A New Stage of Healing

I started a new medication in May.  It’s one of a class of medications that are mood stabilizers.  I felt very odd after taking it for the first time, and the same sort of oddness each time I raised the dose.  I felt slightly speedy and not quite myself.  That faded after a couple of days.  I’ve been on 75mg for four weeks, and I feel pretty solid, and solidly myself.  I haven’t been depressed in weeks.  Sometimes I feel a little blue, and sometimes I feel total apathy, no motivation for anything.

I’ve also been working with Karen on seeing that I really  have gotten somewhere over the years.  When I get depressed again, it feels like I’m back in the same place.  It may feel the same, but I have a lot more resources now.  I have supportive friends to call and ask for help.  I have church as well as circle dance.  I even have a support group for the summer.  It’s a NAMI group that meets in St. Johnsbury.  It’s not really a peer group because most of the people are struggling with more difficult symptoms, and don’t have the resources that I have.  I do feel supported, because they acknowledge that they need help and are trying to change their behavior, and I also find it very comforting to be in a group where I seem to be one of the healthiest, instead of feeling like the weirdo in a group of normals.  The other thing I have that I didn’t have when I started out — I first started seeing a therapist in 1967 when I was 25 years old, and I’ve been in therapy off and on since then — was an understanding of what I was up against: not just born defective, not just a child of alcoholic parents, not just systemic yeast, not just suffering from clinical depression, not just suffering from low thyroid.  The biggest thing I’ve been struggling with my whole life is PTSD.

Being traumatized in early infancy affects the development of the brain and nervous system.  Everything I learned after that was distorted.  Knowing about the physiological effects of trauma has helped me in trying to manage myself.  For example, I discovered something I started calling “false urgency.”  I went out to “rescue” a car that was halfway up the driveway and couldn’t get farther because the driveway was solid ice.  Looking back, after I slipped and broke my wrist, I saw that the car was perfectly fine.  Its feelings weren’t hurt, it wasn’t going to freeze, it was in a driveway so it wasn’t likely to be crashed into, there was NO GOOD REASON that it had to be moved.  Because of PTSD, my nervous system is always on “red alert” so of course it’s easy for something to appear far more urgent than it really was.

I’ve started seeing a new therapist.  Her name is Erica.  She specializes in PTSD and attachment issues which means very early stages, infancy, the need to bond with a caretaker.  When I knew I was going to see her, I felt a lot of hope.  Just before I saw her for the first time, I was scared.  But she was wonderful, soothing and caring.  I saw her three weeks in a row, but then she went away for a week, and I had a very hard time with that.  Abandonment was the issue I needed to work on, and here was this woman, who I had got attached to so quickly, and she was abandoning me.

My friend Lynelle, who has done a lot of research into mother-baby dynamics, told me that when a baby is left alone too long, it gets apathetic.  That’s how I felt at the end of the second week.  I had no sense of hope that she would help me, I thought things like “Why bother?” and “What’s the point?”

But after I saw her again, as I was driving home, I felt that what we were doing was real and serious.  That made me feel contained and held.  I hoped it would hold me through her next absence, and I was fine for the first week.  Today is Tuesday, and I’m sure some part of me feels abandoned again.  I had a lot of things go wrong yesterday, mostly technical stuff like not being able to get my email, tracfone not working.  Today I feel apathetic again.  I’ve just been sitting inside reading.  No energy for working on my stories, it’s too hot to go outside.  I have a whole week to go before I see Erica again.  Well, all I have to do is hold on.

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