b a r e

writing is healing. ask me anything.

Tag: denial

Consider writing a “thank you” note to someone from outpatient who really helped you. What would you say?

I don’t remember your name. So I’ll call you V. When I first saw you I thought you were a hot mess. Your frizzy, bleached blonde hair and mismatching workout clothes were always disheveled. You sat there with a blank look on your face. I was sure you were neither educated, nor intelligent. You were just one of the people in the outpatient program that proved to me I was not like the rest of the group, of what I was sure where broken and crazy. I am not proud of this moment.

Then one day you volunteered for psychodrama, something I didn’t have the courage to do. I was surprised. You never spoke, so how could you have something to share. And as your story came tumbling out, I was overwhelmed with compassion and shame. You had a young child, close to my own child’s age. His father had passed away from an overdose just 2 months ago. You were forced to live with your judgmental mom who treated you like a child. You didn’t know how you felt. Except for anger, it was in there somewhere. Your whole world had been turned upside down. No wonder you didn’t say much, you were probably still in shock.

Listening and watching you opened my eyes. It’s that lesson I have to keep relearning. Don’t judge a book by its cover. And here I am, caught myself doing it again. This time to prove to myself I shouldn’t be in this program – which I definitely needed to be. Because you shared your story, I was able to look around the room and realize that I did belong, and that I did need help, and that I was in the right place to get that help. So, thank you, V. Thank you for being so brave. Thank you for opening up in front of a crowd of strangers. Your bravery and strength inspired me. I learned that I could and should share my stories too. Because you just never know who you’re going to help.

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Annedonia causes us to feel that nothing is pleasurable. How do you fight it?

How do you fight the lack of something. If something isn’t there, if it’s missing, how can you address it. If your food has no flavor, you can’t make it appear. You chew and swallow, chew and swallow, because you know you should. Get it done, get it over with, on to the next thing to get done. Annedonia is my passive aggressive enemy. It’s simply not available to chat with. I feel the lack of enjoyment, an empty room, but I don’t know how to fill it. Keep going, keep doing, hoping for at least one moment of joy eventually, to keep me going hoping for the next one. I get out my tried and trues, but what a disappointment when they taste like ashes in my mouth. I look for escapes. Things to take me out of the moment, out of this moment, out of any moment. Then on to the next. Lather, rinse, repeat. Again. And again.

Then, suddenly, totally unexpected, I feel a surge of joy. I savor it, hold it close, snuggle my face into its comfort. And then I blink and it’s gone. The grey has returned, filling everything with sand. The weight of existing returns, my limbs are heavy and awkward again. But one thing has changed, now I know it’s still possible for me to feel joy. And I place this coin of hope into a locket in my heart, and I hold onto it tightly.

It’s possible. I’m not completely broken. It’s possible. I can find my way out of this fog. I’m wearing my life preserver now, and it’s tethered with a thick rope, off too far from me to see, taut, but holding strong.

falling apart, literally

She leaned forward over the restaurant table, “This will make you stronger.” I whined back, “I don’t need to be stronger, I’m already too strong!” “Then this will make you humble,” she said quietly. I was 26 years old.

I am losing my hair. It’s called alopecia areata, and it’s called an auto-immune disease because they don’t know what caused it and they don’t know how to cure it. It doesn’t hurt, and it’s not going to kill me, but it’s destroying my sense of self. Little by little, strand by strand, my reflection is transforming into a stranger. An ugly stranger.

This is not the first time it has gotten this bad. Spontaneous regrowth over the last 10 years has allowed me to have hope of looking normal, before my hope has shattered and I grind through the grief cycle again,… as I shed, and shed, and shed.

I have beautiful wigs. I hate them. When I wear them I feel like a liar. I am ashamed and hiding under the hair, stressed and anxious that someone will notice, find me out. And wearing a wig is not something you can ignore. Its pressure and weight on top of my head is a constant reminder that I am hiding. It doesn’t hold perfectly still. A gust of wind, a minor shift, and my heart stops. And I am removed from whatever situation I am in, I can’t focus on anything but how much I hate wearing the wig.

My therapist says I am whole, exactly the way I am. I want to embrace this. So I have been experimenting. I’m not wearing my wig. I have been leaving the house well aware of how frightening (what’s left of) my hair looks. And no one has said anything. What would they say anyway. And so far, it appears that I’m treated normally. Every day that happens, every interaction that feels normal, helps me feel a little more confident about my choice not to wear a wig. But at some point I won’t be able to wear a ponytail anymore. I try not to think about that. I function through denial, pretending it doesn’t exist, actively and intentionally forgetting about it. I don’t really know what else to do. I worry about losing my mind with the rest of my hair. But I’m not there yet, and I can’t linger there without damaging my now. So I’ll just take it a day at a time.