I started actually shooting. My crew was mostly men except for cast; the other directors of the genre were men. And then as I continued my education on to business entertainment, reality sunk in that I was extremely different. And not just in my specific genre, but my industry alone. There are a few black writers and directors in the film industry and even less in the horror film genre.

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Question-mark-on-book-1kda8osI have, for some time now, been nurturing a growing concern about my writing. And by nurture, I suppose I mean that it started as a question, became a nagging one, and didn’t seem to be going away, so I thought it best, I suppose, if I gave it its own room and made it comfortable. The answer wasn’t–and doesn’t seem to be–forthcoming, but I’m not entirely sure how to kick it out now. Though I do recognize that we shouldn’t allow these unanswerable concerns to live with us. I suppose I thought, at the time, it could be answered, so there wasn’t much harm in letting it stick around.

Wrong.

The concern is that…I actually have no idea what the hell it is I’m writing. I have no workshop, no readers; I work largely in a void. I feel reasonably certain it is literary. I spend time and thought and effort on character, setting, subtext, and language. But no literary magazine or press would touch this stuff, because they would not consider it literary. Because there is often a supernatural element, either dominating or at the bottom of it. And they can’t have that sort of thing.

So, it’s horror, right? Supernatural horror? Speculative fiction? Gothic? My writing has been called Gothic before (I’m looking at you, Mary Rickert) and it was good to hear because it made me feel better. I had an outside source describing what it is that I write, because I have no idea. And, on one hand, I can see it being described as Gothic. It’s kind of low-key, I think. Pretty subtle. I like atmosphere. I’d rather work my way to a big scare scene rather than throw it at the reader, over and over, without warning, with machine-gun speed and quantity. That kind of thing, to me, loses it’s appeal after a while (and not even a long while). But I also think that the term “Gothic”–for folks who don’t really know much about Gothic lit–produces certain images in the heads of readers, or even editors and agents, of castles, hidden passes, dungeons, harassed young women and brooding antagonistic men, and a general sense of the moon momentarily obscured by a passing cloud, punctuated by a Scooby-Doo wolf howl. And that’s not what I do. So, I’m leery of describing my writing in that way. (Full disclosure: I love Gothic Literature. Just sayin’.)

But “Horror” makes me think of chainsaws and machetes, and, again, rapid fire violence and gore, which is, again, not what I do. And “Speculative”…? Honestly, I’m not even sure I know what that means. Oh, and the other one, designed to trick literary folks into reading your MS…”Magical Surrealism.” I actually dislike that term simply because it feels like a cop-out. And to compound my problem, in addition to “Gothic,” my work has been described as “classic” and “traditional,” which in my head translates to, “Outdated–no one reads this shit anymore. No one but you.”

What I have are ghosts and monsters, mostly. Strange occurrences. And yes, violence and gore, but it’s…how can I describe it? It’s baked into the bread, not ladled over everything like a gravy. Again, there’s attention paid to character, setting, subtext, and language (which, I suppose, is why my stories tend to fall into that unpublishable length of too long for a short story and too short for a novella…and no one wants novellas or novelettes).

I think everyone would say, “It’s literary horror!” I used to think so as well. It’s a term I feel like I’ve been hearing increasingly over the last handful of years, and yet, I don’t see it in practice all that often. But then, I think the problem there lies with me. Here’s a fact: I have no idea what small-to-medium-sized presses publish this stuff. Actual “literary horror.” Because so far, what seems to pass as “literary horror” are stories with that same rapid fire violence/gore, though with a pinch of character development thrown in. Usually something deep, troubling, but generally still not particularly well developed. And, understand, I’m not bagging on this stuff. It is what it is and people like it. It seems to sell. But I still don’t see too much attention to language, except to just write a reasonably grammatical sentence (which, admittedly, is lacking in some other “subgenres” I’ve seen). And, again, this is my weakness. My failure. I don’t know where to look to find something truly “literary” and yet still scary, creepy, spooky, what-have-you. And it’s difficult to ask, because if I’ve learned anything, my idea of “literary” seems to be very different compared to what most genre folks define as “literary.” Often, when I do get a suggestion, it is of the “literary horror” type that, again, simply strives to write a readable sentence as opposed to one intended to be  both readable and beautiful.

This makes it really hard to submit stories…anywhere. I look at my publication list and I disappoint myself. But, I suppose it’s not terrible for someone who maybe submits two or three stories a year, if that. And I do have that length issue. I hardly want to submit my stories that fall within a generally accepted short story length because…I don’t really like them. They seem thin and underdeveloped to me. And the ones I really like…too fucking long.

So, this is the concern that pops it’s head into my bunker now and then. I don’t dwell on it. But after a few rejections, I think, well, they’re not bad stories. I don’t actually suck at writing.* It was the wrong market. That’s what I suck at. Hard. How the hell do I find the right market?

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*I don’t think there’s anything wrong with not bashing your work constantly–I do alright and I’m not ashamed of that.

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