My Brain Is Screaming at Me

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Today is one of those days where the anxiety is overwhelming. Every hushed conversation, every overheard laugh, every unreadable expression – they all trigger that voice that says, “Everyone here hates you. They’re all laughing at you. Why wouldn’t they? You’re ridiculous. You’re fat and ugly and stupid. They only tolerate you because they don’t want to train someone else to do your job.”

Sometimes anxiety is just the feeling that the world is about to crumble around you. Sometimes it’s a screaming paranoia listing everything that’s wrong with you and telling you that nothing you do will ever be good enough for anyone. You try to tell yourself that the voice lies and that you should force a smile. No one wants to hear about your problems. No one cares that your brain tells you on a regular basis that the world would be a better place without you in it. And that’s a scary feeling. When I have these thoughts that my mere existence is making everyone around me unhappy and I can’t fix it because I’m what’s broken, but I can’t talk about it because I’m afraid I’ll just be accused of feeling sorry for myself or looking for attention, it’s sort of like this monologue I did in high school. I never questioned it at the time. I never thought about suicide being kind of a heavy topic for a fifteen year old. I didn’t audition for it. Maybe my drama teacher just saw something. Maybe she saw my need to hurt. Granted she caused a lot of my anxiety, but that’s another blog altogether. Right now I’m just trying to keep my head on straight.

These are the moments when the urge to self-harm is strong. Pain will silence the screaming voice in my head for a little while. I can’t dig at my scalp. I spiked up my hair and sprayed it red for the holiday. The temporary dye would hide any blood, but my fingers would be stained red. They already are a bit because of one attempt to claw my skin. There was a pushpin sitting on my keyboard. It was tempting, so I put it in a drawer. There were a few bits of loose skin around my nails I could pick at, so I clipped them off. I’m trying to control it.

This is a thing that is impossible to explain to “normal” people. “Why would you want to hurt yourself? You’re already in pain all the time anyway.” True. There is never a question of if I’m in pain, but rather how much. Living with Rheumatoid Arthritis and the damage it’s done to my body is often excruciating, but it’s different. Pain I can’t control doesn’t make my brain stop screaming at me.

I take antidepressants and antianxiety meds. Imagine the state I’d be in without them. I want my bed. It’s safe there. It’s quiet. I can’t make the voice stop, but I can give into the endless fatigue. Sleep is peace, mostly. There have been nightmares lately, but not like I used to have. There was a time, before the medication, that I would have nightmares so overpowering (mostly about my father, but we’ll talk about him later) that I’d wake up in a panic, only to have them resume as soon as I fell asleep again. I’d have to get up and move around until I was really awake before I tried sleeping again. Klonopin helps with that. The Prozac does little to help. I’ve only stayed on it because it keeps me from having chronic migraines.

I don’t live in a legal medical marijuana state and, to be honest, even if it was legal, people here are so conservative that I think I’d have a hard time finding a doctor willing to prescribe it. This is more than a little unfortunate. It’s been found to help many of the conditions I deal with. I’ve smoked pot twice in my life. I can honestly say, I’ve never felt less anxious.

On top of the anxiety, I also have some pretty major sensory issues. There’s an ebb and flow to them that I can’t really track. Some days I’m good. I can go to the store and deal with noise and unpleasant weather, and I’m okay. Other days, every sound feels like it’s scraping across my skin. I can’t stand even making eye contact with other people. The softest, most comfortable t-shirt I have feels like sandpaper. Today is not one of the good days. My earphones aren’t enough to block out the sound of the copier or the incessant ringing of my desk phone because someone keeps trying to send a fax to my line, even though I’ve faxed a note to the number on the caller ID explaining that this isn’t a fax line. I can’t drown out the voices of my co-workers who seem to think that tomorrow being a holiday means there’s no work to do. I could try to go somewhere else, since I’m on my lunch break, but it’s raining and I can barely walk right now.

I know some days will be good. I know there will be days when I smile without effort and don’t want to hurt myself. I’ve survived this long. I’m still here.

Here Be Monsters

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You know that thing on olde timey (yeah, I said “olde.” I’m going for a specific aesthetic here.) maps where the cartographer drew a giant sea serpent or flaming octopus or some shit with the warning, “Here Be Monsters”? This post is your warning, only “here” is my head and the “monsters” are various forms of mental and physical illness. If you don’t want to hear about it – and I know a lot of people don’t – turn your boat around and sail on back to Magical Glitter Pony Land, or wherever it is that icky sickness doesn’t exist.

Still here? Nice. You’re either brave, stupid, morbidly curious, or awesome. You can actually be all four if you want. I won’t judge.

I’ve realized that I don’t have that filter that most people have that keeps them from saying certain things that apparently aren’t supposed to be said. I end up saying them on accident and then stress myself out by overanalyzing what I said and who I might have offended, so I thought, fuck it, if I’m going to say this shit anyway, I might as well say it on purpose. I’ll still stress out over offending people, but I’m sort of cutting out the middle man.

So here’s the list of actual diagnoses I’ve gotten from various doctors:

  • Bipolar II
  • Generalized Anxiety Disorder
  • Social Anxiety Disorder
  • Bulimia (Yes, fat people can be bulimic)
  • Rheumatoid Arthritis (Which is way more than just arthritis)
  • Aortic Valve Regurgitation (Not as gross as it sounds)
  • Diabetes (Thanks, Prednisone!)

Plus, I’ve recently learned that a some of my organs are fucked up on the left side of my body and no one knows why. Seriously, the left side of my thyroid is deformed, I have this pathetic little shriveled left ovary, and my aortic valve (which is on the left) is bicuspid instead of tricuspid, meaning it doesn’t close all the way and has to pump twice as hard, so I always have a high heart rate. Fun.

I self-harm. I binge. I’ve recently learned that there are names for some of the things I do. One is called excoriation or dermatillomania. It’s the urge to pick or claw at your skin. I mostly go for the scalp because it’s easier to hide. I haven’t done it in a while. Mostly because I cut my hair really short and my RA meds have thinned out my hair, so it’s really hard to hide if I do any real damage. I also have a spot on my left hand that I favor. I either use the sharpened corner of a fingernail or something like a push pin. The result looks like a cat scratch. There are three cats in the house, so it doesn’t stand out. The other thing is called diabulimia. I had no idea this behavior had a name but I’ve done it – not in a long time – but I’ve definitely done it. Basically, chronic high blood sugar can make your weight drop. It can also kill you, but hey, no one said eating disorders were rational. A person with diabulimia knows that a binge on sugar and carby things may help them lose some weight. Why am I admitting to this? Because part of keeping myself from doing it is being honest about wanting to.

Diabetes was (surprise!) not a product of my weight. I was fat with perfect blood sugar for years. Unfortunately, I’ve been on high dose Prednisone for much longer than I should have been and it has totally fucked my endocrinological system. Living with RA is a bitch. I can’t really describe it, but I’ll try. Have you ever sprained anything? Knee, ankle, wrist? That swelling and excruciating pain when you try to move the joint…imagine it all over your body. Add in being so tired that sometimes you can sleep 18 hours straight and be ready to go back to bed two hours later. Then there’s the meds and all their side effects, like insulin resistance, hair loss, weight gain, feeling like you’re wearing a skin suit full of bees, etc. It fucking sucks.

I’ll go into more detail in later posts (I know you can’t wait) but that’s the basic summary. I’m fucked up. You’ve been warned.