Does the Media Really Influence Self-harm/suicide?

TRIGGER WARNING!
If you are experiencing or have a history of self-harm and/or suicide, please skip this post. You’re not the primary target audience for this one.

Back when the tv show “13 Reasons Why” first came out and there was a backlash from psychologists, parents etc., I thought to myself, “Pfft….just chill, what’s the big deal? As if a tv show would make me want to kill myself!” I avoided watching the show because of all that hype and it’s also high-school-ish. But then there was a period a few months ago when I was dealing with suicidal thoughts and I thought maybe watching a tv show about a suicidal teen could make me feel less lonely, at least someone understands what it’s like.

Well, I was okay with all the conversation around suicide but the one thing that I had problem with the most is them showing how the suicide was carried out. As someone who cuts herself, I find every single scene on tv or online images of self-cutting as…grotesque. Are the tv producers/creators trying to send some kind of message by including that scene? Or was it merely for impact? I also remember from a tv show a while back where the characters were talking about the right way to cut your wrist if you want to kill yourself. Before watching that tv show, I wouldn’t have known that the method of cutting yourself actually matters when it comes to suicide, but thanks for giving me that information! Now I know how to do it the right way if the time ever comes!

When I think of suicide, I imagine overdose, jumping in front of the train, go to the beach late at night and drown myself in the deep blue sea, but the only two times I ever came close to suicide, was just me trying to overdose on my anti-depressants (which is not much of an attempt, really). But then I watched this other tv show, and it showed in detail how this guy hung himself from the door. And guess what? The next time I had suicidal thoughts, I thought of hanging myself, because now I know how it can be done. And newsflash, you can even do it without a rope! There’s an accessory at home that can just do the deeds! Previously I just assumed that hanging myself would require a high ceiling with sturdy stuff to hook a rope onto, so I never bothered, I was too lazy to think of the mechanics etc. Yet now, I know that hanging is an option. Seems pretty easy too. And the news that covered my favourite rock star’s suicide, Chester Bennington? They also described how it was done, right? Similar method was used by Chris Cornell. So there’s some kind of statistics out there that tell me that this method is pretty successful.

I don’t sit around searching for the best way to effectively kill myself , yet somehow, these information was just handed to me for free. When I have suicidal thoughts or almost acted on them, they’re always impulsive. The reason I’m not dead yet is because I didn’t know how to kill myself properly. I never have reached that planning stage to make it so perfect and fail-proof. Even when I reached the stage of writing a suicide note, the intention just faded away in time. But now? Impulse and already armed with information? Well, that impulse could easily lead to my death. So now I need to be a lot stronger in dealing with my impulse because if I slip up, I could just be done once and for all, even when it wasn’t my truest intention.

The real reason I’m writing this post though is because I have cut myself on impulse on last Friday night. In front of my partner when we were arguing. I have never cut in front of someone before. She cried seeing all that blood running down my thigh. The last time I cut was around April this year (wasn’t so serious). Ironically, I recently just thought to myself that I was doing well coping without self-harming. Then, that night happened.

You also know what else I had been doing the last few days? I was watching a murder-mystery tv show. The main character had been self-harming and her WHOLE BODY was full of scars and there were plenty of scenes of her cutting herself. I just found those scenes revolting but didn’t actually think it would have any impact on me. Why would I cut myself after reacting so negatively towards a character hurting herself?

And yet that’s what happened. Was it a mere coincidence that I ended up cutting myself during an argument with my partner on the same day I finished watching this tv show? Was it a coincidence that out of all the spots I’ve cut before, I chose my thigh on an impulse? When I was on Facebook the day before I hurt myself, a friend of mine who is an avid cyclist posted pictures of a cyclist with a big wound on his thigh from a cycling accident, the post wanted to point out that cyclists endure pain or whatever. Surely it’s harmless, right? Back to the tv show, there was a scene where blood was running down the character’s leg from the wound she had inflicted on her thigh. Huh, that scene from the tv became a scene from my life on that night. The night when my thigh wouldn’t stop bleeding and I had to walk from one room to another, trying to apologise to my partner for exposing her to that, while trying to prevent the blood from dripping onto the carpet and floor. Well, some of them did…and now I’ve got a blood-stained rug. After about 12 years of on-and-off self-harm episodes in my life, this was the worst cut I’ve inflicted upon myself. And I hate myself for creating that big wound. I never had to see a doctor for my cuts before but for this one, I was so worried that it still looked terrible a couple of days later that I frantically searched for a clinic that’d be open on a Sunday.

Did the tv show silently seep into my sub-conscious in a way? Did my brain capture some kind of a lesson from the show that when the character experiences pain, she cuts herself? So the next time I was in distress, my brain conjured up the most recent lesson it learnt on how to deal with emotional pain, and so I followed it blindly in my most irrational state.

Or am I just pointing the finger to the media for my plight. Just for the sake of blaming someone else and relinquishing any responsibility for my own actions? I was already down in the dump, but towards the end of last week, I somehow managed to spark a tiny bit of motivation and hope, I was on the way to going up high, picking myself up, and then BAM, i pushed that “self-sabotage” button. Perhaps the tv show has nothing to do with it, perhaps it would have happened with or without the tv show.

I went over my diary and ironically, the last time I hurt myself (punched the wall out of anger) was exactly a month ago. And there was a similar pattern, I was down for a while, then I had a few days of starting to feel good again and then the incident happened. After a big break (few months) from punching walls, it happened when I was climbing up from my deep dark depression hole. And usually the pain and bruises and the swell would subside after about a week but up until this day, I could still feel a lingering pain and there’s still a bulge that doesn’t seem to be going away, so did I finally mini-fracture my knuckle? I know that didn’t come from any tv show.

So which one is it? I wouldn’t know.

Yours Truly.

 

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Where is my Anger?

Anger is a signal for change, a compass that guides you through it. You should be angry enough at something to want to change the situation. My friend told me that if I want to finish my thesis, I should feel angry towards it, and that raging fire would drive me towards ending all the miseries caused by my PhD, once and for all. It makes sense, and I wish I was angry, but the emotional state that I keep falling into is…depression.

I should be angry at my PhD, at my non-supportive supervisors and all the pain inflicted over the past 4.5 years (still counting). I should be angry at employers not giving my job applications a chance. Angry enough to ask them why I fell short instead of just bowing down to the rejections. I should be angry for that time I drove over 40 minutes on a Saturday for an interview only to have the interviewer/pharmacist half-interviewing me while half-managing his employees and customers and to have the interview only lasted for 5 minutes, most likely because he has already decided who he’s going to hire prior to meeting me. I should feel furious when my supervisor strongly encouraged me to apply for the internal position, even when I said the director didn’t seem keen on hiring me, she insisted. I toned down my ego and applied with a glowing hope, and after waiting for 2 months, he ended up withdrawing the job position entirely, not hiring anyone. All I could feel was just, meh, whatever, didn’t really want to be stuck in that place anyway.

I should be allowed to be mad at myself for not taking care of my health, that when I took the 12-hour-train to another state (and another 12 back) for a medical screening to join a paid clinical trial as a healthy participant, I failed because I was underweight. I missed the chance of earning $3750 just by laying in a hospital bed for 2 weeks because I was 2 KG short of a healthy BMI! No skills or cover letters or resume required, and I still managed to fail! Or that time when I went in for plasma donation and they rejected me because I had to have an iron infusion 3 weeks ago, so they were being cautious. Well, won’t you look at that, I even failed at giving!

Why am I just disappointed at my psychologist for not caring enough? That she never once checked in on me despite not having seen her for months because I couldn’t afford her anymore? I should be angry, right? That she only cares for me when I bring in the money. What about that mental health community clinic where I was supposed to finally join the DBT group therapy after being put on a waitlist for 1.5 years (still counting), only to find out that because the University is doing a research through the clinic and they randomly allocate patients to group therapy or no group therapy, I ended up being skipped for the group therapy because voila, I was put in the “control group”. Glad that they treat me as a research subject first, patient second. They had the nerve to call me up a couple of months later for post-treatment interview when in actual fact, I wasn’t receiving ANY treatment. Just so they could assess my answers and compare it to patients receiving the group therapy and say, “Hell yes! Our treatment strategy is superior to other treatments!” I should be angry enough to call the Research Ethics department to let them know how a “research” has interfered with my treatment.

How about having to go to the GP to get a mental health treatment plan for the “free counselling sessions for disadvantaged groups”? Having to deal with the GP who had zero training in mental health, who kept pushing that my sexuality was the root of my problems, or when she added “it’s not your fault” when she was explaining “chemical imbalances”. Well fuck, why would I even think it’s my fault? And after all that, it still takes almost a month (still counting) for me to get an appointment.

Actually, I do feel angry writing this. But it’s just a spark. It will die down soon enough and I will return to staring at the computer screen like a zombie, lying down on the couch just hoping time would pass. Hoping that the phone would ring for a job offer or that I will stop seeing rejection emails. My partner has a full-time job and she’s being headhunted for another position. Fucking great, just ignore thousands of job seekers out there, go ahead and steal someone who already has a job.

Truth is, I’m too depressed to be angry. There comes a point in life when you don’t have it in you to fight anymore. Well, I can still keep going, minimally, but I don’t have enough energy to turn my life around. How am I supposed to bedazzle future employers in interviews if I’m already feeling defeated?

Yours Truly.

 

Post-Medication: Mirtazapine

I have  been off my medication (Mirtazapine aka Remeron, Avanza etc.) for 5 months now. The self-prescribed withdrawing regime had been a torment and on hindsight, I should have kept a proper record of the process. Figured I should try to review it now anyway in case it could be helpful to my future-self and readers going off their meds. Better than late than never!

I began my “recovery” journey back in 2014 by getting off my medication (link to post). That was like going through hell enough and I had vowed not to take anti-depressants ever again. I went back on the med a year later…and have written updates re being back on the medication (The Drug Report and Anti-depressant: One Year Review).
The ultimate decision to quit just sort of happened after an incident where I took 4 x 30 mg pills as a half-hearted suicide attempt (it’s not really a lethal dose). Back in 2013, I pulled a similar stunt with the pills and somehow my mind correlates suicide attempts to me being on the anti-depressant. I mean….I deal with suicidal thoughts regularly since I was 14 years old but the only two times I’ve ever attempted (weak attempts) it were when I was being medicated.

I didn’t have any proper plan, I was just playing it by ear. I simply started the process from Oct 2017 by skipping the medication for 1-2 days or until I felt like I needed the dose. It’s little to do with my state of mind or emotions, the biggest factors back then were my sleep and appetite. Every time I went longer than 3 days, my appetite would plummet, and losing the desire to eat was actually an experience I couldn’t truly cope with. Then of course, the sleep. The medication had been my magical sleeping pills so of course going off it would have the opposite effect. I took prescribed Melatonin every now and then to help with that.

After about 2.5 months (in Dec 17′ – Jan 18′), I started to extend the withdrawing period longer. I went up to 9-10 days without the medication until I couldn’t stand the withdrawal symptoms. “New” symptoms showed up, which was overwhelming allergy reactions – sneezing, itchy eyes etc. At the time I thought I was just exposed to more irritants but when the symptoms miraculously disappeared when I had a dose of Mirtazapine, I relate it to the med. I went through my diary back in 2014 when I was going through my first withdrawal cycle and voila, same symptoms. Coincidence? Highly unlikely.

Anyway, then the symptoms got overwhelming so I went back to dosing myself every 3-4 days from Feb 18′ onward. My nausea got worse too, it’s not just feeling nauseated anymore, it turned into random vomiting. Within a month, I had vomited a lot more than I’d generally have in a year (no, I couldn’t possibly be pregnant since I’m gay and all). I also had episodes of hot flashes. There were days when I thought I was getting sick due to the sudden low-grade fever but then it never turned into a full-blown flu or whatever.

I’ve started complaining about muscle aches in my diary from March 18′. It was getting too much that I went to see a myotherapist (who also happens to be diagnosed with Borderline, hah….hah). I’ve looked up a few papers correlating drugs that target serotonin and norepinephrine to muscle aches. There were some that said it’s the side-effect of being on the medication, whereas some other indicated it could be the aftermath of withdrawing from the meds. In my case, it’s the latter. (I finished my therapy sessions at the end of May and the pain was excruciating. I started taking Magnesium supplements. I guess it helps, could be a placebo or could be the real thing, at least the muscle plain doesn’t take over as much anymore.)

Sometime in April 18′, I began my once-a-week-dose (I’d choose the weekends so either Friday or Saturday night). Let me tell you, at this stage, the drug would knock me out the first couple of days it was in my system. I’d feel so groggy that in some instances I’d literally spend the whole weekend napping on the couch. My girlfriend would complain about my lack of responsiveness on the weekends. I’ve also stopped taking Melatonin around this time because it’s stopped being effective…and it’s an expensive drug to keep up with.

The whole ordeal was just miserable, I was in a constant battle of trying to balance my appetite, sleep and other symptoms. There were days I’d feel so defeated, thinking I would never be able to get off the medication. Alas, I took my last dose on May 25th 18′ and I haven’t been on it since. So it had taken me about 7 months to get off the medication. Consider me lucky, because I was withdrawing from 15 mg. It would have been a lot longer if it had been 45 mg. On my first withdrawal cycle in 2014, it’s tapering off 45 mg after a year’s worth of medicating, this time around it’s a lower dose but the drug has been in my system for a longer duration, 2 years. Can’t really say which withdrawing period is worse.

What is it like now? I’ve gotten used to not sleeping well and at least I’d still manage to fall asleep in less than an hour on some nights. I’ve been eating quite normally as well. My explosive anger that’s associated with my BPD? I actually think it’s more to do with the withdrawal symptoms because during that period, I was punching walls every fortnight that I had to get an x-ray for my knuckles. Now that my “internal levels” are perhaps more stabilised, my anger is more manageable. My fortnightly punching spree has stopped.
I think it has wrecked my hormone levels though, because now I am having worse PMS symptoms, my acid reflux/indigestion/stomach cramps is now at it’s worst after I’ve gone completely off the meds. The last time I had serious acid reflux/digestive issues? Around 2014-2015 when I went off the meds. So…I am guessing it’s related. It could be a coincidence but…well, I guess I’ll never know. I just need to find a way to manage this symptom now.

If the drug has been altering the chemicals and machinery in my body/brain for 2 years, I expect it would take some time for my body to readjust to this new drug-free environment. I might be getting new symptoms some time later down the track.
So…yeah, let’s see how long I can stay off the meds this time around!

Yours Truly.

What Happened to that Dream?

I was sucked into the Black Hole recently when a new seed was planted: that there is no career out there that fits me. I have been trying to get into the clinical trials industry because I thought it was something I wanted to do but the entry level position is basically administration duties so to gain that skill, I volunteer at an organisation as an admin assistant. It is easy and doable but I don’t know how much I can truly enjoy a job that involves staring at the computer 9-5. Even if I progress up the ladder, I imagine it’d still entail coordinating things…through a computer.

I don’t know what my passion is anymore. Or maybe I never did. Shall I get in touch with my childhood hobby?

Sure, I’ve been writing since I was 6 or 7 years old. I dreamed of publishing a novel but since my teenage years, I have only been collecting half-completed drafts. I wanted to apply for a copywriting position but the task asked me to write a sample on car insurance. I tried, but at the end I just could not muster up the energy to write about something I couldn’t care less about. I wanted to be a medical writer. I love science and writing, should be easy, right? No. I tried looking up journal articles that I can translate into layman’s terms and make science fancy but there’s no article that interests me. If I love writing about science so much, how come I am struggling with my PhD thesis write-up?  All I had to do to finish now, is just to write them all up and yet, here I am.

I wanted to be a doctor but I am not really sure where that dream went. Somewhere along the way when I was growing up, that dream became my sister’s career and I simply…did not want to follow her footstep. I wanted to become a Forensic Scientist, all that time watching CSI as a teenager had gotten to me. When I was at college, I did a project on Blood Spatter Analysis for my Physics assignment, and wrote about DNA profiling technologies for my Biology assignment. At University, when studying for Bachelor of Biotechnology, I took a random elective course on Forensic Archaeology which I scored a High Distinction. And then…then… I don’t know why the trail stopped there. Because I realised that it’s not as glamorous as portrayed on tv? Or because I figured out that being a forensic scientist means I’d be testing samples in the lab and it has little to do with the investigative work – following clues and solving puzzles?

Or perhaps it’s simply because I did Honours, worked in the lab for a cancer research, got a First Class and thought I could actually do this as a career. That I could be a scientist. So I dreamed about winning a Nobel Prize for curing some disease. But if I were to do a research, I should pursue something closer to home, right? I wanted to cure mental illness, find the right drug for my depression (haven’t been diagnosed with BPD back then) but at that time I couldn’t find a lab that was working on depression. So I got into a PhD on schizophrenia. It’s not my affliction, but still close to my cause, so it should have been the time of my life. It hasn’t been. Sure I enjoy splitting my time between the lab and the office. Getting excited with new experiments. But being a scientist is not all about saving the world, it’s really about personal gains. About putting your own name out there. Instead of collaborating with one another, we race and compete to be the first one to find something novel, to have our own name on that piece of paper. And after getting a real insight into the research world, I’ve stopped believing in drugs for mental illness. Well, unless we could find a way to diagnose patients based on blood tests etc. and not just some questionnaires. There is just a million flaws in the research world that it strays from my values, that I don’t feel like I am contributing anything to the society, the politics end up steering the research direction away from my interest.

I have enjoyed tutoring or mentoring students one on one. I like guiding someone. Consulting. I know I cannot be a lecturer because it’s impersonal. I’d like something with more human connections. I don’t think I can be a psychologist so hey, why not combine science and counselling? Voila, maybe I should become a Genetic Counselor. But I need to do a Masters for that. And is it though? Is that REALLY what I want? Should I really spend more time and money studying, just to learn that it’s not for me, after all?

So I did online career tests. To figure out my values and shit. The results say I need a job that requires analytical skills, which is not far from the truth, I do need mental stimulation. Most of the suggested jobs are related to being a doctor or surgeon ie. neurologist etc. Well, too late for that. I am not spending another 7+ years studying. Another job they suggested is an air traffic controller. That sounds fascinating. My elder brother is a pilot and with all that time in the sky? I envy him.  Once upon a time, I  wanted to join the navy, because I love the water too. There’s something about being in a uniform or a structured/disciplined environment that I find alluring. But my dad was against it, most likely because I was a girl, so he made my little brother joined the navy instead. (And my little brother ended up running away from the navy because he couldn’t stand it). Well, maybe an air traffic controller doesn’t wear a uniform but whatever, it’s not like I’m really going to go down that path anyway. It’s just a thought. A dream, just like the dreams I’ve had before.

I guess I haven’t found the thing that can let me live up to my best potential and it frustrates me. So much. Have you ever felt that there is something out there that you can do, that you’re meant to do something bigger but you just don’t know what it is? That you’re just not there yet? That there’s so much more you can give but you haven’t found the outlet?

That, is what I have been feeling, that feeling of being incomplete.

Yours Truly

Random Coping Mechanisms Review

Since I have too much spare time at home lately (read: procrastinating), I’ve spent the last few months trying out new coping mechanisms for my rage and/or anxiety. So, I’m going to list a few, with comments regarding it’s efficacy and my compliance.

1. Wasabi

s-l300One of the psychologists I’ve seen had suggested spicy foods. I agree that a spicy meal can reset my brain, the burning sensation overriding every single thought there is, it’s marvelous! But when it comes to managing rage, I don’t think I’d be able to go “Hey hold on, I’m going to cook something spicy because I’m getting angry” midway of argument with my partner. So I bought a tube of wasabi instead and told my partner to hand it to me whenever I’m turning into a volcano that’s about to erupt.
One day, it did happen, I was getting angry, she grabbed the wasabi tube and told me to have it and…..result? I got angrier because in that intense moment, I felt like I was expressing my feelings and all she wanted to do was shove some wasabi into my mouth, so I grabbed the tube and threw it across the room. It didn’t cross my mind at the time that she was only following my instruction, that the wasabi was my own idea.

Conclusion: Wasabi in response to an irrational state of mind – Failed. Having said that, others might have a better chance. As for me, the wasabi remains in the fridge, unused. I guess spicy food works better when you’re down the depression hole. It has worked for me before. It felt like being revived from the dead. Not so sure how it would work for rage though.

2. The Dialectical Behavior Therapy Skills Workbook by Jeffrey Brantley, Jeffrey C. Wood, and Matthew McKay

516VuY2krdL._SX398_BO1,204,203,200_I have been on the waiting list for the free DBT group program since forever and my then-physiotherapist had shared her experience of  using this book when she herself was on the waiting list, which she had found useful. My experience? I was excited and keen at first, I loved having a structured exercise to help me cope. I felt like I was studying and doing homework for a subject called “my own well-being”.
But then, came the mindfulness. The endless mindfulness exercises. One after another. The book is littered with mindfulness! And I am just sick of that word. I could have just embraced Buddhism if I truly wanted to capture mindfulness, don’t need psychologists for that!

Conclusion: A workbook that lures the reader into mindfulness – Meh. It does have good tips here and there; and I am going through it slowly, just forcing myself to keep going. Well, it’s been almost 4 months and I have not finished it. If you’re a rookie who has never had any form of therapy, it might be helpful. And if you’re into mindfulness, this book is your bible.
But if you’ve been in therapy and have had resources thrown at you for the last 8 years, then you would have already been familiar with most of the concepts and suggestions in the book. I have not found it unique or entirely different to other form of therapies I have had.

3. Sensory Singlet
When I have overwhelming emotions (ie. frustration), sometimes I would squeeze my partner tightly. I thought I was letting out my frustration on her, trying to hurt her, then of course I would feel bad. Recently, I have realised that it might have been my body hinting at what I need at that time. Deep pressure. You can google about the concepts surrounding deep pressure and how it’s supposed to be calming your senses or nervous systems. It’s something more relevant to people on the autism spectrum or ADHD etc.  Anyway, I browsed for products on the market, there are things like pressure vests or weighted clothing/blankets – all insanely expensive, for something I didn’t even know would work. I found a store that sells singlets though, which are relatively cheaper.
Results? Unsure. First of all, it is incredibly tight, it takes some form of athleticism and flexibility to even get the singlet on and off, I don’t even think it’s healthy for my boobs to be squashed like that. I may have purchased a size smaller, or perhaps it is meant to be that tight? The fabric is wonderful though, and the tightness felt comforting, as if I was being hugged 24/7. After almost 12 or so hours though, my body started to protest a bit. A hint of soreness and my stomach… it bloated! (it’s an unusual kind of bloating.) A simple search on the internet did mention tight clothing that press on the abdomen could obstruct healthy digestion. Well, I could just exchange with a better size but really, I’m a lazy bastard when it comes to those things.

Conclusion: I am guessing it could have worked for the long run if you could find the perfect size. A vest or a blanket could possibly reduce the sizing issues too. That is if you’re happy to invest in something like that. I would be willing to give a similar product another go, when I have more money in the bank.

4. Boxercise
I tend to punch things, walls, or hit myself when my rage is uncontrollable. So I thought, why not try to punch things more methodologically, instead of compulsively? So I put on the punching gloves and followed a random Youtube boxercise video at home. Then I started doing the moves myself, whenever I could sense that simmering rage. I’ve even tried to do it every day before the rage has a chance to build up. After all, prevention is better than having to contain the explosion, the aftermath.
Results? Previously, I was punching things once or twice a fortnight, a cycle that began from end of last year. But since this boxing regime, I have not punched things during arguments with my partner for almost two months now. I did explode and slapped myself several times on a recent occasion because my partner confronted me early in the morning when I was still asleep in bed, so I didn’t even have a chance to reboot my brain.

Conclusion – Boxing is effective but you need to stick to it. I have become lazy or complacent lately, so I have reduced the frequency of it. I am currently on the hunt for a punching bag because it might help more with my motivation but again, costly – for something I might not even touch after a while (I grow out of certain “habits” easily). So I’m waiting to find a cheap one. I could go to the gym, but I am more conscious and inhibited in a public environment so it wouldn’t be optimum for myself, but certainly something I’d recommend for others.

5. Jigsaw Puzzles
Ah, my favourite! I did puzzles as a kid but had no interest in it as an adult until recently. I am glad I revisited this hobby. It is calming because I am *coughs* mindful when doing the puzzle – the concentration it takes and all that strategising. It is addictive too, that feeling of wanting to complete the puzzle. Sensory-wise, I love the feeling when the pieces fit, when you slide each piece into its rightful slot, even that tiny action feels like an achievement, a validation, so imagine fitting 1000 pieces, that’s equivalent to a 1000 mini rewards. As I go along, I love running my fingers over the completed sections of the puzzle, I love the feeling of the texture underneath my fingers. As for sight, even just by looking at the completed sections gives a sense of reward. Bonus if you find puzzles of artwork/images that you appreciate. I am crazy for Rosina Wachtmeister‘s puzzles because I love cats and I like her illustrations.

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Conclusion: WINNER!!! I don’t know why no psychologists or coping skills resources have ever mentioned jigsaw puzzles to me. When I do puzzles, it transports me into another world. So when I am too stressed out with my problems, puzzles are great distractions. Downside- you can’t really just do it anywhere, say at work or something. You also need quite a lot of space. And you do need to regularly invest in them when you get new ones but hey, worth it.

There you have it, some stuff you could try if you have not thought of them before. Most of the issues for me is with compliance. It can be the most effective tool/method ever, but if I can’t comply, if I can’t adopt it regularly, it’s pretty much useless.

Yours Truly.

Wish List: Disappear

Lately I have been wishing I could just disappear. I wish I could go to an island somewhere, de-identify myself, remove Facebook, ditch phone numbers and emails, a place where I am nobody’s loyal friend, nobody’s compliant daughter or caring sister, not another woman’s loving partner, not a blind follower of any religion, where I don’t feel the need to finish my thesis or find an “appropriate” job. I want to live without expectations, I am tired of trying to be the person the society demands of me. I know that I can only ever be myself if I am not living by anybody’s standards, the only way I could be reborn and learn who I truly am.

This process of finding a job is killing me, it is killing the already diminishing self-esteem in me, degrading my self-worth. I have spent almost 10 years studying post high-school, trying to earn degrees one after another, yet I am still in the same boat as anybody. The process is grueling and a tormenting hell for ME. Yet the people around me could make my journey about them.  If I don’t find a job in this country, I’d have to leave my partner and return to my home country where my family awaits and I would be expected to live inside a transparent closet. My future plan is all contingent on finding a job soon because I can already catch a glimpse of the bottom of my savings. Yet no matter how many jobs I apply to, I still cannot say for sure what is going to happen. It is a waiting game.

This is my life, my journey, my decision, my fear, my anxiety. But my partner, my dad and my mom need an answer from me, need me to make a decision,  need me to update them my plans regularly. My parents wanting me back home, my partner wanting me to stay with her. They stress about how my decision would affect their lives. Does anybody stop to think how it would affect me?

My partner just assumes that if I do end up leaving, she’d be the only one who would be heartbroken, the person left behind to pick up the pieces, while I drive off into the sunset, she worries about what is going to happen to her if I am gone. She could not see that me resigning myself to my own country is a death wish. That if I do go back, it is the indication that I have been defeated by life and the system in this country. My parents wouldn’t understand how being back home would suffocate me, them refusing to acknowledge both my brother’s and my non-heterosexuality does actually have a significant impact, how could you wish for your children to be hidden away, stuffed in the closet, just because you believe it’s written there somewhere in some ancient scripts? Wouldn’t you wish your children to be free elsewhere?

At the moment I feel trapped. So yes, it would have been nice to disappear, not having to answer to anybody. Funny that it takes money to disappear and start anew; and that money I don’t have, is how I have fallen into this dark hole in the first place.

p.s: Perhaps this should be my cover letter, hey. Let the recruiters know that I am a human being. That I am not just a goddamn piece of paper for them to ignore.

Yours Truly.

The Borderline and Autism Spectra

I have “always” (since 2013) been curious about autism or specifically, Asperger syndrome (I can’t always tell the difference). It started when I read the book The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon. I marveled at the way the character thinks, how his mind works, his beautiful logic. I went on to read other novels like Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend by Matthew Green, The Rosie Project and The Rosie Effect by Graeme Simsion, and currently reading The London Eye Mystery by Siobhan Dowd. I have always thought my fascination was with their intelligence but recently I have started to wonder if it’s because I could relate to them to a certain degree.

I also watch tv shows featuring characters on the spectrum like The Good Doctor and Atypical. When I saw an episode of Atypical, where the guy was experiencing overwhelming emotions after being turned down by his psychologist, and he was banging his head/back against the seat of the bus, all I could think was “Whoa, how is that much different to how I feel and what I do when I get triggered?” It seems like they struggle with regulating overwhelming emotions, isn’t that a part of Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), too? Then I began questioning if there is an overlap between autism and BPD. Obviously I am not the first person to question this.

A simple research on the net revealed a study by Dudas et al. (2017) (you can also read the summary of the article on another website here), suggesting some BPD patients also have autistic traits. The article also referred to other studies stating females within the autism spectrum are under-diagnosed or have been diagnosed with BPD. Interestingly, another study looking into BPD and autism in females, has highlighted that female patients without a history of substance abuse, with suicidal ideations and profound negative self image, warrant investigations into the presence of autistic traits.
(Disclaimer: As a researcher myself, I am aware that you cannot take every data presented at face value, there can be human errors and bias involved etc. so read the articles at your  discretion)

Now, I was diagnosed with BPD and I happily obliged falling into a category that could perhaps help me get better and understand myself better. Substance abuse or addiction is relatively common among BPD patients, yet that’s not something on my list. Psychologists would believe it’s because I have never even tried alcohol or street drugs (the thought of losing control has never appealed to me because I somehow believed I might end up killing myself or do some absolutely terrible thing if I had no inhibitions), so perhaps if I’ve had a taste, I would be inclined to abuse them? They also say BPD patients swing from one relationship to another, rarely single for a long time, fear of being alone, tend to sleep with a lot of people. And how do I fit into this? I am 28 years old and have only ever been in one relationship. Now, this may have to do with my sexuality and being in the closet for the most part of my life, so I couldn’t really just sleep around with women. And my desire to sleep with men is just not strong enough or nonexistent. I didn’t get into a relationship until last year, most likely for the same reason, and might have something to do with my introversion. The fact that I enjoy being alone so much, had interfered with my need of wanting to share a life with someone; and that I can go for a week or so without socialising didn’t really fit into spending time with someone 24/7. I may have been single all those years but I did get high or occupied by falling in love with a series of straight and/or unavailable women, so I guess that’s my way of “swinging” from one person to another?

I know that I am not high or even midway on the autism spectrum. My systemising is definitely higher than that of my partner but I am sure it is nowhere near those on the autism spectrum. It is a quality that I admire but also know that I am not built with a high capacity for it. Could low empathy (pretty sure my empathy is lower than my partner’s) be the point where these two intersect? So what if some of us fall on the very low end of the spectrum? A trace amount? An amount that is enough to put us aside from the “healthy people”?

What difference could it make? What have I gained from my BPD diagnosis? I have been on the waiting list for about one and a half years now for the group Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT) program, if more people are being diagnosed with BPD, that means less resources available to them, right? I haven’t gotten any proper “treatment” since my diagnosis, what I did get along with the diagnosis, is the stigma. How my partner believes I am manipulative because she’s read in various articles it’s something ingrained in all BPD patients. How I couldn’t get into some counselling clinic because they’re not equipped to deal with BPDs. How I was almost turned away from a clinical trial for alleviating depressive symptoms because of that BPD diagnosis. Would I have received a better (or at least some kind of ) treatment had the diagnosis been more fitting? After all, I have met provisional psychologists and qualified psychologists who would say I have patterns of BPD, and then there were other psychologists who wouldn’t put me and BPD in the same category.

What if you have minor traits of both? It’s not major enough to be taken seriously but enough to make you feel different from others, enough to feel isolated, and not understood. Do the labels really matter after all? What if, at the end of the day, we’re all just a little bit of this and that? What does it really mean to be diagnosed with anything?

Yours Truly.

The Familiar, yet Strange Cycle

How is it possible to feel great one week, meeting deadlines I have set for myself, seeing a bright future ahead, then the next week wake up down in the dumps thinking, “I am just so exhausted from this cycle, can’t do this anymore”.

The thing is, when I feel good for a week, I truly do believe I am getting better, that perhaps depression would struck me just once in a month or so. When my rage has not burned me up for a few days, I believe that I have gotten control of it, little did I know I am still a woman with a volcano quietly simmering underneath, waiting to erupt. I mean, I could think to myself “Hey, my boxercise at home has helped maintain my anger issues! I’ve been doing well!”, then a few hours later my anger meter would go from 0 to 10 in a split second when triggered, just like a switch. How about my feelings for my partner? I could imagine being with her until the end of time, feeling amazed at us for being able to get more in sync and have less intense arguments, then one day I would go to sleep feeling trapped and stuck, fantasizing about some other woman, dreaming of someone better. Do normal people also constantly doubt the person they have chosen or is this my “borderline promiscuity” getting a hold of me? They all say that people with borderline personality disorder just can’t keep it in their pants, right? So how come I’ve only slept with one person? One “celebrity psychologist” even equates it to a monkey bar, that us BPD would only let go of that one bar (person) when we’ve had a firm hold on the other bar (person). Is it really my relationship that is the issue or is it actually me?  Just as much as I would fantasize others, the thought of building a life together with a new person from scratch does not seem appealing at all. Perhaps my fantasies are just an escape method? I have never felt bad for fantasizing when I have been single almost my entire life, but it does not feel appropriate when I am in a relationship now. Perhaps the guilt adds to the confusion of who or what I want.

I know the storm will pass and I would feel better again later. At times like these, all I could do is just curl up and wait out this “gloomy weather”. I have tried to find movies to pass the time but realised I couldn’t be bothered, I have had my favourite dessert, which didn’t give me the jump start I had anticipated, I have tried to draw but couldn’t commit to it. So here I am, writing this.

I just find it odd, that after going through this cycle millions of times, I still get affected by it. That I am still surprised whenever I am staring at the rock bottom after soaring high in the sky, baffled that I can still be caught off guard. The depression and lack of motivation feel familiar but at the same time it feels brand new too. As if I haven’t felt this way just two weeks ago. As if I haven’t been living with depression for the past decade or so.

Sigh, looking at the big picture though, I have been alright I guess. I have not punched the wall nor myself for over a month. Comparing that to previously injuring my knuckles fortnightly, I would say that’s a triumph. I have finished drafting three chapters of my thesis when a few months ago, I was so ready to give up and abandon my PhD. So I know my motivation will come back, eventually. And if I know my partner loves me and I believe deep down I do love her, that should be enough for now, right?

Well then, I shall return to being a ball on the couch. Hopefully, I’ll feel better tomorrow. If not, the next day, or the day after!

Yours Truly.

Change of Hearts

Over the past few months, I sense an “emotional distance” whenever I hang out with my two best friends (separately). I first felt it since I moved to the city, about an hour away from my previous town, leaving behind my friends, office, university, psychologist, and doctor (although, I still make the trip there almost every week). So, I was feeling distressed by this change of feelings towards my own best friends, wondering if my BPD is “acting up”, that I have lost the ability to connect with people, somehow blaming myself for “moving on” even though we are still physically not too far away from one another.

Recently, I changed my way of perception. I think there is some kind of a social theory that says something along the line of humans choosing their social circles by identifying with others in the same boat/circumstance or with those sharing the same (current) interests. The easiest “criteria” is of course, race, religion, gender, etc. but I won’t go into those categories. As a person who mostly hangs out with people (and dating someone) of a different race, religion (or lack of) and “age group”, suffice to say those common categories are not my “inclusion criteria”. I guess what’s more relevant to me in forming a connection, is “priorities”.

So I looked back on my friendships that started back in 2014 when I first moved to that town. I met H in 2014 at a networking event, she was working as an admin, in a relationship, 9 years older than me, and I was just starting my PhD, single, new to town. We found out that we both liked rock climbing so we went rock climbing a few times. In 2015, she was away in Canada for a few months to get married to her Australian partner. We actually did not hang out at all in 2015. We have bumped into each other, twice, on the bus, when she was back in Australia but nothing really came of it because I had another best friend at that time, L.  He was doing his Honours at my institute, he’s gay and one of the only few people I came out to, single, 2 years younger than me. My friendship with A, who was just starting his PhD at my institute in 2015, single, a year younger than me; was also just beginning.

In 2016, H quit her job and started her PhD (in a field completely different than mine). So now, she and I are in the same “group”. We are both postgraduate students, whinging about PhD and supervisors. We reconnected and our friendship grew closer. A was also pretty much the only person I was having lunch with at my institute. We were both still single, exchanging gossips of our crushes, well mostly him because I hadn’t come out to him then. I connected with him more than I did with H, perhaps because of our age. has already finished his Honours, graduated, found a job and moved to the city, he found a steady boyfriend, he no longer had time for me, someone who’s still studying, still living in the same town, still single and not even out of the closet. I was hurt because I still needed him, confronted him and well, let’s just say he’s no longer a part of my life now.

In 2017, I met my partner, I got into a relationship. Now both H and I have partners, albeit she’s in a hetero relationship, A is still single. Subconsciously, I was leaning more towards H, than A. Towards end of 2017, I was reaching the end of my PhD, my animosity towards my institute was overflowing, associating the place with stress. Unfortunately, A still works there, the place I truly wanted to move on from. H got pregnant towards the end of 2017. Oh, I was also “formally” diagnosed with BPD somewhere in 2017.

2018, I moved in with my partner to the city, I am now no longer in the same “community” as H nor A. H is becoming a mother, so she identifies more with other pregnant ladies or already-mothers. I am far from being a mother. I have no idea what being pregnant feels like. I am finishing up my PhD and looking for a job. H and A are no longer on the same journey as I am because I am closer to the finishing line and transitioning to a different race. My priorities are different now. A part of it is also to work on my DBT skills or other coping mechanisms for my BPD.

In one of the previous posts (When Borderlines Meet), I talked about the strong connection I felt with my physiotherapist. It mattered that she also has BPD because I am on that journey of getting in touch with my BPD, had I met her back in 2015 or 2016, it wouldn’t have mattered as much. She’s finishing her second Bachelor’s degree, in her last semester, so we’re both finishing and we both know how it feels like to be close to the end but also so drained from it all. She lives in the same city as I am. She is two years younger than me. She is in a relationship, with a man, but she doesn’t label herself as straight because she’s attracted to women too. (An update on that story: I ended up reaching out to her on Facebook and now we’re friends. Sort of. Still new. We’re still….acquainting?)

It makes sense, then, why I am drifting away from my friends and easily gravitate towards someone new, someone who lives in the same city and share similar priorities. I guess my point is, I shouldn’t be panicking when something changes. Just because I have stopped enjoying activities or people’s companies, doesn’t necessarily mean something is wrong, it just means I am growing towards another path in my life.

You see, I never really had this problem before because I always move or the other person moved, or we got into a huge fight, so our time was cut short. I’ve never stayed long enough to experience this change of hearts or priorities with my friends.

It’s not my fault. It’s not their fault. We are just growing apart (and we might even grow closer again if our paths intersect again in the future) and that’s the given of life!

Yours Truly.

In-between Chapters

Life update. I am currently at that stage of my life where I feel like I am in a limbo, or that my life is being put on hold. I am ready for the next chapter of my life but it is not written yet, I am ready to close the current chapter I am in but it hasn’t reached it’s conclusion yet. Yes,  I am talking about that stage. It is no fun. The not knowing part can be frustrating.

I have been applying for a full-time job and none has been fruitful. I should be finishing my PhD thesis write-up but I kept stalling, try writing up 3.5-years worth of project from scratch, a project you’ve stopped caring about a long time ago, a project that serves as a reminder of your failures. I am still not sure if I will still be in Australia in a few months time because my visa will be expired soon, will I get a job here in Australia that will enable me to support myself? My scholarship runs out by end of this month. My casual teaching position has just finished for the semester. Can I get a job somewhere in Europe, though I don’t know why anyone would hire someone all the way from Australia when they’ve got candidates in their own country and continent? Would I end up having to return to my homophobic home country, stuffing myself back into the closet?

What’s going to happen with my current relationship? Will the relationship survive long enough for my girlfriend with the Australian citizenship to be willing to sponsor my permanent residency here? Well, she said she’d help me secure my residency even if we break up, but would I want to commit formally (and then get a formal divorce) to someone I won’t even have a relationship with? Would I want to stay in Australia if there is no one else keeping me here, just for the sake of staying away from my own country?

Will I actually ever be admitted to the DBT (Dialectical Behaviour Therapy) group that I’ve been on the waiting list for over a year for? Will I ever get a proper help with my Borderline Personality Disorder, even though I have been diagnosed since 2015 and been seeing “professionals” that keep me going around in circles? Will I destroy my relationship and/or myself before that help would finally arrive? Will my body ever let me go off my anti-depressant fully that I have been tapering off since October last year and still messing up with my physiological system?

Too many unknowns, it has caused a great deal of distress the last few months, since the beginning of the year. Now I am slowing down and just going to focus on the present moment. Chip away at things I can do, keep applying for jobs, use up my savings after my scholarship runs out, work on DBT myself with the workbook I have just bought, enjoy my relationship without the extra pressure of visa or permanent residency and push myself to work on my PhD thesis.

Following on from the previous post, at least I’ve closed the chapter with my physiotherapist. They’ve finished for the semester, the clinic will reopen in a couple months time but I will put an end to it. I will not go back. I have said my goodbye. I will not pursue her or whatever it was we were bonding over. I had assumed she was straight when she told me about her current boyfriend and past boyfriends, but in our last session she shared about her past hook-ups with girls. Note to other women out there, when a gay woman confessed she’s had a crush on you and believed you were straight, keep it that way, don’t throw in your past same-sex sexual ventures or your mild attraction towards women, if it’s not something you are really into. Don’t throw in a possibility. It messes people up. A part of me wants her and I know I shouldn’t. I shall not repeat my pattern, even if it means saying goodbye to a beautiful amazing soul.

Yours Truly.