Friday, December 26, 2014

Catharsis, or "Hey, Look What The Cat Dragged In!"

Wow. Yet again, I have found myself procrastinating on posting anything new. An entire year this time. This is the curse of writing a blog. There is no fire under my ass to get something written. I always think I’m going to break that cycle and be all gung-ho about it but instead, I find a pint of ice cream and something interesting on TV. Before I realize what is going on, it’s been several months and I start to criticize myself for the lack of motivation. Writers are notorious for procrastinating. In fact, “procrastinator” is a synonym for “writer.” No, really. It is. Google it.

OMG. Long post. Get popcorn and a beer.

I originally had planned to post something I have already written but in light of recent incidents involving celebrity suicide and some very dear friends having difficulties with depression, I am going to skip a “Revelation” and explore something else entirely. This has taken on a new sense of urgency since I think this might help some people who are dear to me understand that they are not alone and that they have choices as so many care about and for them. I also realize the holiday season can be incredibly difficult for those of us that are dealing with tough times.

I do want to touch on something first that is a topic in my next Revelation post. Most of you know that Husband left me over two years ago. The divorce process seems to be stagnating and unfortunately, there is nothing I can do about it until I can gather enough cash to pay my attorney to get it over with. That doesn’t mean that I haven’t moved on as much as I possibly can. On January 13th, 2013, I went on a date. With a man. A man who turned out to be the stuff dreams are made of. He picked me up for that date and the second I sat down in his car and he grinned at me, I was done for. We met on a dating website and chatted via text/email for about a week, getting to know random factoids about each other before we met in person. Our first date was incredible. He was - and still is - so perfect. I couldn’t help thinking he just HAD to be too good to be true. He possessed so many attributes that I find attractive – smart, sexy, affectionate, hilarious, a talented musician and writer, tall and blue-eyed, tattoos, likes good beer and good restaurants, loves his dog, gentlemanly without being a prude, avid reader, passionate…this is an endless list. I could be here all night talking about how perfect he is. Seriously. I was smitten from day one. The in-depth analysis is the subject of another post. LOOOOONG story short, we dated for about six months before moving in together. We are still together and I can honestly say that finding him has been the best thing that has ever happened to me. The circumstances and timing were perfect. I love him with all of my heart and soul and every single day, I’m in awe of how things fell together so perfectly, as though the universe was directing us to each other like a traffic cop during rush hour. I hope that he knows that. Had I done a single thing different in my life, I would never have met him. All the heartache, all the strife, every struggle has led me to him and I wouldn’t change a thing. I wish I could go back to the Nic from three years ago and tell her that her pain and sacrifice would be worthwhile. I would absolutely do everything all over again without hesitation knowing that he would be waiting for me at the end of it. I am quite possibly the luckiest woman alive and there is not a day that goes by that I don’t remember that. I don’t take a single moment for granted. I now understand why things didn’t work out with anyone else – and I’m happy they didn’t. There is no one else on this planet I would rather be with.

SO…with that said, I think that there may be more than a few of you who are wondering what the hell transpired in December of last year (2013). I’ve made no secret of the fact that I struggle with depression and self-harm. I have battled substance abuse for a hefty portion of my life. All of these things intensified when Husband left me and the path of healing has not been easy. I falter now and then. Healing isn’t a destination – it’s a journey. There is no end to this journey. While I have accepted that this will always be a facet of my life, I have refused to allow it to define me; however, I no longer hold any unrealistic expectations of how things should be. To get right to the point: I had a massive nuclear meltdown at the beginning of December, 2013. There was no specific reason. I simply think that I had been internalizing so many things for so long that something normally insignificant pushed me right over the edge and Nic lost her damn mind. I picked a fight with Boyfriend, gathered a bunch of random things together along with my two dogs, and holed up in a hotel room for three days. I turned my phone off so I wouldn’t have to talk to anyone. I proceeded to get and stay completely shitfaced drunk and on the third day, something transpired that prompted someone to call 911. I still don’t know if it was me that called or if it was another hotel guest or perhaps the management. There is a huge chunk of that weekend that I have absolutely no recollection of. Details were explained to me later on: When law enforcement arrived, they had to break down the door because I was inappropriately responsive--as in, giving answers that were out of context with the questions I was being asked. They found me in the bathroom, crying, surrounded by a shit ton of empty beer and wine bottles, bleeding from several self-inflicted cuts on my arms and legs. An ambulance was summoned to take me to the hospital for medical attention, which I apparently tried to jump out of while it was moving. The hospital staff had a difficult time with me as I was rather combative but they did manage an examination of the multiple lacerations, one of which required nine stitches. Most of the smaller ones were closed with skin glue and one developed a mild infection. They then sent me to the county behavioral health unit which I will hereafter refer to as “43C” as that was the unit designation. I was “detained” as opposed to “involuntarily committed” as the medical and psychiatric staff felt I was a danger to myself. Despite my protests, I spent two of the worst days of my life there. If prison is anything like 43C, I would rather go out Thelma and Louise style than serve a sentence. I had to ask for someone to unlock the bathroom door every time I had to take a piss, showers were supervised, and meal times were set and...interesting. There were people there that probably should have been somewhere else. I had to wait long periods of time for the overworked staff to provide answers to the questions I had. It was difficult for me to get a hold of anyone to let them know where I was. I had not slept well the weeks leading up to this incident and I barely slept at all while I was there. Luckily, it was determined that I no longer posed a threat to myself or anyone else and I was released on the evening of the second day after the psychiatrist battled with the court all afternoon to ensure my release. I do have to admit that I met some very genuine professionals there and despite the fact that they deal with some absolute SHIT, they still find it within themselves to care about their fellow humans who are simply having a rough time. The part of the whole situation that I still to this day have difficulty dealing with (and a massive amount of guilt over) is this: my dogs, Cody and SaeDee, ended up at the local animal control facility. I always leave emergency contact information written plainly on a piece of paper on the in-room desk at every hotel I stay at. Always. This was no exception. I do very clearly remember begging the police officers that responded to contact my parents to pick up my dogs. This was not done. The only reason anybody knew anything about what transpired was that both of my dogs are microchipped and their registration information is up to date. Animal control called my mom as she was the backup contact listed. My mom called Boyfriend, who picked them up and was able to sort out where I was and what had happened after the psychiatrist who initially admitted me to the hospital called him. In the days that followed my release, I found that I was missing an enormous amount of personal property that I had brought into the hotel room with me but didn’t make it out when Boyfriend picked my things up – clothing, makeup, my iPod, even my glasses and several pairs of underwear. Someone had to go rifling through my things – opening suitcases, makeup cases, and totes - in order to remove these items.  The hotel management was less than helpful – in fact, the GM was evasive and downright hostile. I reached out to their corporate management to no avail. Local law enforcement, while they did confiscate a large sum of cash from the room for safekeeping (which was returned to me within a few days), offered up no help and even attempted to accuse Boyfriend of theft. There was never a single follow up to either situation and rather than stew and stress about it, I chalked it up to a learning experience: people suck and there are those who will take advantage of others who are in crisis for their own personal gain.

Some BIG changes resulted from this situation. I had to re-evaluate my physical, mental and emotional health and found that I was again attempting to bury some things that desperately needed my attention. That was NOT okay. My coping skills are exactly shit and always have been. For a very, VERY long time, I did not understand that. It takes a focused effort on my part to make myself look at the issues that trouble me and deal with them in a healthy manner.

I have so many questions about some of the things that have transpired in my life – questions that will never be answered, at least not in a manner that will allow me some peace. I am learning to be okay with that. Sometimes, there are things that are not for us to know or not even meant for us at all. I have found that sometimes the whys and hows of things that happen, especially the things that are completely out of my control, are irrelevant. The need for explanation is counter-productive. What is far more important is how I react and what kind of attitude I maintain. When I accept these things, I OWN them and that frees me to focus on moving on.They do not own me. I am not controlled by my past – I learn from it and take those lessons into the future with me. A lot of things still haunt me and occasionally, old feelings of insecurity and helplessness rise up and ruin my day. I KNOW this will happen. I am not going to deny myself those feelings because doing so is how I ended up in such a very dark place for so very long. I know it’s coming and I can now prepare myself with the necessary tools to work through it; however, I still have a long way to go in learning to cope in a more healthy manner.

So here’s a touchy and taboo subject: suicide. I have to use both hands to count the number of times that I have or someone close to me has been affected by suicide and that is just unacceptable to me. Don’t get me wrong – I have definitely been in such a dark, lifeless place where I felt that not existing HAD to be better than the life I was living. The recent deaths of some well-known celebrities (Robin Williams, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Heath Ledger) seem to have prompted some widespread awareness of the issue of mental health and substance abuse. A very dear friend of mine recently lost her mother and stepfather to a murder-suicide after a lengthy and difficult divorce process. He was severely bipolar and had not been receiving treatment. Another friend of mine has been touched by the suicides of two friends who were young adults – between 18 and 20 years of age.  Dr. Sophia Yin – a renowned, highly respected veterinarian and animal behaviorist who changed the way we handle animals in the clinical setting as well as how we train and develop our patients and companions – also took her own life recently. So…is this something that is occurring with more and more frequency? Is the topic of mental health receiving more attention than it has in the past? Are suicides being reported appropriately and more often? I’m not sure of the answers to these questions but do believe that all three lend a hand to the fact that suicide seems so much more prevalent than even ten or twenty years ago.

I think that keeping the avenues of communication regarding mental health open is an important step in unraveling the stigma and harsh judgment surrounding mental health issues. People often don’t seek help out of fear or shame – they are afraid that they will be judged negatively or seen as weak if they make it known that they are having a difficult time. The most difficult part of the path is the reaching out – the event that is often seen as the moment a person exposes his or her vulnerability and opens themselves up to harsh judgment. Humans can certainly be awful creatures and our treatment of each other during hard times can often demonstrate a level of awfulness that is completely repulsive. My question is this: How is mental health any different than physical health? People with, say, bipolar depression aren’t any more in control of their illness than someone with hypothyroidism is. In both cases, there is a fundamental disruption in an organ or organ system not caused by a conscious choice on the part of the person. Perhaps this issue lies in our understanding of the physiology at work: we know an awful lot about the way a thyroid functions and the body systems that are affected by its action. In comparison, we know so little about the nervous system and how it controls, integrates with and is affected by the many physiological processes that occur in humans. We know even less about this in our fellow creatures. As humans, we tend to fear things that we do not understand. I won’t pretend to even THINK that I know how we as a species can try to expand our understanding of such an intricate topic as mental health but I do know that the veil of secrecy and shame needs to be lifted, somehow. We are all stuck on a giant rock together, hurtling through space at unimaginable speeds. We owe it ourselves and to our fellow humans to at least try since we all need to exist with one another. Whatever we need to do to make the trip tolerable for ourselves and for others...we should do.

In the meantime, I would like to say this to my friends, family, and readers: I know that we all have times when we struggle mentally and emotionally. Sometimes we become overwhelmed and without the proper tools, we can descend into a very dark place that some of us never return from. This does not make us weak. It makes us HUMAN. As much as we try to be, we are NOT machines. We are judged on baseless merits and false claims about our suitability for survival every day. Those judgments often come from people we love and/or respect. Those are the harshest and it’s nearly impossible to not take it personally. If you take anything from what I write here, I hope it’s this: You ARE important. You DO matter. Yes, there ARE people who would miss you if you were not around. I know it can feel like that is not true but it surely is. Do not be ashamed to ask for help. There is a considerable amount of strength behind the act of seeking support from our fellow humans. Do not be discouraged by setbacks in your journey. These are learning opportunities. Through them, we learn just how tough we can really be and are then able to build upon that strength. It’s important to realize that as sentient beings, we frequently fall prey to our own unreasonable standards as well as subject others to similar unreasonable standards. Properly equipped, we can navigate through the false disappointment this often brings and recognize that we are passing an unfair judgment. Absent these skills, we perpetually kick others’ or our own asses.

The path to healing begins with YOU. Take that first step. Reach out to someone you trust – I realize this is the thing we become hung up on. It’s a scary step, no doubt about that. The people you care about care about YOU. We are not meant to travel our paths alone. If you feel that you simply cannot trust anyone with that step, there are SO MANY resources available for us to seek a neutral third party. Sometimes that is more comfortable and there is not one thing that is wrong with that. I will list some resources here – some that I or others have found helpful. YOU MATTER. Don’t forget that. Ever.

Remember to take some time for YOU this holiday season. You are just as important as everyone else.


Some helpful resources:

24/7 free, confidential phone or chat support for anyone who is experiencing a crisis or knows someone who is.

Resources for people who seek to help others who are experiencing mental health issues.

Resources for veterans, service members, or their loved ones.

Resources for college students with mental health concerns – you can be connected to your school’s array of resources, including crisis intervention.

Resources for anyone living with a mental illness or caring for a loved one with a mental illness, including information, support, and advocacy.


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