the man with the scary face. 

I can remember that when I was a child, I was afraid to shut my eyes.

I’m not sure if I watched too many scary movies, or if my big sister locked me in dark closets one too many times, but at some point I developed a fear of darkness.

It started out like normal kid stuff – I wanted a night-light in my room. Fine. But soon the night-lights weren’t bright enough and I wanted a hallway light on with my door left open a crack. I would stare into the slightly illuminated darkness and tell myself that the shadows on the walls were from normal things, and no one was under my bed, and if I needed an adult I could just yell. This became a bed-time routine that continued until my  eyeballs became dry, and my heavy eyelids could no longer stay open, and I would unintentionally fall asleep.

This is the very first time I can remember having a nightmare: The shadows in my room came alive and a bad man was coming to get me; I screamed and screamed and screamed for help but I was voiceless, at which point I would wake myself up with a muffled, whispered “ahhhhhh…“.

That was the first time I had that nightmare, and it was definitely not the last. This dream became recurring into early adulthood.

This led to my fear of being alone. If an adult or a friend wasn’t in the house with me after dark, I would turn on every single lamp and light switch and sit in a corner with a pillow and blanket, a knife or something to defend myself with, and stare into the brightness of the house until I once again would unwillingly fall asleep.

I hated when my parents left me alone. I still have issues being alone at night.

Around the time I was about eleven or twelve I started taking an interest in my cosmetic appearance, and experimenting with make up; I developed a nightly wash-my-makeup-off routine. It was fun and girly and something I could share with my sister, and I was excited to be entering this stage in my life.

This was the first time I saw the man’s face.

It was after supper, and I was at my dad’s house, taking a shower before bed. I put face wash all over my face and lathered, and closed my eyes to wash the mascara off. He was there in the darkness of my mind – the same man from the shadows of my nightmares, but this time it was just his face. His features were grotesque and warped, his eyes hollow and black, and his mouth twisted into a sneer. I screamed, and opened my eyes, and he was gone.

I thought I was going crazy so of course I didn’t tell a soul. But my new nightly wash-my-makeup-off routine became something that terrified me, rather than bring me joy. I would lather my face around my eyes, rinse with a face cloth, and then wash one eye at a time as to always keep one open, so I wouldn’t see the man.

I can’t tell you how many years I did this for. But it led to many sleepless nights, plenty of night terrors, and eventually this life I live everyday, fighting depression.

I don’t see his face anymore, but I feel the fear. I truly believe that his face was a manifestation of my depression- a sort of foreshadowing of my troubles to come.

I hope you never meet him, the man with the scary face.

defining divorce

Mirriam-Webster defines divorce as “law : the action or an instance of legally dissolving a marriage“.

But what about an emotional definition of divorce?

How about, “The separation of a life together, that was thought to be forever“, or, “Realizing that you and the person who you planned on spending the rest of your life with, have grown a part from each other“, or even, “shattering your heart into a thousand pieces to leave him, because somewhere deep down, you know it’s the right thing to do“.

The truth is, the legality of it is so cold – going to the court house, signing the papers – it’s quite the opposite of the wedding, that’s for sure.

This past Friday was the official day my divorce finalized. It was a date that has been looming over my head for the past month, and as it inched closer, my anxiety grew into a monster that took up habitation in my chest cavity. I decided to celebrate the day, instead of being sad. What we had was special, I told myself, and if it only lasted a few years, I’m glad I held it for that time. I put on my big girl pants, a face full of make up, and a fake smile, and went to a friends house to drink wine and hang with the girls.

It was excruciating. Not because I wasn’t happy to be there, but because truthfully inside, my heart is broken. It is so damaged, I can picture the thousands of pieces of my heart suspended in my chest, aching to be put back together. Sometimes I feel as though I will never be able to fix it.

But then I remember that there is a Japanese art form called Kintsukuroi, which translates to “golden repair“. A lacquer is made out of powdered gold and pieces the item, (usually pottery) back together. The philosophy states that rather than disguising the break, the repair creates a new history for the object. It embraces the flaws and imperfections; it highlights the damage as “simply an event in the life of an object, rather than allowing its service to end at the time of it damage or breakage”.

It is beautiful.

So perhaps over time, I can weave a golden lacquer out of health and happiness, and piece my broken heart back together.

 

kintsukuroi

An example of Kintsukuroi

the highs are high; the lows are low.

Borderline Personality Disorder is essentially a mood disorder (also referred to as Emotional Disregulation Disorder). My mood is affected by a never-ending list of things: the weather, the public, the energy of a room, the energy of a specific person, a quick change in concrete plans, my dog barking, stubbing my toe, a thought popping into my head, etc etc etc. It is literally the flick of a switch – one second I am having a fantastic day and just when I think I am on top of the world, something so little changes and I am more depressed than ever.

This is obviously something that I am working on – this is what Dialectical Behavioural Therapy will teach me: how to even out those moods, and when I am feeling low, to not retreat into my dark room and cry for the rest of the day.

But I’ll tell you what – it’s fucking hard. 

Today was fantastic – I went to a morning yoga class, the weather was sunny and warm, I was productive, Day Hospital was a positive experience, I hiked with the dogs, and I had an evening goal to do some paperwork, and then maybe read the rest of my book (I’m reading A Brave New World, if anyone is wondering).

And then all of a sudden, I couldn’t find the charger to my ipad, and I feel as though my day has been ruined. I am currently angry, which is now causing me to be tired, which means that I don’t want to do my paperwork, which means that I won’t be prepared for tomorrow, which means that I probably won’t sleep well, which means that tomorrow will probably be shit… and that is how my brain spirals. I know it sounds crazy, but it is where my head goes, and right now, I can’t stop it. I know I will learn to, but it’s hard, and I guess sometimes I just want to complain.

I am going to do my best to salvage my evening; perhaps a brisk walk will reset my thought train.

Writing here helps so much, so thank you for listening.

caution: rough road ahead.

After six nights and seven days, I was discharged from the psychiatric ward at Cambridge Memorial Hospital. It was Friday, February seventeenth. My birthday.

Happy Birthday – we don’t think you’re crazy enough to harm yourself anymore, so you can leave.

In truth, I don’t want to harm myself anymore. My week on the ward, while difficult and emotional, was also eye-opening and therapeutic. I met many wonderful people during the week, and I promise I will tell you all about them, and my time there, but today is not about that.

Today is about my diagnosis.

In addition to a Major Depressive Disorder and a Generalized Anxiety Disorder, I have been diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder. On the bright side, it seems as though depression and anxiety can be a symptom of BPD, and once I get help for the BPD, the depression and anxiety will become less paralyzing.

The definition of BPD (according to the Mayo Clinic) is, “Borderline personality disorder is a mental health disorder that impacts the way you think and feel about yourself and others, causing problems functioning in everyday life. It includes a pattern of unstable intense relationships, distorted self-image, extreme emotions and impulsiveness.
With borderline personality disorder, you have an intense fear of abandonment or instability, and you may have difficulty tolerating being alone. Yet inappropriate anger, impulsiveness and frequent mood swings may push others away, even though you want to have loving and lasting relationships.
Borderline personality disorder usually begins by early adulthood. The condition seems to be worse in young adulthood and may gradually get better with age.”

During some of the research I have been doing, there were times when I actually felt like the articles were written about me precisely. It explains so much that has happened in my life, and finally gives me a tiny little dot of hope. Now that I know what it is, I can start to heal.

Borderline Personality Disorder is not treated with medication (besides the meds I take daily for depression)- because it is not technically a chemical issue with the brain, the way for example, some depression is treated with an SSRI because of a serotonin deficiency.
This fact I am actually happy about – I don’t want to keep putting more and more pills into my body until I am a sleepy zombie stumbling around the world, popping Ativan every time I feel anxious.

So how is BPD treated? Dialectical Behavioral Therapy“Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) treatment is a cognitive-behavioral approach that emphasizes the psycho-social aspects of treatment. The theory behind the approach is that some people are prone to react in a more intense and out-of-the-ordinary manner toward certain emotional situations, primarily those found in romantic, family and friend relationships. DBT theory suggests that some people’s arousal levels in such situations can increase far more quickly than the average person’s, attain a higher level of emotional stimulation, and take a significant amount of time to return to baseline arousal levels.
People who are sometimes diagnosed with borderline personality disorder experience extreme swings in their emotions, see the world in black-and-white shades, and seem to always be jumping from one crisis to another. Because few people understand such reactions — most of all their own family and a childhood that emphasized invalidation — they don’t have any methods for coping with these sudden, intense surges of emotion. DBT is a method for teaching skills that will help in this task.”

Coping skills. Therapy. Basically, delving into my mess of a life, and accepting what made me this way, and learning how to cope with triggers, and future stressful situations. Easy peasy, right? No. But I have a wonderful tool at my disposal: A twelve week program designed to help folks like me who struggle with mental health, to learn these coping mechanisms, as well as other skills such as mindfulness, goal planning, wellness communication, and much more.

So, for the next three months, five days a week, I head to the hospital and work on me. But I get to come home every day, and sleep in my own bed (with my pup), and that is definitely the cherry on top.

I can’t wait to tell you more about my experience in this program, which is referred to as “Day Hospital”, and show you how I grow and heal. I will leave you with a painting from one of the hospital classrooms, because just as I do, you too have the power.

you-have-the-power

 

girl, interrupted.

This past Friday I had a panic attack. The few days prior to Friday had been hard – I was emotional as well as adjusting to a new environment. I went to bed on Thursday night, calm, and feeling positive – I can do this, I said to myself. I am going to wake up in the morning, and be happy and walk the dog and go to yoga and everything will be okay.

Friday morning could not have been further from my action plan.

I woke up feeling sad and empty. I wanted to stay in bed, but I willed myself out and washed my face. I made it as far as the kitchen before the tears started. Feed the dog, I told myself. Feed Lucy, and just take the day one step at a time.

I put Lucy’s dish on the floor and collapsed. I was hyperventilating, and screaming into the kitchen tiles. What the fuck is wrong with you? Why couldn’t you just stick to your plan for the day. Lucy isn’t going to get a walk. Stop crying, this is ridiculous.

My thoughts initially were just a little self deprecating, but very quickly the darkness took over. You’re never going to be happy. Why do you want to live if the rest of your life is going to be life this? Hurt yourself. Write a note, and end it all.

I called my father. Dad, come home and take me to the hospital. I want to hurt myself.

 

I was admitted to the psych ward at Cambridge Memorial Hospital. I am on a locked unit with eight to ten other people, who just like me, are having a hard time. We have a few breaks a day to see the outside world, but mostly our days are filled with group therapy, and positive activities. Sometimes Dad and Karen bring the dogs over in the evening, and I’m allowed to go for a walk with them.

One day at a time.

 

 

dear girl, you’re the only one that will fight for you.

I have been down for the past couple of days. Depression does that – it’s a roller coaster of emotions that come and go, and you’re the only one there to feel them.

What started it was seeing that my ex-husband and his new girlfriend are now living together. Not that I want him back, or want to be with him in any sort of way. But he told me that he would always be there for me, and told me that we would always be together, in sickness and in health. But what he really meant was, in health, and then when the going gets tough, he will get going. Why didn’t he fight for me?

Then, the man I had been dating for the past year, called me this morning because I sent him a text last night hinting that I was upset. I told him, “This is hard, and I miss you”, to which he responded, “I know, and I miss you too, but we can’t be talking like this anymore”. Why won’t he fight for me?

Then, as I was about to turn back over in bed, and spend the next 12 hours crying and feeling sorry for myself, and feeding my depression, a thought popped into my head: YOU ARE THE ONLY ONE THAT WILL FIGHT FOR YOU.

So today, I am going to fight for myself.

You should fight for you, too.

 

a career. a house. a husband.

I had it all. The trifecta. The magical three things that society says you should have in order to be considered successful. The magical answer to an impossible equation. Wasn’t it on a Sex and the City episode that said you only get two? Well I had all three.

I wanted none.

I met my dream man, landed my dream job, my dream man proposed, we bought our dream house, we had our dream wedding. It was a lot of dreaming. It made me dizzy.

I have never felt complete in my life. I have always been looking for something to fulfill me/ complete me/ quench my thirst/ make me want to stay when all I want to do is run.

I filled my insatiable hunger with school, and relationships, and buying property, and marriage. But it has never been enough.

So, I quit the career. I sold the house. I divorced the husband.

Now what?

“It took her years of pulling back layers to find the love she was born to hold. For her own heart and soul were craving her attention.
She was always putting others before her. Now it was time to wrap her fingers around her own body, caressing her beauty and believing in her worth.” Simi Fromen

 

when the night comes.

Sometimes, when I go to sleep at night, I silently tell each of my loved ones how deeply I care for them, and then I apologize, as I wish with all my strength that I won’t wake up in the morning.

I have spent countless hours over this past month, staring at this screen. Typing – deleting – typing – deleting – typing – smashing the laptop screen shut. I felt pressure – pressure to have the perfect first post. It is, after all, my first blog, and I want to catch the readers’ attention. I want to hook you all in, so you will subscribe and follow me and I can touch the lives of hundreds, maybe thousands.

No.

That is a pressure that I created in my head – no one put that pressure on me, but myself. The purpose of starting this blog is not to gain followers. The purpose of this blog is to have an outlet for my brain. An outlet for the thoughts that creep into my head when I’m falling asleep at night, or walking, or at a party, or at yoga. A place to write down my trials and tribulations, but also my strengths, and happy moments. Or maybe post an article that has helped me through a tough moment, or perhaps a piece of advice from a friend that I hold dear to my heart.

I invite you to come along on my journey. Adventure with me as I challenge myself to live a better life. I have much to tell you about my past, and if you’ll listen, I will share.

Shan

As a side,  I would like to thank my friend Jillian, for sometimes knowing me better than I know myself. She suggested an amazing song, part of which ultimately became the title of my blog.

Please have a listen to When the Night Comes by the talented Dan Auerbach