Ten Years Gone



Dont fall down now

You will never get up

Dont fall down now. . .

~ Everclear, ‘Strawberry

My problem is I always get up.  That may cause some cognitive dissonance on the part of the reader.  I mean, arent we supposed to keep getting up, to keep fighting, in my own words, to keep advocating until we are. . . .

Until we are what?  Happy?  Supported?  Secure?  Safe?  No longer suicidal?

I know there are stories that have happy endings.  They have miracles and bliss and a level of joy that was never even dreamed of when the diagnosis came down.  I even have fleeting pieces of those stories; when Im with my girls, when Im swimming in the ocean, most recently when I was walking through the campus at the University of Pittsburgh.  Words are insufficient to capture that.

I am grateful for it, more than grateful, but I tell you what, knowing its there makes right now infinitely harder.

This is not a Happily Ever After Story (although connected to Pitt, and something I will write of in a difference piece, there is a chance for hope, and not just for me).  This is not motivational, positive, optimistic.  This is not like anything you have ever read from me.

This is my truth, ten years after diagnosis.  This is me backing up, remembering who I was, and speaking truth about how completely destroyed and demeaned and generally fucked over Ive been, usually with my own complicity.  This is me taking steps to take it all back.

Proceed at your own risk.  Beyond here there be monsters.

Ten years now, TEN YEARS, Ive done nothing but all I was supposed to.  I went to the therapists.  I went to the doctors.  I read the books. I learned the lingo.  CBT, DBT, IPSRT, EMDR, you name it.  I endured side effects so debilitating that my mother had to hold my elbow and guide my through the rooms of a very familiar house.  I was taken to the Emergency Department in the middle of the night because of a dystonic reaction. Based on reading and research, as well as my mothers relation of the reactions ED staff (I was too far gone to get a read), and the fact that the doctor did not leave my side from admittance to discharge — if you have ever been to an ED and had that happen, you were on the edge of death, let me assure you. ED docs do not hang out all night with one patient.  Ive been through too much that has been terrifying and embarrassing and life-altering.

Please take my word that with medication reactions and other odds and ends, I absolutely should be dead.  Twenty-five times over (at least) I truly should be dead, speaking in purely physiological terms.

Somehow I keep getting up.

I don’t understand it.  Do you know how often I have thought, ‘Please, please, just take me.  I cannot face this any longer.  There is nothing left.  Let me drift away.’

(Note:  I have never been suicidal, I have never attempted suicide.)

I had a psychiatrist pounce when I was at my most vulnerable and malleable and helpless point and tell me the only treatment left to try was electroconvulsive therapy.  For three-and-a-half years, every three weeks, I had demonstrated to him my opposition to ECT.  He knew I had researched and understood it well.  He knew that I was against it for any and all reasons.

Yet he found that moment, he manipulated me emotionally and psychologically, he abused his position of trust, and his colleague administered 16 electrical shocks to my brain.  I got worse.  I was no longer even what you would call a person at that point.  The quack administering the shocks had the brilliant idea that if the unilateral (right side of head) treatment wasnt working, lets go for bilateral (both sides).  Because if you’re getting bad results, lets make them worse!

Somehow, somewhere, something deep down in my ruined self emerged.  I essentially said, “Absolutely not and what the fuck is wrong with you that you think thats going to happen?  Im done with unilateral, Im done with ECT, Im done with you, and congratulations, you are leaving me in a state at least 50 times worse than before I met you.”

And then my psychiatrist pulled out other treatments after all, and I knew the truth.

At that point all of my self-worth was gone.  You would have had to have known me when, but I was the most strong, confident, self-assured, self-righteous, secure, crusading young woman that had ever been.  No shit.  When I was 14 I became a strict vegetarian, within days I had my mother and sister eschewing every animal but fish.  I wore a button to school every day that read “Fur: There’s no excuse.”  I pissed off loads of my schoolmates with that.  Since clearly 13/14-year-olds were not wearing dead animal skin, my best guess is it triggered something in them that under all the layers of the life they lived to get through, there was a niggling feeling that somewhere along the line they were going to have to FACE THINGS.  To make hard choices and answer hard questions.

That’s just a guess, of course.

When I was 20, I dated a wonderful man from Sweden.  God, how I miss him, still to this day.  We were sitting in a cafe one day, and Bob Marleys “Get Up, Stand Up” came on.  He said to me, “See, this song, this is you.”  He seemed a little awed by that.  I was blown out of my reality, in the best possible way, that he could look at me and feel that.  Actually, I still am.  I think that I will always miss him.

Ten years.  The ECT aside, except for the part that it destroyed me cognitively and emotionally and in so many ways, I got up.  I fixed what I could of my brain the best that I could.

That was really The Point.  The point where everything inside me that said I was worth something disappeared.  The point at which I decided that if anyone was so kind and charitable to be in my life, they deserved any and everything I could give them.  They deserved that I jumped through every hoop, twisted into impossible shapes, and passed every single test so I might be worthy of them.  I have never been physically abused, thank God, but I have been through so much emotional and psychological abuse that I should not be here, writing these words.  I should be in the Snake Pit.

One of the saddest facts of mental illness is that friends and family members often come to expect the above-mentioned behavior as well.  People you have known all of your life, people who have supported you through everything (else) and vice versa.  You are ill, you have psychological and behavioral and emotional issues and everything is your fault.  Something you have to work on.

This is despite the fact that I did everything right.  I did not turn to drugs or drink.  I did not get knocked up with a baby I was not capable of raising.  I never stole.  When I lied, it was only about How I Was Doing.  (Side note, no one who is not being paid to treat you wants the honest answer to this.)  I did run up massive credit card debt shopping, but I was not only manic, I was also on a medication later found to cause compulsive behaviors in those who had never before had them.  I take responsibility for this, though in the moment it was clearly not something I could control.

Not all loved ones behaved that way, though.  Some just decided that it was too hard.  They found a chance or an excuse or a justification, and they cut and run.  There is no nice way to say that.  I have lost close family members, lifelong friends. . . .  Excluding my parents, I have lost every single person I loved and valued and thought would be there no matter what.  I am not claiming to be blameless here.  I know there are times I am beyond horrible to deal with.  But given the chance, I own up and take responsibility for my behavior — which, lets be a little tiny bit fair — is literally not under my control.

And then there are the friends that just cut communication after 20 years.  No response, no reason.  That, I think, is the one that will break in my heart until the day of my death.

Just something for you to think on, really think:  If I were diagnosed with cancer, or some other horrible life-altering (and threatening) disease that would effectively change who I was, that had a prognosis where support of my loved ones made an enormous difference, but that they had to sit and watch and feel helpless because they couldnt make me well; if one by one they decided, ‘This is too hard for me.  I cant be a part of this anymore.  Im walking away for my own life.’  Now, if I were a cancer patient instead of a mentally ill patient, would I be the only one shouting, “Thanks for the memories, sorry me dying screwed up your life?”

I would not.

And oh, by the way, when all those people who loved and respected you as a worthwhile, valuable friend and human being depart, true or untrue, you decide it must be you, that you are clearly a worthless piece of trash that deserves to be treated as badly as the best people treated you.

Thank you for that, by the way.

To sum up:  All the people I needed most, and who showed me I deserved to have value as a human, did the rats on a sinking ship thing.  With a very few amazing exceptions, everyone who was left would be my friend and have so much to give me as long as I danced, monkey, dance.  And I danced a lot.

I don’t know why it came to today for me to realize how many “friends” are users and manipulators and love me when I can provide what they need, exactly on their time table.  Or maybe I do.  But whatever it is, Im done.  Fuck you for taking advantage of me.  Fuck you for telling me I mattered so much when you cannot answer a simple text.  Fuck you for mining my ten years of tragedy for things you might find fascinating.  It ends now.

And by the way, if youre wondering if youre included in those “fuck yous,” if you actually have to stop and think about it, you probably are.

Id like to end this with the inspirational tale of how life is getting better for me and Im regaining my strength and sense of self, but that would be a lie.  And today, right now, I am dealing only in truths.

Truth:  I have an apartment that, after two years, finally feels like a home, and not just a space I occupy.

Truth:  I have the most loving, beautiful, intelligent, intuitive, affectionate, mischievous cat in the world who comes and lays on my chest when I have panic attacks.

The Munchkin

Truth:  Im here.  I keep getting up.  Ive had more than one person ask me how I can be so resilient, keep going when I have been nothing but disappointed and knocked down.  So many people say hope, they say prayer, they say support.  Thinking on it, I have never heard anything but positives when others speak about continuing to fight.

As for me?

I was watching an old WWII movie, I think with Humphrey Bogart, and they pulled a German U-Boat captain out of the water, one they had encountered before.  In the ensuing conversation about how the German had managed to escape death, he said something to the effect of, “I dont survive because of any great training or special capabilities.  I survive because I do not know how to do anything else.

Not the most inspirational source, but that’s me.  Whether I want to give up fighting is an entirely moot point.  I cannot.

(P.S.  Important note:  There is currently a study going on at the University of Pittsburgh on treatment refractory depression, in which I am participating.  I intend to write it up properly in another post, but in the meantime, if you are interested, email me at  acanvasoftheminds@gmail.com.  Please put PITT RESEARCH STUDY in the subject line so it does not get lost in the shuffle.)

© Ruby Tuesday and A Canvas Of The Minds 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Ruby Tuesday and A Canvas Of The Minds with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


19 thoughts on “Ten Years Gone

  1. Thankyou for putting into words exactly what I have been thinking and feeling lately. Thankyou. Raw, honest and beautifully written. That pain ,it resonates. I know it too.

  2. This is some of the best writing I have read for a long time. True. And I don’t say it because you are a friend. I say it because it’s true. As I was reading I was thinking lots of things but the over-riding thought was “I wish I could write like this.”. Ruby, it’s because it was so real and honest. It pulled no punches and said it how it has been. Obviously, a short version, of 10 years but you shared so much in one post. Yes, sometimes honesty isn’t what people want to read, but to hell with them. Anyone reading who has had their own five years, ten years or 25 years will appreciate these words because of their honesty. True, you might usually be positive and almost upbeat, but I think your words are so real that no one would want any different. Great post, Ruby. I love it when you write. I just hate that you had to live this. Just keep getting up.

    • Cate, I don’t know what to say. I think the fact I had not blogged or even really written anything for almost a year-and-a-half helped. Also, the fact that once I decided I was going to do this. . . . I don’t actually remember deciding, not as such. I think it came from the song lyrics, and the title. It was more that once I laid those out, I had an obligation to go full speed and pull no punches and produce no bullshit. It didn’t come from a pretty place, so it had no place being in any way pretty.

      Your compliment about the writing is dear in my heart, and, truth be told, I wish I could write like this, too. My problem has become I think too much instead of just feeling. That’s what this post was. Just feeling.

      I’m glad (and also not, you know) that it resonated so deeply with you.

  3. I think too many don’t truly understand mental illness, and like so many other things that are often unseen the hardship and mistreatment falls on the victims. 😦 So sorry for what you went through, and wishing you continued healing. xo

    • You are always a joy and a model of understanding and compassion. I get that people, even professionals who make mental illness their career, don’t really understand it, because they have not been through it. By that same token, though, what upsets me (I think I discovered a lot of this buried through the catharsis of writing this piece) are loved ones who think they can understand just by watching, and in some cases living the worst moments with you. They mean the best, but they don’t read the books or go to the sites you recommend. They need to search resources, books, blogs, support groups; because obviously (at least obviously to me), it takes a toll on them. Instead they offer unconditional support, some “day or night, no matter what time.” When you’re navigating a mental illness, you often have no concept of boundaries. And so when you aren’t improving, one day the drain just hits them too hard, and these “no matter what” people are gone, usually blaming you, because you are the problem made flesh — and people who love you cannot admit that it got too hard for them to stick around, even to themselves, so you are always to blame.

      Incidentally, that’s a factor I wish I had known more about going in. I would have pushed education and support for themselves on more people.

      End rant. I think you get today’s (hopefully only) rant because you are always completely understanding and so loving. Though we haven’t communicated in some time, you still have my absolute confidence and trust. Which is saying something very big. 😉

      (End rant for real.)

  4. I appreciate your honesty, Ruby, and am so sad that things have been so difficult for you. I wish you better days ahead and hope you realize how much your writing and sharing helps others.

    • Janet, that you are here after all of this time fills my heart. And that you lead with “I appreciate your honesty,” to me, because it is not a first-person experience for you, just makes me want to cry with gratitude. You are the dream that everyone with a mental illness deserves. You jumped straight in, you learned, you listened to your son, you fought for him when he could not, you took the big scary leap of trusting him to hold the reigns of his life once again, and you still advocate, not just for him, but for all who need it.

      There are cautious reasons to hope for better days, so thank you. It has to do with the study I briefly mentioned, the results of which I’m currently waiting for (they take a while). Those results could turn out to be life-changing in the best way, the could turn out to be not much, but will likely fall somewhere in between. At this point, almost any way is up for me, but if you could keep me in your thoughts every now and again, I’d be grateful. ❤

      I haven't visited your site (or any) for a long while now. I really hope Dan is thriving.

  5. I don’t know what to say, Ruby, and so won’t try. But this post is awesome. Awesome, heartbreaking, and a whole host of other things. And you – you are also awesome, for a number of reasons. Not just because you’re awesome, and not just because I know you and value you, but because you’re human, I’m angry – beyond angry – that you have to live through this, just as I am for all the Canvas contributors.

    Not that that does a bit of good. Then again, we’re all used to that notion, of things not doing a damned bit of good. I can’t imagine much of what you wrote here, but for the parts I can, you nailed it. And – truth – that DOES do a bit of good, as I know I’m not alone and thus know I’m not entirely crazy and wrong as I navigate through. For that, I thank you.

    • Sid, knowing that you got some form of solace, understanding, a sense of knowing you are not alone, you are not wrong, and you certainly are not entirely crazy — you’re ill, and I hope one other thing you got from my words is that you did not ask for this illness, — makes me feel even better and more certain and fulfilled that I wrote and published this.

      I guess you’re right that anger can sometimes be a good, even productive force. This piece just burst from me one day, after a year-and-a-half of writing absolutely nothing but an email here or a message there. I don’t think it’s been building for the whole ten years — probably closer to three or four — but it was sit down, write, do a cursory edit, hit publish. I’m not sure if any of the process was voluntary, but it so needed to happen and I am so grateful that it did.

      Incidentally, you are awesome, too, and I’m glad you seem to be including yourself in those you are angry for, Mr. Canvas Contributor. And times when you are unable to believe in your own awesomeness, you think about the fact that this piece is nothing but truths from way deep down inside me, comments included. So you have to take this space and these words, and in some way, on some level, you have to hold on to them. Even on your worst days, I want you to try for, “Ruby thinks I’m awesome.” You don’t have to believe it every day, but please try to hold onto it.

  6. I am sorry, Ruby, that these ten years had ten times the suffering. I see that your usual positive self is in direct correlation to the pain. Unfortunately, more positive means there is a lot of negative to counterbalance.

    My heart aches for you, who gives so freely of hers. This post shows me how much that has cost you.

    Thank you for being the amazing human you are. So glad to count you as friend ❤

    • Jennifer, you express the truth so precisely and purely that even now, 10 days later, I have to take a deep breath because you’ve got me. So perfectly in your understanding, and when someone you love perceives so completely and gives it back to you. . . . The hurt hurts even more, but in a mostly good way. Because it feels like after all of this time, someone finally sees you.

      You have such a beautiful heart, that aches for those you care for. And I feel like I’m finding out daily more and more what a precious gift your friendship is. ❤

      "I see the ashes in my heart
      I smile the widest
      when I cry inside
      and my insides blow apart."
      ~ Vertical Horizon
      “I’m Still Here”

      (I can’t remember how to do links in comments properly.)

  7. Ah, my sister from another whatever. I am so sorry. My heart breaks for you. Mental illnesses are so cruel, so tragic. I wish I had words of wisdom or words of comfort for you but unfortunately words escape me in this case. I don’t think there’s comfort for such pain. There is only this: in the end, no matter what they take from you, you’ll always know you stayed true to yourself. You did what you could, with the tools available to you. It may not feel like much now but the fact that you are standing is huge. It don’t know why certain individuals are dealt with such a harsh hand. To be of inspiration for others? I have no idea. Surely not that “everything happens for a reason crap”. But I am sure some years down the road someone will learn about you and that will give them the courage to keep going. Maybe it is even happening already

  8. What an adorable sweetheart kitty. I’ve always found it so fascinating that animals are able to bring so much comfort and joy to others. I know that in my own life all of my pets instantly help me to feel less anxious.

  9. You write so beautifully!! I know someone who had to go through ETC. She told me her experience through tears, how her husband and the doctor left her no choice but to go through it. Unfortunately, it didn’t even make her any better. Later she took up alternative therapies and hypnotherapy helped her a lot with depression and anxiety. Being a hypnotist myself, and having helped so many deal with emotional stressors and disorders I highly recommend it! You are already so strong Ruby!! I have so much respect and love for you in my heart! I love the quite “I survive because I do not know how to do anything else”. You ARE a survivor! keep inspiring! Lot of love and hug… xo

  10. I read this and see so much of myself. Dance, monkey, dance. I keep surviving too. I have my family – I mean they wouldn’t let me die or anything. But as far as people who can really, deeply understand there are far fewer of those. Friends I can trust, friends who have been through it, who KNOW, who are the only ones who can really know. Others can feel empathy, and that’s great. But they still don’t know.

    You are one of the the ones who know.

    We all need each other. Like when I was in the mental hospitals, it was mostly patients who comforted each other. I’ve been through so many drugs too. In the beginning, they lasted a long time. Lately, I don’t know anymore. The best thing I’ve gotten was a strong D vitamin from my gyno. And the other doctors sneer at it, because I didn’t “officially” have low vitamin D. But it helped me, so I don’t care what they think so much now. We have to stand up for ourselves when we least feel the power to do so. But we do it. As you say, we keep getting up.

  11. Dear Ruby,
    You’re words resonate with me as well. You are such a wonderful friend and I would do anything to help you. I hope that over the next journey of time you can look back and see even now that your are an inspiration to so many, so courageous and such a fighter. Keep writing, you are amazing!

  12. Ruby, you really are amazing. Thank you for putting these words in print. I’m still in my little corner, praying as often as I remember (which is not as frequent as it should be) for everyone who has to live with less than perfect mental health.

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