My therapist has told me on more than one occasion that mental health professionals weigh the concept of progress differently than most people. Most people look for BIG changes as progress; therapists look for the smallest of changes as progress. If you got up today whereas in the past you could not have done that, a lot of professionals would call that progress. You made a change, you chose something different, it may have seemed small maybe even insignificant to you, but it was HUGE in their eyes and they will often praise you accordingly for it.
That is what progress is like in recovery from mental health conditions and substance use disorders. The smallest of changes each moment add up to the big changes that impact your life, your mental health and the lives around you.
In the third week of August 2017, the time of which I was writing this article, I experienced my small steps of progress blooming and illuminating into a breakthrough. A breakthrough, may I add that I survived.
It began with opening Pandora’s Box in my article “Rescue Me?” as it dawned on me more and more that I had a problem that for the longest time I had been in denial about. A chip formed on my shoulder, though I did not realize it.
It really plowed me over when I had a nightmare about dying from suicide on campus multiple times all with the same method and I woke up the next morning feeling rattled. At the time, the Charlottesville events were taking place and hearing the non-stop news from downstairs settled worriedly into my bones. I thought about not wanting to live in this world anymore.
A crisis peaked. I worked through it on Twitter with the aid of a friend and actually was able to use a perfume that in other crises I never get to. I eased back on my bed, even as the obsessive thoughts started to rage on.
The next day, I re-entered crisis after another nightmare. The obsessive/ruminative thoughts were relentless. I sat outside in the neighborhood street and cried while texting a friend. I thought about calling a hotline. A neighbor stopped by asking if I was all right. I said I would be.
I held on to each text from my friend. It actually worked out better that the messages came in slowly, it gave me time to wait five minutes, ten, twenty, to put distance between myself and acting on the self-harm and suicidal thoughts.
I canceled plans that day, not being safe enough to even step outside my house, let alone drive. I could not put on a brave face, I was in hell. I felt guilty for canceling on another friend, and my other friend Kaiden reminded me that I was doing it out of self-care–which is more important.
I struggled onwards. I got out of obsessiveness and slid into depressive. Then I would circle the drain feeling okay only to dive back into the ground of a crisis.
I genuinely lost track after my fourth one.
At one point, I sat on my bedroom floor staring at my cork board, rearranging the items on it in my mind (getting up and doing so would have been unsafe). I thought about all the ways I could kill myself. Then in my stillness, I grew bored, so I started rummaging through old folders in my nightstand.
By my seventh crisis it was twelve hours since the first one that day. I still hadn’t called a hotline because when depressive I couldn’t get the words out, when okay I felt I had nothing to say and when obsessive it just didn’t hit me. It had been twelve hours and I still hadn’t acted on my thoughts to hurt myself. I realized in that moment, if I could make it through twelve hours, I could make it through another twelve safely. I vented to my friend over text message, and that also helped to let it out. I didn’t know it at the time, but this would open me up to being able to talk more in the future. Interestingly enough, I recognized in that moment that were the situation different, I would have been in the hospital.
I even thought about my “Crisis Text Etiquette” article and what I had said about being able to take care of myself and that I could keep myself safe, that I had choices and I controlled my actions. In that moment, for the first time in three years, I was in a crisis and I felt safe.
On Twitter, I received a DM from Tiffany Lewis (whom you may recognize as the founder of the Pens for Pals organization) that another volunteer, Amanda, would be contacting me that evening. Having vented already, I was able to continue talking with Amanda for about half an hour.
Then, I was tired enough to go to sleep, so I did.
At two in the morning I awoke being thirsty. That was all well and good and I spent the rest of the hour listening to music. At three I began to write my article “Resources List” which carried me on to four in the morning where I felt tired again.
Instead of falling asleep though, another crisis began…. Continued in Part II.
Hey everyone! This is the first part of my chronicling what happened this past weekend. I am also going to be writing a Part II as the ending describes, because I realized I couldn’t fit it all into one article, and it’s important to provide all the little steps of progress I made so that I can have something to refer back to later (as apparently these articles are really helping me out!!) Even if sometimes they aren’t. 😛
Either way, think of them as a snapshot of my recovery process right now. I have two others, “Rescue Me?” and “Resources List” (which I may have to split up, too), that are still in the works.
Let me know what you guys think! 😀
Stay safe! ❤ ❤ ❤