There is a buzz in my head that is reminiscent of a fluorescent light bulb, shining cold and too brightly and making me squint, just on the verge of burning out. The buzz dulls everything around me, all other sounds and sensations are deadened. Everything feels like that cornstarch and water experiment you would make as a kid – rigid at first, but fluid once you pick it up. It would slide through your fingers, dripping on the table cloth, falling downwards to the floor. You’d clean it up with a paper towel, not unlike the same cleaning method you would use four years later to clean up your own blood.
I have been having a lot of trouble at work. Mostly, I really, really hate my job. I find my boss intimidating, and the amount of work I’m expected to do is overwhelming. So, I dissociate a lot. This came back to bite me last week when my boss asked for someone’s updates and I told him that I hadn’t received them. My boss yelled at this person, who stated that they had, in fact, updated me, over the phone. I have no recollection of this conversation and couldn’t find a record of the update. TTYO named the file something that I didn’t expect, and it took me about two hours to find it in my computer. Needless to say, it feels like I am on borrowed time at this job.
Things have been rough with M, though, it’s hard to think of a time when they’ve been easy. I was really excited to see her last Thursday because I hadn’t felt like I had been to therapy in a couple of days. Mostly, someone else has been going – probably TTYO. So M came in the building and I threw my arms around her. I felt brave and ready to do some work. We went upstairs to the office and everything changed.
M started by laying down the law, reading to me her new boundaries off a piece of paper, like I was being sentenced to a lifetime of loneliness. I started to dissociate but nobody could bear to hear M’s rules, so I fell asleep. I only heard the first three:
“Texting is for logistical purposes only.
Same with email.
If you call me, I will assume it is an emergency and that you need to be hospitalized.”
That was it – I was out.
Some noise woke me up. I don’t really remember what we talked about, but I think I mentioned that I was only coming to therapy to run out the time we have left before you know, I do it. M asked if I had heard the rule about that.
“No,” I said.
“We will do a suicide assessment at the end of each session,” M said, matter-of-factly.
“What, like, a questionnaire?”
“You have to tell me your date and the plan,” M stated.
Fat chance. I looked at her, one eyebrow raised. “And if I don’t?”
“Then we can’t work together.”
“You said you would only not work with me if I killed your kids or your dog!” I protested.
“If you decide not to tell me your plan, that is a choice you will be making,” M said, trying to make it sound different. If I killed her kids or her dog, that would be a choice, too.
M asked if I had heard the rule about cutting.
“No,” I said.
“No cutting on the premises.”
Ha. Oh, really, M? “Alright,” I smirked. Seriously, just try and stop me.
Now it felt like a war. M was coming in and asserting all of these rules, ignoring the boundaries that we had set a few weeks ago, and I was a tiny little person in the corner of the couch.
M picked up her rule sheet. She began to read the rest of them.
“Stop,” I said, my hands in the air. “I can’t handle this.” Life was too messy, too scary, and this shit was the last thing I needed. Thankfully, M acquiesced and put the sheet down.
I got really, really scared and sad. Everything was crumbling and M was leaving.
“Are you sad?” she asked.
“No,” I lied.
We waited a few minutes, and then I asked we if could lay down. M laid on the floor and propped her feet up on the couch. I stood up and turned off the lights and did the same.
It was 8:30 and completely dark. I grabbed M’s hand and cried into her shoulder, and then laid my head across her chest, sobbing. She stroked my hair.
“Why are you upset?” she asked.
“Do you think-“ I started, hiccupping through my tears. “Can you, you know, help or something?”
“Can you help me?”
“I’m trying,” M said.
“But can you?”
“I think so.”
“Do you want help, N?”
“I don’t know,” I said honestly.
“Mmm,” M said, whatever that means.
“I just feel stuck,” I said. “I can’t go forwards, I can’t go backwards. And, this thing with my job, and-“ I cried some more. M’s shirt must have been soaked.
“I can’t do it,” I said, referring to my job and also, life. “I know that sounds dramatic and I’m sorry but… that’s how I feel!”
I wholeheartedly expected M to say “You can do it, N,” but for once, she listened to me. She said she understood that that was how I felt. I sat on the floor in the dark, head in my hands, pulling at my hair. I agreed to try it for one more day, but I told her I couldn’t do it much longer.
As we left, I was still crying a lot, and M gave me a hug on the porch outside. “What are you going to do tonight if you need to talk to someone?” M asked.
“You have those crisis numbers,” M said, meaning, don’t you fucking call me.
“I’m not going to call them,” I said.
“Because!” I said, the reason being obvious. “Talk to a complete stranger, who doesn’t know me, doesn’t know my case?”
“It could be helpful.”
“If it was helpful, I would be utilizing it,” I said.
M sighed. “I understand if this isn’t going to be enough, N,” she said, referring to whatever rules she had told me that I hadn’t heard.
“What else is there?” I asked.
She gave me another hug and left me on the porch. I took out a blade and hacked at my arm. No cutting on the premises, my ass.
That night I couldn’t sleep. I mean, it was really bad. I even had sex with R to try to get to sleep. I was panicking – R was off in his own, depressed, suicidal world, and M had left me. There was absolutely no one in the world that could help or cared to help. And did I even want help? No, not really. I just wanted to die, but I couldn’t, because of motherfucking biology.
Thinking of biology got me to thinking of my parents. The will to live is the most biological drive, definitely, but I’m sure that the desire to help or protect your children must rank up there pretty high, as well. As I stared ahead into the blackness of my bedroom, I wondered if my parents had that connection.
The next morning, I had logistical things to discuss with M. R is flying home to New York in a few weeks to go to a wedding, and the plan was that I would stay where we live. But I was getting uneasy about this, and being left alone was starting to frighten me, so I was wondering if M would be able to switch around some days so that I could still go to therapy and also go to New York. So I texted her and said I had some scheduling things but that it was complicated, and could we talk on the phone?
M called and we did talk, and I also told her that if she was free that night, I would like to call my parents and talk to them about what had been going on. My parents knew very little – they knew that I was in the hospital a couple of times and had withdrawn from school and that I was in therapy. They also thought that all of this was ridiculous, and M and I had agreed that it was probably because they were so out of the loop. I wish that, as parents, they would just take my word for it that things were fucked up, but I guess they needed to know the details.
So, M kindly arranged to stay an hour later to call my parents, and R came as well. It was very anxiety provoking, and M basically ended telling them how I got from where I started therapy to where I was today. I’m not sure if I’ve ever completely hammered that out here, so, for anyone that is interested:
On August 24th, 2012, I was driving down a road going 75 mph and scouring my hair for split ends. I looked up and a car was much closer in front of me than it should have been. I slammed on my brakes and, after regulating my breathing, realized that I could have killed myself or someone else in that car. I knew I had been picking at my split ends for about six years (to my knowledge), but that it was definitely getting worse, and actually getting dangerous. I tend to research things when I need to problem solve, so I did this, discovered that this was probably trichotillomania (though it certainly wasn’t textbook), and that the go-to “treatment” for this was CBT. I was a student and I assumed that my university probably had some sort of free therapy service, so I looked that up and requested an appointment with someone trained in CBT. I was given an appointment on August 28th, and I went early to fill out some paperwork in which they asked my history, including any history of abuse. I checked “yes” on this item and then went in to see a very nice young woman named D.
D first asked what I knew about CBT, and when I refused to say (for fear of getting it wrong), she drew out a little triangle explaining thoughts, emotions, and behaviours. I felt that something was missing from the triangle, but I really just wanted to get her to fix this. “As soon as possible,” I had said. “School starts next week.”
D asked a bit about my history of abuse, and everything came flooding back. Ten years of feelings that had been dammed up in my subconscious suddenly burst open, and I knew that I needed to cut. I hadn’t cut in four years, but it seemed to be the absolute solution. After I left the appointment, I went to a drug store and bought those crude, cheap razors. That night I sat down on the bathroom floor with my toolbox and extracted the blade, slicing my finger in the process. But it didn’t matter – I was going to cut my arm for the first time since I was thirteen, and it was going to be perfect.
The next time I saw D, I told her that I didn’t know if I wanted to continue with this because it had made me feel like cutting last time.
“Did you cut?” D asked.
I saw D once more after that, I think, before she referred me to another service the university offered. This office dealt specifically with victims, and D thought that I might get more specific help there. Apparently, the trichotillomania was going to go on the back burner. And I felt like D was abandoning me. How interesting it is to look back and understand things.
At this place I worked with a therapist, JL, who was nice but was not someone that I could connect with. She had polar bears all over her office, and she just didn’t have the depth I was looking for. But we were delving a little into my history, and the cutting was increasing. I was hiding it from R and wearing long sleeves in the beginning of September, and it was hot as hell. I told JL that I had been thinking about suicide – not even ideation, I would say, but you know, just thinking about it. That did it for JL – she decided I should be hospitalized. I was bewildered. I didn’t even have so much of a plan, and I was going to the hospital? I protested and screamed and cried, but JL held fast. Two cops came up to her office and walked me down to their car, where they searched me and patted me down for weapons. And this was the birth of the twenty-three-year-old.
Looking back on it now, it’s very obvious to me what had happened, but in the moment it was confusing. My body was in the back of the cop car, my hands were in handcuffs, and I was chatting away with the cops, joking and laughing and acting like a normal person. “She didn’t understand,” I heard myself say, referring to JL. “It was just a philosophical contemplation – the meaning of life, why are we alive, stuff like that. I mean, don’t I seem fine to you guys?”
The cops actually laughed and nodded in agreement. I had no idea how I was talking and not talking, but I knew that this was something I needed to keep up, so I let TTYO take the wheel.
When we got to the ER, they interviewed me and easily determined that I wasn’t in any danger. They checked all of my belongings but didn’t find my tools – at that point, I was carrying a contacts case from Urban Outfitters that had false bottom. They opened and shut the case without knowing about the blades that lived inside it. Assured that I didn’t have any weapons, they left all of my belongings with me. After it was clear that I could go home, TTYO asked if we could use the bathroom and we made a nice, long, deep cut on the arm. I was proud.
The next day, JL called and asked if she could meet with me to see how I was doing. TTYO was still hanging around, and SYO was beginning to form, as well. The details are fuzzy to me, but I do remember ending up in the bathroom, cutting myself anywhere I could find some skin, and not being able to recognize myself in the bathroom mirror. I couldn’t even keep myself up because my legs weren’t working. Once again, I was sent to the hospital, and when I got out, JL said she couldn’t work with me anymore. More abandonment! She took me to the clinic, and that was where I met M.
M said more or less all of this to my parents. At this point, my head was in M’s lap, and I was half asleep. I was kind of comatose – just conscious enough to be on the defense, but asleep otherwise.
“N is also self-harming every day,” M said with emphasis, “and has tried to commit suicide at least twice, to my knowledge.” I laughed inwardly. I have made six serious suicide attempts, and numerous other pseudo-suicide attempts, in which I just want to cut my arm to make it look like I’m committing suicide, in hopes that it will alleviate the suicidal feeling.
My parents, understandably, were stunned. M also mentioned TTYO and SYO, and I decide to take that time to inform M that there is also a twelve-year-old (who shall hereby be known as TYO). “And a twelve-year-old,” M added, not missing a beat.
“What? She has multiple personalities!?” my mom shrieked from New York. “Like, schizophrenia?”
I sighed. No, mom, not at all like schizophrenia.
M explained that it was actually called DID, and that it was very different from schizophrenia.
“Well, how do you know that this is the correct diagnosis?” my dad asked. Fuck you, dad. There is no such thing as a diagnosis.
M said that a team of people at the clinic with more education and experience than she had all agreed that this was correct, or something.
“It sounds like she needs 24hour hospitalization!” my mom said.
Yeah, that was why I fucking asked you to help me pay for a residential place!
M explained about how you can only hold a person for 72 hours, etc., etc. “N is seeing me three times a week, and I’m not sure if that is enough for her,” M said. You’ve mentioned this twice in less than twenty-four hours, M. What are you saying?
Then they brought up my needing medication, which I am absolutely 100% against. I tried to yell into the phone but M took it away from me, which seriously pissed me off because one of the issues with my parents is that I was never allowed to get mad, and now M was perpetuating it. But she did say that there aren’t really medications for DID or something, and that the ones that are prescribed are often debilitating in other aspects of a person’s life. I don’t believe that I have DID, but, you know, whatever gets my parents off the medication idea.
Basically, it all went well and it was all kind of shitty. My parents were on their best behaviour, though my mom’s bitchiness was showing through in her tone of voice. My dad said they were there no matter what and that they would do whatever they could. He asked if I believed him. “Sort of,” I said.
Then we left.
Later that night I texted M. “Thank you,” I said. “You were awesome.” M did not respond, I guess trying to adhere to her rules, but I didn’t really need a response and I certainly didn’t give a fuck about her rules. I’m pretty sure this is happening because she has a new supervisor (her name is E), but the supervisor has no idea who I am, and I’m thinking that she is just going like, “Oh, just bring in some boundaries and read them off and N will have to agree to them.” Hahaha, think again, E. Think again.