Monday, October 31, 2016

Screech

There was a time in my life that I was addicted to crack and heroin. I was also homeless. Being homeless did not mean that I slept on the street, though. I stayed with my then boyfriend in a dilapidated trailer.
The trailer was like what you saw in hoarder shows. They had four dogs. And there was dog shit everywhere. So much that it wasn’t cleaned up. So much that the entire floor of their bedrooms was covered in a thick layer of dog shit. It stank. And if you stayed in the place for a while, you stank too. So bad that people don’t want to be near you.
It was infested with roaches of all kinds. There was just no avoiding them. They were in the fridge. They were in the microwave. They still crawled out when you microwaved something. There was a thick, grainy dust and spots from them on every surface. Even on the walls and the ceiling. They were the most active at night. And the dogs would stomp, snap at and eat them.
Cobwebs from spindly spiders spanned across entire rooms. You could kill seven and five minutes later, more would appear.
The worst part of it all was the rats.
They were fat. They were loud. I had been laying on the couch when I heard something walking through the hallway. It stopped at the entrance. It was huge and brown. It walked away slowly from me. As if it were not afraid.
I do not know how many there were. But they would get in the couch. And they would fight. I could feel them scuffling around inside. They felt like light knocking through the couch. They would squeak and screech loudly. I trembled in the pitch blackness of night. When the roaches came out and the rats were the most active. In the darkness, I did not know if it was a dog that ran across the floor just feet in front of me while I lay exposed on the couch, or if it was the giant, fat rat that had stared at me fearlessly earlier.  
I have post-traumatic stress disorder and the nightmares of this place are frequent and disturbingly real. I am back there and the rats are denning in the couch beneath me. I feel them thudding, fighting, and hear them screeching below.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

The Mental Hospital

“Good morning,” the nurse flipped the light on, the ugly glare of the Fluorescents, “How are you?”
“Good,” I moved my mouth the way I thought would sound like the word “good” but it sounded more like “screw you” in my head.
I sat up in my hospital bed and self-consciously smoothed my hair down, mainly in the back. My hair was short and notorious for having some really wacky bedhead, but just because I was in a mental hospital didn’t mean I had to look the part. The nurse took my blood pressure and temperature, recorded it and left my room without turning the light off.
“Asshole...” I scoffed and flipped the light off and laid back in bed. I pulled the blanket around my arms to cocoon myself. I had barely slept the night before; not only was I in a new ‘exciting’ place, but nurses constantly shined flashlights in my face to make sure I hadn’t escaped and kept me up with the sounds of a radio and their constant chatter. Moreover, the bed was somehow more uncomfortable than the one at my dorm! It sucked! And I hoped that I could just sleep a little bit longer…
Only then two other nurses burst through the door, flipped my light on and said “You have to get out of your room now. We’re locking doors.”
Sigh.
I pouted inwardly and shuffled into the lobby with my fellow crazies. An ex-marine shuffled around the room sipping coffee from a styrofoam cup. A couple others sat around the table in the kitchen with their hot drinks. I was offered something to drink from one of the nurses but rejected it. Even if I was about to die from dehydration, my pride would not allow me to accept a drink from them. They kept everything- spoons, sodas, cookies, and other snacks locked up from the patients. You had to ask for everything from the snooty nurses, it was like being in kindergarten again! I had to ask them for permission to do everything: Will you unlock the bathroom? May I take a shower? Can you unlock my cabinet so I can change my clothes?
I often felt degraded because of that and when I had an option not to rely on them granting me something, I always denied their help.
I sat in a chair next to an elder woman with short, black hair and a large bruise above her left eye. She looked confused and said to me, “Can you help me find my trailer? I looked everywhere and… this isn’t my furniture. I wouldn’t have bought any of this!” She stood up from her seat and started trying door knobs, all of which were locked.
“Where’s the way out of here?” She asked jiggling the bathroom door. One of the nurses in their blue scrubs told her not to worry, that she would be staying there for a while and led her to the kitchen table.
I looked at the clock and was annoyed. Five in the morning. Everyone else in the geriatric unit certainly weren't there because they wanted to be. It was mind-numbingly boring. I sat. And sat. And sat some more. Waiting for the next five days to be over.

I was nervous going to the Marshall clinic- I mean, I really, REALLY anxious. I hated everything about it. I wanted nothing to do with it. I was desperate, though... I went in and waited to talk to a counselor and tell her that I didn’t feel safe in my own company. I NEEDED to be under surveillance so I wouldn’t take my own life.
Then and the few days while being in the hospital, I kept telling myself that I didn’t belong there. That I was totally fine, I wasn’t suicidal. I don’t need help. I’m just here to excuse myself from the stress of life for a few days.
Once I was admitted they put the plastic armband with my name on it, and taken to the geriatric ward. I would be taken to the adult unit later, but when I came there was not enough room. They took me through security and to a large room with a television and couches, kitchen area, and a nurse’s desk. My heart was pounding and I was suddenly remembering every horrific scene from movies like “The Changeling” and “Shutter Island.”
 
I fell in love with one of the elderly patients in the geriatric unit. Her name was Mary. Mary, Mary quite contrary. And she was a riot!
When they first brought her, she was asleep on a stretcher and snored loudly through most of the day. The next day, whatever drug they had had her on was wearing off and she kept getting off the stretcher against the advisory of the nurses. Soon after, they discovered just how contrary Mary really was.
Mary had seen the bruise on the confused woman’s brow and became very pissed off. She had been reading a Bible when she noticed the bruise and she shouted, “Hey! This woman’s wounded! Get off your fat asses and help her or you’re fired!”
The nurses laughed, none of them were particularly fond of Mary since she hated all of them. Mary asked the woman, whose name was Sylvia, how she’d gotten the bruise.
“I…,” Sylvia felt her head and the poor thing looked very, very distraught, “I don’t remember.”
“Did the nurses do that to you?!” Mary asked and then looked at the nurses, “Did those fat asses hit you over the head?”
“I know someone hit me in the head,” Sylvia paused in deep thought, “I don’t remember who it was, but I’m sure it was someone dressed in blue.”
I laughed inwardly; it was sad that Sylvia was so confused, but I found it funny that Mary was inadvertently convincing her that the nurses had hurt her. She had been admitted with the bruise on her head.
Mary kept complaining and telling them all that they were going to be fired for hurting Sylvia. Then she started quoting the Bible. One of the nurses said snidely, “You know Jesus said ‘Peace, be still and know that I am God.”
Mary stared at her for a moment, scowling, “Shut the fuck up or I’m going to ram my cane up your ass.”

The adult unit was very crowded and very small. It consisted of a hallway with a classroom on one end and a room with a bunch of seats facing a television. And that was it. I didn't have a room to retreat into on this floor, so I was forced to either mope in the classroom, walk the hallway, or stare at the television. I sat in the classroom and talked to a few others who were closer to my age. Maybe in their thirties. Two girls and a guy talked about weed. Another woman told me she used to be a meth dealer. A forty-some-year-old asked me if I liked to smoke pot. They were all pretty cool, but I realized something was off about them. The guy who was talking about weed abruptly left the room. A few moments later some loud THUD! THUD! came from where he had gone. He came back in the room and said "I've got a problem... my roommate busted holes in the walls and now I'm going to get blamed for it. I can't pay for that shit!"
We just looked at him and one of the recreational therapists told him that they would take care of it. He stared at the floor and went to tell a couple nurses at the nurse station. They ignored him and continued doing whatever it was they were working on. Well, that pissed him off and he started yelling at them and kicking their counter. They kept ignoring him nonetheless. That pissed him off even more and he lifted a giant water cooler above his head and slammed it against the ground. After that, a group of nurses sprang into action and held him down to sedate him. After the injection, he was basically a zombie. I shuttered and a thick, slimy feeling dwelled in my stomach. I wanted to go home. I don't belong here, I thought.

"Do you find it hard to make eye contact with me?" My therapist mused, and I awkwardly forced myself to look her in the eye.
"No... it's just...emotional." laughed nervously and squirmed in the little chair.
She leaned back in her chair, with a pen in her hand, looking at me, sizing me up. And said, almost to herself, "You're going to amount to great things..." I moved uncomfortably. I can't take a compliment, and I am definitely not used to someone consoling me. I'd always been told to get over it. Life's a bitch. That sort of thing... and I didn't know how to take what she was saying, so I just said thank you.
The small woman sat up in her chair and perched on the edge of the seat, "You look like you are full up to here," she raised a hand up to her neck, "with all of the shit you've had to put up with." I listened. "You've got to let it out! And it's okay to! It's okay to cry; it's okay to vent!"
I smiled and laughed again, adjusting myself again.
"Listen, do you know the definition of insanity?" She asked and answered for me, "Doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result."
That's when the lightbulb went on: my ah-ha! moment. I'd heard that quote dozens of times, but I never realized that it could apply so deeply in my life. I realized something needed to change, and things wouldn't get better until I changed them.

I still battle with depression; I was more accurately diagnosed with complex post-traumatic stress disorder and borderline personality disorder a few years later. I never knew I was until my boyfriend at the time told me he was concerned about me. I had been crying every night and had no motivation to do anything.
Every day I learn something more about PTSD and BPD. They are both disorders that are crippling and can be fatal. It is very much a real thing.
I was becoming more and more careless. I had went days without feeling any emotion. I was losing my ability to feel affection. And I didn’t care. I wanted to die.
I got a pistol from the gun cabinet and loaded one bullet.
Then I heard my boyfriend call for me to hurry up, that I was going to be late to my first class.
I went to the Marshall clinic that day.

The Burn Barrel

I came home from school, and my dad met me at the door. He handed me a black trash bag and told me to burn it before I came in. It was common for people where we lived to have a burn barrel.
I did what I was told, and burned it. I do not remember burning it. I know I did. It was routine. I usually struck matches and held it to a piece of plastic, cardboard, or paper til a blaze got started. Then, I waited for the fire reduce to smoke. I don’t remember how, or what it looked like. What it smelt like. If I heard anything abnormal. I just know I did it.
I remember setting my backpack on my bed and seeing my terrarium empty on my bookshelf.
I B-lined it to the living room. My dad was lounging on the couch.
“Where’s Jezebel?”
He didn’t even glance away from his laptop.
“Why don’t you check the burn barrel?”
I did not cry. Not till later. Much later. Years later.

I think, I knew she was in the bag. Somehow. I knew. That makes me cry. Why didn’t I save her?

A photo I took of our backyard when I was sixteen.

Friday, October 28, 2016

Mental Health First Aid Kit Free Giveaway!



Hello, Everyone!

          I'm trying to gain traction to my blog and Instagram. I post only about my experiences having

C-PTSD and BPD. I also wanted to try and do something nice for someone! So, I have bought the

supplies and I am putting together a free Mental Health First Aid Kit. This is a box full of little

trinkets, therapy tools (like sensory stimulation).

I recommend this box for a female ages 12-30. The concept is DBT Therapy centered.

Entering the giveaway is simple:

Find me on Instagram: @starfishwishez

Like my giveaway post that I will be posting at 5:00 PM this evening. The giveaway will last until

November 2nd at 5:00 PM. I will randomly select a winner based on who liked the post and ship it to

them for free!

Guidelines: You must live in the continental U.S.

Good luck and cheers to recovery~

Running Away Only Worsened the Problem (Part 1)

It didn’t matter to me if I got out. Just as long as I felt like I was free. Just as long as I was getting somewhere.
I packed my bags, trying to figure out what I could begin to live off of for the next few years. A couple of graphic t-shirts from Walmart, jean shorts, shaving razors, shampoo, deodorant, lighters, a couple of books, socks, panties, bras, a notebook and pens. And my last paycheck that I had cashed.
I decided not to shower because it seemed wrong to use their water for my benefit. I had a few provisions, and now it was time to scram. I left around midnight. It was the dog days of summer. It was humid, warm and fireflies were the only things that lit up the woods around me.
Thankfully, on this night, the moon was out and it was enough that the gravel road was lit by its reflection.
My back and arms quickly began to tire, the bags were overloaded with everything I saw as essential. The further I walked I wondered if I could hide the bags somewhere memorable along the road, so I could come back and retrieve them. However, I did not know how high of a possibility this would work out. So I shifted my bags often, trying to give certain muscles breaks while I kept trotting forward.
This wasn’t the first time I had tried leaving. Nor the second or third. I was not scared of the wilderness that lined the roads, or the sounds of whipper-whirls being startled off of the road. Instead, I was preoccupied by the ache in my arms and the tightness in my calves. These places I had barely been aware of as a passenger in a school bus where painstakingly slow to walk past in person.
The back roads were empty. They were steep. They curved over the hilly landscape, and I glided through like a pinball.
I walked all night. The animals in the forest began to change shifts. The sounds and songs changed. The baby light of day lit up the humidity and the mist glowed all around me. I had reached a part of route 60, and a few cars and semis shook the ground as they blew past me. My legs were trembling and I thought as I walked along on the edge of the road, “If I trip when they pass by, I’ll be road kill.”
Then, I made it. My friend’s house was up a steep, gravel driveway. I planned to be aloof as to what I was doing, but I knew I was going to ask for a shower. Hopefully have breakfast. Then get on Facebook and tell my mother and her family where I was. I had gotten out and I wanted to come home.
It was still early in the morning, and I was exhausted and unpresentable. I began to climb the hill, knowing there was some forest past their house that I could rest a while in. Their dogs barked and howled and my friend’s mother called out to me from the porch.
“What are you doing?” She must have been up for a while. She was already dressed.
I stood on the driveway, wavering, thinking about how I could explain this.
“I’m just walking down to Milton.” I lied, but I was too ashamed. I felt grimy, covered in sweat. I hated what was happening. I didn’t want them to see me like this.
“Oh, well, be careful.”
I walked down the driveway, and stupidly began to walk up the hill. I devised a new plan. Get to Milton. Take a bus. Somehow get to North Carolina. Why was this so hard?
I hadn’t even been walking for fifteen minutes when a silver Tahoe slowed down to my pace. It was my friend’s dad.
“You going to Milton?”
“Yeah.”
“That’s on my way to work.”
His wife had made me a couple of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Two of them. In a paper towel. And a bottle of Pepsi. As I ate, I wondered if I stank in the closed space of the car as he made small talk.
“I left home when I was eighteen, and I never went back.” Wow. My strength within me resolved. I could do this.
He dropped me off at McDonald’s. I bought a milkshake and sat down with my notepad. I wrote about what was happening. I couldn’t believe I had made it this far. By now they must have noticed I was gone. There was no pretending something had not changed. I was almost home free.
I called numbers from a payphone. No one answered. I left voice mails, “Hey Austin, I just wanted you to know that I am officially homeless.”
I reached a friend who I worked with, and she happened to be running errands in Milton. Coincidentally, her name was Erin.
New plan, she would drive me back to my friend’s and I would use their internet to reach my mother.
I apologized profusely to Erin for the inconvenience. She assured me it was not problem.
When she dropped me off, one of my friend’s, Drake, was out mowing the yard. He killed the mower, and looked at me, stone-faced.
“Hey!” I smiled, not seeing him since the summer began. He nodded slowly, stone-faced, and went inside. Gravel crunched underneath the tire of a slowing car, and to my disbelief, it was a golden Buick with the passenger door dented in. My dad stepped out from behind the wheel.
No…
“Are you coming with me or not?”
How did he know I was here? What do I do? Maybe he will understand, he will finally let me go back to Mom’s.
I walked to the car, and sat in the seat, staring ahead as he drove back all the roads I had spent all night walking on. For nothing.
He began to yell at me. Threatening me. My younger brother in the backseat, for whatever reason, I do not know. He said he was going to “beat the shit out of” the guy who I had whored around with. He said running was against the law, and if I wanted to go to my mother’s I would spend the night in jail.
“Go ahead!” I said firmly, raising my voice, “Call the police. I am not leaving this car until they come to get me.”
He was infuriated. He had expected me to cower. To beg not to hurt my friend, not to send me to jail. I had lost my fear of him. I had no respect for a bully.
My dad and brother went inside while I waited, expecting police to show and eventually making it to my mother’s in North Carolina.
My father was on the phone while he stepped out on the front porch with phone, so I could hear his conversation, which he screamed, “I am not letting her go to North Carolina so she can give that guy mother-daughter action!” He stopped his foot with a thud that shook everything on the porch.
My jaw dropped.
I felt cold in that car that had been sitting in the early-morning sun. My stomach still hurts thinking back on it.
Please, please let them get here soon. Get me out of here.
Unfortunately, he had been bluffing. I had no choice but to go inside. My stepmother confiscated my things. Which I later knew that she had shown all of the items to my siblings, laughing that I thought I could have gotten by with what I had packed.
She told me that my friend’s mother had called and told them I was running away.
To be continued in Part 2






A picture of me a few months after I had been caught; I was living in the walk-in closet of my brother and sister's room.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

My Chameleon Identity: Part of Being Borderline

     I am a shy person. I spent a lot of my time in school avoiding talkative people and the spotlight. I was never moody the way I am now. Which is quite normal for people with Borderline Personality Disorder. My identity issues began around the time I was sixteen. It's normal for teenagers to try different things, they go through "phases" trying to fit in with certain cliques or groups. I started out the same way.
     Whenever I played basketball with the more popular girls in school, I started wearing everything Aeropostale, just like them. I began to copy how they talked and acted. Shortly after the season ended, I stopped doing that. Then I was influenced by the show "Project Runway" to adopt a Californian accent and trying to dress fashionably. And I refused to shop anywhere but Macy's. Things changed again whenever I got a job at Subway when I was seventeen. I dressed lazily- I cursed more, picked up the lingo and talked with a copied smoker's rasp.
     These are just a few examples. Depending who I was around, I would self-impose a slight lisp or a country accent. My behavior, my likes, my morals and my worldview changed often. I could never just be myself because I did not know who I was. I still do not know who I am.
     Not everyone who has Borderline Personality Disorder experiences this myriad of frustrating identity issues. On the other hand, many people without meeting the diagnosis may experience this. BPD is a complex condition and I by no means want to misguide you into making sweeping generalizations.
     For me, my identity changes nearly every few days. I become very frustrated and broke trying to keep up with my extreme changes in taste. To cope, Pinterest has been both a blessing and a curse. I can indulge in extreme highs about something I suddenly like. For example, recently I went to a Cabela's and was inspired into becoming a farmer and a hunter. I sent emails out to every person I thought knew someone who wanted a farmhand. I bought a camo t-shirt and gazed longingly at fishing poles. I walked differently. I slowed down my pace and walked in boots. I decided that I needed cowboy boots. I drank a lot of Bud Light and smoked cigarettes. I listened to only country music. I planned to get a truck. And on Pinterest I pinned everything I could find about hunting.
     After all of this immersion, my obsession died after about two weeks. I simply did not care anymore. I walked differently. Talked differently. Stopped going on about rants about how no one cares where their meat comes from. I took my camo shirt back. Again, I was lost about who I was. In fact, I began blogging because I was inspired by other mental health bloggers. This started as an imitation. Hopefully, this experience will help lead me to who I am, and to those who came sympathize, may you find yourself too.

 
   
A progression over a period of two-three months of how quickly my outward experience changed in the summer of 2015. 

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Going Public with Mental Health Disorders

     When I first came out about being abused on Facebook, I received a lot of ridicule and hatred. Not from strangers, but from my family. People who had helped raised me, told me they loved me, who I spent birthdays and holidays with. They called me crazy- that I was just making it all up- that I was "off of my meds." 
     I was eighteen when this happened. I had recently graduated from high school and was living with my boyfriend's parents. I remember feeling betrayed. I did not understand why no one believed me. Why they had attacked me so bitterly. I came to understand that it was because these people never loved me. It made me feel as if I was Jim Carrey on "The Truman Show," realizing that the reality I had grown up believing in was fabricated. 
     It hurt. 
     I had my first panic attack not long before. 
     It was five in the morning and I was running in formation on a military base. We had done about three miles and the sergeant made us start sprinting. My lungs began to tighten. I whimpered breathlessly, "I can't do this. I can't do this." Tears began to poor. Then my throat closed up and my breath intakes were loud tight gasps.   
     I thought I was having an asthma attack. They didn't put me in the ambulance that sat nearby on base whenever we went on intense exercises like this. Instead, I was sent to a van that followed us, driven by a veteran recruiter. Without taking his eyes off of the road, he said, "Just keep breathing. In your nose, blow slowly out of your mouth." 
     After about ten minutes, my breathing was back to normal. I remember feeling a tinge of pride- that I, an overweight, six-foot-tall woman had set a running record for myself. I had no idea that I had experienced a panic attack. Then I thought I was just a teenage girl who did not get along well with her dad. But I was soon to discover that things were much, much worse.










A picture of me Freshman year in college around the time of my first panic attack.