Quarterly Report

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Went to go see my psychiatric medication manager this morning.

She had an intern sitting in with her, which I was fine with, and she wanted to know about the fatigue that I’d been experiencing during my last visit with her. I told her that I think there’s a combination of my prescriptions that’s conspiring to make me drowsy in the morning, and we discussed the potential of adding Provigil to my medication regimen to offset that. I’ve been on Provigil before so I know that I’m not allergic or anything, although I don’t know about contraindications with current medication. She referred that question to my sleep specialist in April, and we moved on.

She was pleased to hear about my recent socialization and my very gradual tendency to be more comfortable in social settings, although I have to admit I’m still a little nervous in them, especially if there are people that I don’t know. I neglected to tell her that since my last visit with her I’ve socialized twice with people I hadn’t met in person before and that I’ve been to multiple SCA events and didn’t even have a panic attack before the most recent one, but I did let her know that I’m getting out of the house more often and that Pokémon Go is a help with that.

She’s especially pleased to hear that I’m going back to school in the fall, and she believes that the additional structure that will accompany that will be beneficial to me, and especially with regard to this rut that I seem to feel I’m in lately.

She also noted that two sessions ago I could barely keep my eyes open, and she’s overjoyed to see that I was alert and much more participatory in my session today. I confessed that her front office had a lot to do with that – one more cancelled or late appointment is likely going to end my relationship with the practice, so I tend to get there very early now, and today I got there almost an hour ahead of schedule, so there was a little bit of a nap in the car before I came up for my appointment.

She thinks I’m making good progress, although I think it’s slow going. But slow progress is better than none at all, or worse, regression, so I’ll take it. New appointment at the beginning of May has been set and I made plans to work out an issue with my account.

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Change of Plans

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I met with my therapist today.

We talked about a lot of things, including politics and my frustrations that have arisen because of same, and then I mentioned that I’ve been purposely going out of my way to avoid being political on my page for various reasons.

She wants me to be more authentic with myself (I mentioned that this is just one more step on my path to becoming a hipster) and my political viewpoints and to take the time to write about things that I’m passionate about.

In other words, she wants me to get political.

So in future posts, both here and on Facebook, I’ll be attempting to do just that. It’s not going to come easy, but I’m going to do my best. (I’m eloquent with the written word a lot of the time, but I’m complete pants at writing about anything political.)

Thought you might like to know.

Difficult Deeds Done

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We continued last session’s line of discussion in therapy today.

Today was difficult to get through. It meant acknowledging some tough truths about my life and beginning the process of coming to grips with them, but I think some good will come out of today’s session. We’re looking forward to long-term goals at this point and that’s a good thing to be doing. There will be baby steps along the way, but today for the first time I felt that I might could handle getting back out and associating with people on a more regular basis – either as a volunteer somewhere or perhaps even a low-stress part-time job. (I’d volunteer first, at least until I understood everything that goes into working while on Social Security disability. I don’t believe that I’m ready to return to work full-time yet and I don’t want to endanger my benefits while I test the waters, something the SSA allows you to do on a limited basis.)

We also talked about my emotional detachment while discussing this, and it’s apparently a normal thing to disassociate one’s self from one’s trauma. People handle trauma differently and it’s not uncommon for people to respond how I have, with emotional indifference, like I’m telling someone else’s story and not mine. I had long questioned how it could affect me as much as it has while I can tell the story of what happened almost clinically, and now I know it’s nothing to fret over.

In addition, over the past few weeks I came to acknowledge my inability to fulfill a pledge that I made some time ago, and today I asked to be released from it. It took me a long time to work up the courage to write that letter, and I hope that it doesn’t turn out to be a negative experience down the road.

Today is show day so I’m about to immerse myself into my radio persona and forget my problems for about three hours or so. This will actually be a good thing for me, I believe.

One Giant Leap

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Back on Sunday I wrote vaguely about my greatest shame, and how it would be a topic of conversation between me and my therapist at some point in the future.

That point was today.

I’ve told the story before, but clinically, never invoking the emotions that I felt during the experience, and so I’ve never really fully told the story to anyone but my wife. It was surprisingly easy to get out once I started. I digressed during the telling of it to tell another, unrelated story from my childhood. While I’m still keeping my shame to myself for now, this part of the story I’ll share with you.


When I was about 17 I took off from home for a couple days to get my head screwed on straight. I wouldn’t call it “running away,” since I had every intention to go back home. I lived in Raleigh, North Carolina at the time and I took an evening drive to Washington, DC, arriving there around three in the morning.

It was something of a different time, and I wasn’t aware that Washington was a town you really shouldn’t be out by yourself at age 17 at three in the morning. But they had installed the Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial since my last visit to Washington, and I wanted to see it, so that’s where I found myself.

I wasn’t alone. At that time – they may still be doing this, for all I know – there was a small visitor’s tent set up where the walkway to the Wall intersected with the sidewalk on the street. It was manned, and inside they had a guide to find any name on the Wall, along with solicitations for veterans’ relief funds. I gave a couple dollars, which was a significant part of what I had on me at the time, picked up the guide, and went down to the Wall to pay my respects. I spent maybe thirty minutes at the wall, just taking in what it meant to be face to face with so very many names of those that never made it home.

The walkway ran parallel to the Wall and turned with it, heading back up the hill toward the statue of three soldiers that was opposite the visitor’s tent.

There was a man there, and he was crying.

The part of me that felt like I should at least give the man an ear took over, and I asked him if he was okay, and he told me his story.

He served in Vietnam, lived in Washington state, and had saved for three years to make it out to Washington to find the names of his fallen comrades. He finally made it out and took pictures to have a tangible memory of the place to take home with him.

He set his camera down for a moment at the base of the statue, turned away for a moment … and someone stole his camera.

That was the last straw for this guy. My heart went out to him, and I held him for several minutes while he vented his tears and frustration and what had to be anger onto my shoulder.


When I told this story today in therapy, it brought me to tears, and I couldn’t figure out why spilling my guts about my darkest moments would keep me dry eyed, yet telling this unrelated tale about someone I spent maybe ten minutes with total would make me cry. It was my wife that pointed out the similarities between that situation and mine, and I knew that she was right.

So next session we’re going to touch on the feelings that the story about the veteran brought out and how they relate to my own past, and hopefully start getting to the meat of the matter: the climate that arose in my life after my darkest moments were over.

I know that I’m being vague, and I apologize for that, but some things I may never be 100% ready to discuss in a public forum. Just know that today I took a huge step towards processing the mess my past has gotten me into.

The Long and Winding Road

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I went to see my therapist today.

We talked at length about my feelings of shame, and she gave me a little homework – think of a time (several, if possible) that I made a mistake, dropped the ball or otherwise just flat screwed something up and DIDN’T feel shame. We also identified some possible triggers for my shame and some ways of countering it when it first arises.

We also talked briefly about the sudden downward spiral of Saturday night and made a little progress in resolving that situation. As before when it first arose, I’m keeping the details of that conversation to myself.

The bottom line is that we’re starting to make progress on getting me back in the workplace, which has been the end goal this whole time.

Sorry today isn’t really longer, but today’s therapy session was largely for me and me alone. But I promised an update, and now you have one.

Football to the Throat

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Toward the end of Guardians of the Galaxy Drax the Destroyer said to Star-Lord, “Finger to the throat means death,” then paused and said “Metaphor.” Star-Lord’s response was “Yeah, sorta.”

This actually became relevant in today’s therapy session when I brought up the subject of shame. I’ve mentioned this in a past post, I’m sure, but when I was in fourth grade I didn’t have any knowledge of football, and had to give an oral book report on a book about football. There was a display element involved as well. The only thing I did was do the diorama, and when it came time to present my report, it was painfully, hilariously obvious that I hadn’t actually read the book. That moment still haunts me to this day. Although its effect on me is not as bad as other, more recent instances of shame, it’s the example I use most often when talking about the subject.

It was suggested that I put this into perspective, using a football to symbolize my shame. When you’re in fourth grade, an official regulation football is kind of a big thing, not something that you can easily play with. (The football used for that age group is one size smaller than a regulation football, incidentally.) The football is too big to handle. But now that I’m an adult, the football isn’t as proportionately large, and so I can handle it much easier.

When that was mentioned, my wife looked at me and said “Finger to the throat means death.” And it clicked.

So we’ll have to see how this metaphor will work in practice, but for now, I have a new tool in the tool kit to help combat my mental illness.

Side note, relevant to recent posts about my laptop: The silicone keyboard cover came in today. It’s thin enough to allow me to shut the lid and installed very easily. It’s a little different typing on it, but hopefully it’ll do the trick should there be a future water spill.

An Irrational Hatred of Self

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I went to see my therapist today.

She asked how I’ve been doing, and I was honest with her: the last few days have been filled with such deep seated self-hatred. I cannot shake the feeling that I’m always doing something wrong or not doing enough for the people in my life or somehow screwing something up, and that quickly builds into completely polar thinking. I get distracted and things are just fine for a while, and then something happens and I remember I’m supposed to be mad at myself, and the whole cycle starts over again.

This is nothing new for me; in fact, it could be said that this is my modus operandi. Start with a faulty thought, let it cascade into a stream of faulty thoughts, hate myself for thinking that way, hate myself for hating myself, continue until I get to the point that I want to end the cycle but don’t know how so rather than listening to anyone I simply continue the cycle into absolute irrationality. Up is down, black is white. Nothing is correct, nothing is the truth. It’s exhausting to go through this because it’s starting to happen in cycles rather than isolated incidents. Where I once worked my way through episodes like this in a couple hours, now I’m stretching them out over several days.

My therapist asked me to write down the expectations I have of myself, as a way of getting the irrationality down on paper and in a tangible, refutable form. Then she asked my wife, who attended the session with me, to write down the expectations that she has of me. There was a considerable difference in the two lists. Hers was simple and direct – take meds each day, take time for yourself, accept acknowledgments of tasks and accomplishments, accept supportive praise, don’t give up on yourself, be honest about what’s on your mind. Mine was full of intangibles – do more, earn more, be better, and all delivered as a “should” statement, which if you don’t know is often used as a type of cognitive distortion. (The idea is that a “should” statement goes beyond a simple statement of fact, like “I should have stopped at the dry cleaners on the way home,” to an intangible method of self-abuse, like “I should be doing better.” It’s a very slippery slope for “should” statements to go from constructive to destructive, and a lot of it is the intent behind the statement. If you are using the word “should” as a punishment, then it’s moved beyond statement of fact and into cognitive distortion.)

She also asked me to write a list of the things that I do accomplish, and the list was typically self-deprecating – I clean the kitchen, I sometimes cook, I sometimes help with laundry, I sometimes help with menu planning, I sometimes pay bills, I make the budget and maintain it. (That last one is a weirdness – I like spreadsheets and enjoy manipulating data to get a desired effect, in this case being how we can manage our money to where everything gets paid as close to on time as we can and above all avoid missing anything to be paid out.)

My therapist then asked me to address each one of my expectations realistically, and I came up with a second list to combat the first, irrational one. One a week I dust, a new thing that addresses the need for me to do more around the house. (I dust, just not weekly.) I am allowed some downtime. I get some guilt-free time during the week, either a few hours daily or a day weekly. I understand and accept that earning more money right now is currently out of my control. I would like to – not should – meet the guidelines my wife has written for me to be a better partner, remembering compromise, communication, and assertiveness. Text or call my daughter more often. I will try harder to understand and accept reason when faced with it. I will acknowledge that low periods or days are a part of life, and I will try to be easy on myself when they occur, remembering that “this too will pass.”

All in all, the session took a lot out of me. I came home and immediately went to bed and stayed there for a few hours, getting up to try – and ultimately fail – to do my radio show, at the behest of my wife. She reminded me that today was a low day, and that I need to be easy on myself and not try to put on a brave face for radio.

The self-hatred has passed, though there’s a certain fatigue that’s set in now that it’s gone. Being irrational and having my emotions and logic completely out of control for as long as I have been is an exhausting thing. Like I wrote in my session earlier today, it’s a part of life with mental illness – but this too will pass.