Dysphoria, Dissociation, Anhedonia, Oh My! (reblogged post)

My friend Yara, who has an NPD diagnosis (not malignant) is in recovery and has been feeling down lately.   She just wrote this article about the way she’s been feeling.   I think these feelings she is experiencing are common to anyone suffering from trauma disorders — NPD, BPD, and C-PTSD.   It’s that awful feeling of yawning emptiness that occasionally makes itself felt.    She also talks about some of the things she is doing to relieve the pain and remain mindful.  Here is her post.

Please follow Yara’s blog, Recovering from NPD.

Dysphoria, Dissociation, Anhedonia, Oh My!

By Yara, Recovering from NPD.

feelings-wheel

Feelings Wheel.

 

I’ve had a tough week. I dissociated for most of the week and am just now (thankfully, hopefully?) coming back to reality.

When I get like this, my weekends blend into my week days. My days into my nights. I have to look at the calendar several times a day to remember what day it is. Still I have trouble. Today I looked up and it was Thursday. I’ve done nothing with my week and it’s nearly over.

Each day, the hours go by and before I know it, the kids are home and I’m struggling to get through dinner and bedtime. Struggling to pull it together enough to be at least somewhat present for them. I smile and play with the baby. I try to make conversation with my oldest, showing interest in his day. But I’m on “autopilot” – how I describe my dissociations. It’s like I’m seeing the conversations happening, but I don’t feel like I’m part of them. I feel disconnected from reality, like I’m floating inside my own head watching the world take place around me, but not participating. The next day I remember it as if it was a dream.

All day yesterday I walked by several piles of laundry I meant to take care of and didn’t realize they were there until the evening. I simply didn’t see them. I’m completely checked out.

Next week I’ll get some stuff done, I tell myself every week. I’m going on two months of this now and starting to really get concerned. It’s affecting every aspect of my life, including my work. I’m falling behind and it’s only a matter of time before someone notices I’ve produced virtually nothing in weeks.

I’ve always had periods of “depression.” Cyclical ups and downs throughout the years. This is the first bought I’ve had since becoming aware of my NPD, so this time it looks different to me. I’m aware of aspects I wasn’t aware of before. In the past, this would be the time I’d be searching for new “supply.” A new hobby, interest, friend, something exciting, anything to take my mind off the boredom. But I’m trying to learn not to rely on that anymore, and instead rely on myself.

*****

Read the rest of Yara’s article here.

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Depression.

depression_meme

A meme I made to express the way I feel right now.

Mindful descent.

ropeladder

I’m finally beginning to resurface after sinking into the internal void a week or so ago, which manifested as severe depression.    Monday it reached a crisis point.  I hadn’t been able to sleep at all on Sunday night and I called my therapist, extremely agitated and crying.   I felt like the black emptiness inside me was going to absorb and devour me.  So we set up an emergency therapy session, in which my therapist had me mentally “climb” down into the black hole, as if it were a real hole in the ground.

I imagined descending on a rope ladder–solid enough, but flexible and unlikely to break.   As I descended a little, I looked up and could see the blue sky up above, and as long as I could see it, I was safe.   The ladder also made me feel secure enough to descend a little more.   He asked me to tell him what was below me.   I couldn’t see anything at first, but after awhile my eyes adjusted and I said there was some kind of mist down below that obscured what was below that.

“Is there a bottom?”  I knew there was a bottom even though I couldn’t see it.

“Yes, but it’s obscured by some kind of mist or steam.”

“How far down does it go?”

“I have no idea.  Could be ten feet, or ten miles”

“Descend a little further, into the mist. What do you see and feel?”

I climbed down cautiously until the mist was up to my neck, looking up every so often to make sure the opening to the hole was still there.   It was, but was a little smaller.   The mist around me didn’t feel bad, but I couldn’t see my own body through it.   It felt damp and slightly cool.

“A little wet and a little cool, but not terrible.   But I don’t want to go any further down because then it will cover my face and I won’t be able to see.  I don’t like that feeling of not knowing where I’m going.”

“So you’re afraid of not knowing what’s going to happen.”

“Yes, that’s it.   It’s not that being in this hole is so bad, it’s that I don’t know what’s beyond it. Or something might jump out at me!”

I opened my eyes and realized I felt less agitated, almost relaxed.   That night I slept better, though not well, and the next day I just felt ornery and snappish. I didn’t know where all the anger was coming from, but it was an improvement over the black depression from hell.

A few days previously, I had called my son in Florida with a question.

“I have to get out of here,” I told him.  “I want to start over.  I have too many bad memories associated with this place.    How crazy would be to just pack some stuff in my car, sell the rest, drive down there and live in my car for a few weeks until I get a job and a new place?”

“Mom, you can’t do that.”

“Why not?”

“This is a high crime area.    Yes, your idea is crazy.”

“You’re probably right,” I said.

Talking about this conversation today in therapy,  I realized how crazy it did sound.  You take yourself wherever you go.  Maybe I just need to learn how to re-frame my current location and create new, positive memories instead of trying to escape from myself by escaping somewhere else.   Leaving suddenly with no real plan was running away, not running toward.

I think this depression had several triggers, but was probably going to happen even if there hadn’t been any triggers at all, because of the point I’ve reached in this therapeutic journey.   My mind would have turned something–anything!–into a trigger, and it was close to that point anyway because almost everything was triggering me.  My emotions are a lot more accessible to me now than they were at this time last year, but I haven’t learned how to regulate them well yet or make them work for me.   Right now, it’s hit or miss.  Whatever outer layer was protecting me from accessing these feelings before is no longer there.  Being this vulnerable is scary, but only because I expect it to be scary, not because there is anything to fear.

Looking down below me into the chasm, I know there are a lot more feelings and memories I have yet to access.   I don’t know how far the chasm drops or when the mist dissipates or whether anything is going to jump out at me when I least expect it.   But I’ve got a rope ladder to ground me as I continue to climb down farther, knowing I’m in a safe place with someone I trust as a guide.   So far, what I’ve encountered hasn’t been so bad at all; my fear of what might be there is worse than the reality of what is actually there.

Grieving and progress.

grieving-5

I’m so depressed I had to call in sick at work and set up an emergency therapy session this afternoon.  I couldn’t sleep last night at all.   I spent the entire weekend crying.   This after so many years of not crying enough. This is more than just my SAD acting up.  That never got THIS bad before, even though it’s probably contributing to it.  I have no idea what set it off; it seems like everything’s a potential trigger.   Maybe nothing at all did; maybe this was inevitable.

I think last month something inside me really did “shift” and the initial response was happiness when I had no need of my defenses.   But I’m unable yet to reconcile living without them with the harshness of real life.   My therapist thinks I’m grieving and this is a necessary process but it’s excruciating.

He thinks I’ve slammed headlong into the “void” and have not learned how to fill the hole yet without my defenses protecting me and that’s why I feel like I’m losing my mind.    In Borderline Personality Disorder (and other PD’s) and C-PTSD this is called the “abandonment depression.”  Mentally, I know this is  good and means I’ve made more progress but emotionally it’s hell.    I have to keep telling myself this is not permanent and is necessary part of healing.    It does feel like a grieving process.  It’s hard to function.  But what exactly I’m grieving I’m not sure.  That’s what I’m going to find out.

I did see this post this morning and it made me feel a tad better.   Maybe it can help someone else too.

Depression Is Happiness

****

I also saw this.   It’s a little judgmental and “scolding” in parts, but also there’s a lot of truth here.

http://borderlinepersonality.ca/borderabandonwound.htm

Song and video that captures what the “black hole” inside feels like.

This is incredibly cathartic. I think the story shown in the video and the song’s lyrics come very close to expressing the way I’ve been feeling the past week or so.  Anyone who feels like they’ve been a scapegoat in life or like they have lost everything and can never be happy again will be able to relate. Anyone who feels a vast emptiness inside that nothing can fill will be able to relate.

Of course all that’s a delusion and a lie you tell yourself, but it doesn’t make it any less painful.

WARNING: May be extremely triggering.

I’ve been crying a lot.  I think that’s good. I have to keep telling myself the sun will shine down on me again soon. I might even be seeing a small break in the clouds.

Falling down a mental black hole.

blackhole

I’ve been dealing with a situation that’s been somewhat traumatizing to me and has gotten me very depressed and experiencing feelings of self-hatred and shame (having SAD doesn’t help).   I became so depressed all I could do was lie in bed and sleep or just mope around and do nothing except wallow in self pity.  I lost all motivation to write anything at all.    I prayed for answers and clarity on this situation, and now that I finally understand the reason this thing triggered me so much, I’m finally starting to feel a little better about it.

I’m sorry, but I’m not prepared to say what the situation is.    I’m not ill nor is anyone close to me sick.  I didn’t lose my job. No one died. Nothing “bad” happened.   It’s purely a thing that has to do with my mental disorders and is probably something that wouldn’t bother a normal person nearly so much but sent me hurtling down a mental black hole.

I have therapy tomorrow where I will be talking about it.  The only person that knows exactly what’s going on with me right now is my therapist.    I hope I come away feeling almost back to normal (normal for me, that is).

I still don’t know how much I’ll feel like posting, though.

This barren wasteland.

barren_wasteland

In my life, I’ve rarely experienced true happiness, of the kind I experienced during the week of August 21, when I was on the Florida Gulf coast visiting my son.  I wrote a lot on this blog about the experience I had while basking in the warm Gulf waters and exploring the beaches and gazing at the unbelievable sunsets, and just being able to relax, forget my worries, and spend time with an almost 25 year old man who I love with a fierceness I reserve for very, very few people.  I felt very close to the divine during that time.   Even the 700 mile road trip going there and back was a sort of spiritual experience for me.   Everything about that week was perfect. I never felt so much at peace with myself and the world.  I felt somehow changed.

It occurred to me today that this weekend will be a month (4 weeks) since I began my vacation.  It’s a cherished memory now (and one that changed me in some profound way), but is now receding ever deeper into the past, joining the other few happy memories I have, most which happened much longer ago than this.     The memory is probably far enough in the past now that it’s no longer part of my short term memory but has now entered my long term memory.

While I’m grateful beyond words that I got to have this amazing experience, and know it won’t be the last time (I’m tentatively planning to return at the end of March),  I feel a deep sadness that it’s over tinged with a kind of yearning to return there forever.  Not so much because I miss the location of where I was, or even that I miss being in close proximity to my son (though I miss those things too), but the feeling of pure joy I had unfettered by anything else.  Rarely have I felt that kind of joy and lightness, and when I have, it’s been fleeting, like the momentary reflection of the sun on a dragonfly’s wings. .

It’s been said that you can’t feel sadness without having known what happiness felt like.   Sadness is about loss.  In my case the loss of that deep, pure joy is bringing me into contact with the abyss of emptiness that still lives deep inside me, heavy and dark and cold, like a barren wasteland in which a chill wind always howls and it’s always winter and where nothing ever grows.

I tried praying about it, for I know it was really feeling close to the divine that made me feel so full of joy, not the actual surroundings, but it was just so much easier when I was away.    It’s hard to get that feeling back.   I look around my surroundings here and am reminded of how much I hate this time of year when the days are growing shorter and the nights longer, and  nature’s beginning to look tired and spent before going to sleep again for another winter.   Being here, without the sun and the sea and the sand, so far inland, back in the daily grind of real life, just reminds me of all the heartbreaks and losses and disappointments and hurts that have contaminated my life and pockmarked my soul full of raw and gaping holes.

This feeling of sad emptiness is very hard to explain.  I do suffer from SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) so that might have something to do with it, but I go through that every year.   This is different.  I feel like I’ve suffered a terrible loss, like a death, and like there’s no way I’ll ever feel that kind of joy again.   I want to so badly and I know I will, but right now it feels like it’s forever gone.

I imagine normal people feel that kind of joy more often, even if they don’t all the time.    I know I need to find a way to feel that lightness of spirit no matter where I am, but at the moment, I’m overwhelmed with this terrible nostalgia and sadness because my memory of that perfect week is no longer that recent and is quickly receding into the distant past, where details are forgotten or corrupted by other memories.   For that one week, it seemed as if the emptiness inside me was filled for a change; now it’s just empty again.

I always knew the emptiness was there, but I was so emotionally numb and so used to it that I regarded it as normal. I didn’t really think about it; it was just always there. Now it’s nearly unbearable. It could mean that I’m close to diving into the void because it seems so much nearer than it ever did before. Maybe I’m closer to it because so many of my usual defenses have fallen away. I have noticed I usually feel more depressed than usual just before a breakthrough. Maybe tomorrow night’s session will be an interesting and eventful one.

I called my therapist crying today and left a long message about how overwhelmed I felt by this spiritual and emotional barrenness.   I’ll be seeing him tomorrow;  I guess we need to talk about it.   I got a small taste of what it’s like to be mentally and spiritually alive and healthy, without any disorders, but the downside of that is that once you’ve seen heaven, reality seems like hell.

Triggered.

Depression (1)

Some days are better than others. Overall, they are getting better and better, but there are days where I feel like I took three steps back and get trapped in my old toxic emotional thinking patterns. At those times I feel like I’m trapped inside a dark, moldy prison with no one but my own demons to talk to and will never be able to escape. I know that’s not true, and tomorrow will probably be better, but right now, at this moment, I’m in immense emotional pain.  I feel like if I died and went to hell, it wouldn’t much worse than this.

I got triggered. At least I know what the trigger is. Today is my daughter’s birthday, and we were planning to drive up into the mountains and have lunch together. She was supposed to be here around 10 AM. But by eleven AM I still hadn’t heard from her. I began to panic and imagine some kind of catastrophe befell her, the way I always do because the world has always seemed incredibly dangerous to me and no one can be trusted.     You never know when you’re going to get bad news or when the other shoe will drop.  It’s a horrible way to live and I definitely don’t recommend it.   But it’s in my programming.   People think I’m nuts but I can’t help being this way.   It’s hard to change the programming.

Around noon, I finally got hold of her and she hadn’t gotten out of bed yet. She was hung over from a night of partying and she was also depressed. All I could think about was myself and what SHE was doing to ME. I told her I’d been looking forward to this and I’d taken the day off work to spend with her. She told me I was putting her on a guilt trip and she was right–I was. I apologized and told her to try to have a nice day and we’d get together another time. But I still felt triggered  and ornery.  I’d written a nice, positive post this morning about the fun day I was anticipating having with her, and what a great daughter she was, but I couldn’t bear to keep it up, so I removed it.

I spent the rest of the day alternately feeling sorry for myself and being angry. I did nothing but sit on the couch, switching channels mindlessly but not really watching anything, and poking around online but not really paying much attention to what I was looking at. I tried to read a little, but couldn’t focus and would keep reading the same sentence over and over, not comprehending the words. I yelled at my cat for no good reason. I snapped at my housemate. I thought about how much my life and everything in it sucks and how I’m not getting any younger and will probably be dead in the next 25 or 30 years with nothing to show for it.   I thought about how most people my age and even much younger are doing much better than me emotionally, financially, and every other way. They have healthy, real relationships because they were given the emotional tools to have those things.  My programming cut me off from having access to those things.   Of course I was constantly reminded of my inferiority by my unsupportive narcissistic family (I was rejected and labeled “the black sheep” for my failure to attain the “success” in life my very programming denied me) until I cut off almost all contact with them.  I was cruelly told to “sink or swim” but never given any swimming lessons and in fact spent most of my childhood with my head forcefully held under the water. That’s the sort of mindfuck you get when you’re the child of narcissists. You can’t win. You can only lose–and then you’re callously blamed for it. I’ve been treading water–barely–for years, in constant fear of drowning.

The rain stopped and the sun is shining but I have no motivation to even go sit outside on the porch. All I want to do is stew in self pity and self hatred. Why? What good does it do? I hate it. Angry and bitter? You bet. But I refuse to drown in those feelings because I still hold onto hope that I can be a real person someday. I won’t give up on me, even though the people who were supposed to love me unconditionally did.

Finally I got a call from my daughter apologizing to me. She was crying. I felt so terrible. She told me how depressed she was and it sounded a lot like my own depression. She was talking about all the bad choices she’s made. She feels badly because some friends she went to school with are starting families or are getting advanced degrees or have careers and she has none of those things. But she’s just 23.  She blames herself. I could relate. I tried to be empathetic and not think about the way I feel very much in the same boat–only I’m a lot older and don’t have my whole life ahead of me or the options she still does. I assured her that she may be a late bloomer but that she is blooming and to be patient with herself. I may never be a perfect mom, but I will never give up on her or abandon her the way my family did to me, because it’s not something you ever get over. It ruins you. It murders your soul. I won’t let her soul be murdered.

Sorry this post wasn’t more upbeat. But I’m just really depressed today and needed to write about it. It doesn’t help to keep this crap inside.  And I thought maybe I was “cured”?  Hah!

Trying on diagnoses is like trying on clothes.

lookingfor_somethingtowear

Many of you know that for the past year, I’ve been obsessed with finding a new diagnostic label that actually fits me, but I’ve been very confused and probably confused my readers too.  Finding your “right” diagnosis is a lot like trying on clothes. Some fit better than others, but none feel or look quite right, and you just have to keep trying tings on until you find something that both fits and is “you.”

I’m not sure why it never occurred to me that my real problem was like a dress I never even considered trying on. Maybe because it was hanging there right in my face the whole time, it was so obvious I couldn’t see it, so I just kept looking at the ill-fitting outfits in my peripheral field of vision instead.

Some people may find my need to have a label at all silly. But I’d prefer to have something to wear than no clothes at all, even if naked was the way I was born (in more ways than one).

What I’ve been diagnosed with or diagnosed myself with. 

Borderline Personality Disorder.

BPD fit me well once, just like that outfit that fit you better when you were 25 than when you’re 50. I used to act out a lot and be far more impulsive, but have not engaged in those behaviors since I went No Contact with my ex. Even before then, I was becoming less of a tripwire–thinking things through more and acting out less, which makes me wonder if I ever really had BPD at all. BPD isn’t really supposed to go away with age, unless there are hormonal factors involved for women who have it (which is possible).  Maybe I internalized my DBT skills so well that I virtually learned a “new non-BPD personality” and thereby cured myself of it. If that’s what happened, then the common belief that BPD is incurable is total bullshit.

My therapist has trouble believing I ever acted out in BPD ways, but I most certainly did, and I unwittingly hurt others in my doing so too. That outfit still hangs in my closet, and I’m reluctant to part with it, because it’s been so much a part of my life, but what good is it doing hanging there in tatters and covered with dust?  Still…it’s hard to part with.

Avoidant Personality Disorder.

AvPD fits like a shawl or hat would, but doesn’t cover me like a whole outfit would. It describes some of my behaviors well, but not others. Although it fits, it’s incomplete, like only part of an outfit.

Aspergers.

Not too long ago I thought I had Aspergers, due to my social awkwardness and avoidant behavior. For over a decade I was sure this is what my real problem was. But this self-diagnosis is like that outfit that you think looks perfect on you, but actually doesn’t suit you at all and all your friends know it but won’t tell you. I had to discover that for myself by taking a good long look in the mirror and realizing Aspergers wasn’t at all “me.”

Anxiety (Generalized Anxiety Disorder); Depression.

Once again, it fits but doesn’t cover enough!

Covert NPD.

The craziest outfit I ever tried on, but interesting while I wore it.

It felt more like wearing a costume than every day clothing.

This self-diagnosis came very suddenly to me last summer, much like getting struck by lightning  It was like that outfit–or costume– you see suddenly that pops right out at you on the rack and SEEMS perfect for you, but once you try it on, it just doesn’t feel right. Oh, I was SO sure C-NPD was my real problem. But after awhile you realize that other people don’t think you look good in it because it emphasizes body defects that you don’t even possess, like a dress that makes you look fat even if you’re not.  Almost no one (outside of a forum I posted on) could believe I had NPD. The only people who ever accused me of being a narcissist were narcissists themselves, projecting their narcissism onto me, like that mud on their outfit they smear onto you so they can keep their own clothes clean.

That’s not to say I don’t have narcissistic traits, because I most certainly do (and no one would argue with that), but no, that’s just not the right outfit.

Complex PTSD seems like a keeper to me.

Distraught, depressed, and confused.

In spite of the hopeful, positive dream I had early this morning where I seemed to discover my own power over my inner demons, I actually have been feeling very bad.   For the past week or two, I’ve been much more stressed than usual, more depressed, more nervous, more negative, quicker to anger, less mindful, and generally just feeling a lot more triggered by small things.   I feel like I’m on the verge of tears a lot too, even though I can’t actually cry. People at work have noticed too, and I got asked a couple of times this week if I was “alright.”   I hate the fact that people can tell and I’m so bad at hiding the way I feel (it pisses me off–but am I pissed at them for noticing or am I pissed at myself for being unable to maintain a false front of good cheer?  I don’t know).   People have always thought I was a little “off.”  But they are right.   I am not “alright.”

The only explanation that makes sense is that because I’ve been looking more closely at my early life, and at my family’s behavior toward me, it’s triggering a lot of unpleasant feelings and making me feel dangerously vulnerable and also angry at the same time.   All this negative emotion could mean I already dived into the void and if so, then that’s a huge step toward healing (which the dream seemed to be about).    I don’t know.  I always email my therapist what I want to talk about and have him print a copy so I can remember (I like doing things that way), but I think I might have to talk about this instead.   Thank God I see him tonight.   I’m going to ask if I can see him twice a week while I’m going through whatever emotional crisis  I’m in right now.   I’m just feeling really…bad right now.  Is it normal to feel better at the beginning of therapy and then start feeling a lot worse later on?   I know we’re starting to dig up things I wanted to leave buried before.   Maybe its sort of like giving birth–and these are emotional “labor pains.”  I don’t know.