Take Back the Breath

6/30/16 Own your breathI’m sitting in a conference room at the VA in an empty meeting. I’ve been wanting to write on this prompt from my brain for some time but I’ve been scared. I’ve been letting someone else control me. Someone mentioned last week that I hadn’t posted on my blog in awhile. There’s a reason. It’s just not pretty.

5 weeks ago my boyfriend broke up with me. Things had been getting progressively worse for some time and he decided a FB message was the appropriate tool to communicate with. He brought over my stuff, we exchanged keys, and he left. You’d think this would be the end. It was only the beginning. M- started (or continued) stalking me. He sent me notes through text, email, Facebook, Messenger, left me voicemails and off-topic comments on my blog. He went through other people to get to me, asking them to text me for him or contact me another way. He contacted my mother. He even hijacked someone else’s Facebook profile whom I was talking with to get to me. He at least stopped dropping by my house unannounced or at least I don’t know it. I took him off my FB profile as a significant other. I was confused but felt relieved.

It has been up and down since then. I haven’t felt this boxed in or trapped ever. Some of the things he’s done leave me honestly scared. He won’t let go. I can’t post on my blog because he reads it, can’t share in group because it goes back to him. Every time my phone dings or buzzes I’m on edge because it’s usually him and I don’t know what he wants. Will it be insults today or over the top compliments? Have I ruined his life or saved him? I don’t know. Frankly, I don’t care. He researches me online, talks to everyone about me. I don’t even know what people know about me anymore because he tells everyone everything. I’m a pretty private person. I don’t appreciate mass sharing. There have been days I went to comfort him and was yelled at for an hour. He’s the first person who’s ever said something to me so mean or hurtful that it literally took my breath. I couldn’t breathe. He acts as if his assumptions are truth and won’t believe anything to the contrary. The mood instability and purposeful manipulation grind me down and make me mad. He’s texted me “911” to get me to respond when there was no true emergency.

He asked to stop by after church on Sunday to drop off a letter to me. He stayed awhile. The conversation was uncomfortable but he was respectful. I thought maybe he’d changed. Nope. He went home and started messaging me that I need to change my profile picture on FB because it’s not very flattering, not the best of me, and he’s not the only one who thinks it. FUCK YOU. Who the FUCK do you think you are? I AM NOT YOURS.

In a continuation of the emotional blackmail, he posted on his website that any donations would go to me for my Phoenix Rising tuition. He put up a story about me that’s not true speckled with tiny spots that were. That night at group he brought me a journal and some candy and a drink. So wait, now I’m good again? I can’t keep up. I accepted them and said thank you. I asked him to take down the story since it’s both private and not all true. The one thing that’s really important to me and my future is that Phoenix Rising training and he KNOWS I need money for it. Why not tie me to him for the money? Brilliant idea, except that it isn’t. It only hurts me having to choose whether or not to stay in the abuse for the money. The answer is no. Thing is, I’m not even sure he sees what he’s doing. He honestly believes he is helping… I think.

Today I went to his baptism with another friend. He asked if my last FB post was about him. That SO pisses me off and he knows it. He’s back to saying he loves me and that he’s going to marry me and that when he gets back from rehab he’s going to chase me again. He says he KNOWS I still love him and am still IN love with him and KNOWS we’re still lovers in our hearts. He says he KNOWS he broke my heart (by cheating on me, et. al.) “Stop pretending like you don’t still love me,” he says. He claims to know what I think and how I feel and my history, which he doesn’t. He wants to be “friends.” He says, “That’s all we really ever were anyway.” No, it’s not. We were in a relationship. He was part of my family. He messages me in despair and sadness begging for attention and help. Last time I called him when he sent me crisis texts and he said he was fine, that he had talked to some friends and used some skills. I was livid. He said, “Well you didn’t HAVE to call. I’m trying to give you some space since you think I’m stalking you, even though I’m really not.” He wants me at his going away party this weekend and to agree to take one phone call a week from him while he’s in rehab for the next two months.

I can’t do it. I have laid back, kept quiet, tried to deal with this on my own. I have respected his privacy, though he doesn’t respect mine. I have altered my life. I have constant anxiety. When I think about him I get angry. When I see him in person it’s hard to breathe. Texts and FB messages haunt me. Hugs eat at my soul. I can’t get away. Last time I saw him he told me he was going to frame all my PRYT art and hang it around his house. That’s just creepy. I have waited, played along, pretty well I think. Friends and church members have encouraged him to keep pursuing me. He told me we are destined by God to be together and that no matter what he’ll find me and we’ll be together. I don’t know what to do.

I’ve been waiting to set any boundaries because I’m scared, both of the backlash towards me and the very high probability of a spike in his suicidality. I don’t hate the man. I have compassion towards him. I care but I am not in love. I am under attack. I really don’t want to hurt him.

Since what I send to him usually becomes public knowledge anyway, I will spare him the hassle and make this an open letter:

Dear M-,

I’m sorry you’re feeling so scared about this new journey next week. You will make it. I’m also glad to see you get baptized today. You are a man of God now and strong in your faith.

The past 5 weeks have been very hard on me. Your constant pursuing and intense emotions and reactions have left me trembling, fragile, ANGRY. I don’t hate you. I have compassion both for you and what you’re going through, but it can’t include me anymore. Contact from you (good or bad) sets my body on alarm. I feel fear. It’s hard to squelch my anger about what you’ve done. Apologies don’t erase memories. And neither does any other excuse. I truly treasure the time we spent together and what you’ve done for me. We both grew and expanded our lives. But that time is over now. This is a new time. And in this new time we need to focus on ourselves.

You are leaving for rehab on Tuesday. I’m proud of you for going, for having the courage and strength to face your demons. I don’t want you going there thinking the whole time about how you’re going to get back with me when you’re released and live happily ever after. You’re not. I’m not interested. I’m not in love with you and my heart is not broken. I do feel sad though that it had to end like this. It’s not what I expected.

It’s important for me to be specific so these are the boundaries I’m asking for.

Boundaries Needed

  • Please do not call, text, email, FB message, other instant message, comment on my blog or communicate with me in any other way except for true emergencies (impending or imminent death) or about DBSA business matters no other board member can answer or solve.
  • At DBSA meetings, please choose a different room than I’m in.
  • At board meetings, please stick to business.
  • I do not want to work outreach together.
  • At the VA MH Council, please stick to business and be professional.
  • Please do not attempt to contact me through someone else.
  • At church, please sit in a different pew.
  • I do not want to pick up the refugee family anymore.
  • Please do not come to choir practice just to see me unless you intend to join the choir.
  • Stop asking my permission to do or attend things.
  • Stop bringing me gifts.
  • I don’t want to salsa with you.
  • I don’t want to “hang out” or listen. You have other support.
  • I don’t want to be chased or to have a 3rd run at our relationship.
  • I don’t want to be your friend (by your definition).
  • I don’t want to go to couples counseling.
  • I think it would be better if you didn’t call me from rehab.

What is okay:

  • Basic interactions at church
  • Contact about DBSA business
  • Contact re: life & death crises (in progress, imminent death)
  • It is okay to write to me snail mail from rehab if you want.
  • I am willing to work with the staff at rehab if needed.

I know it’s a lot to take in. We will see each other when you get back and maybe someday when we’re both healthier we can be friends (by my definition). I’m not your best friend and I’m not your lover. Until then, we can be fellow group members who really care about each other.

Please leave me alone, M-. Please.

With respect,
Michelle

(deep breath)
It’s time I take back my breath. This is my life and I want to live it. So, hopefully you’ll be seeing more posts from me soon. If not, at least you’ll know the pause is not from fear. Just sadness. And living my life.

© Michelle Routhieaux 2016

God is So Good

6/23/16     7:23pm

Today I woke up with a migraine – 5th day. I went to F-‘s and tried to be productive. I wouldn’t call it a success. I cancelled S-‘s. I knew I wouldn’t make it. I’d already had one sobbing meltdown (or was that yesterday?) and the pain was too high. I planned to rest before choir but made myself a hair appt too – gentle to self. I sat outside in the breeze for an hour while they rotated my tires. Choir got cancelled, which I’m glad about, and I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t want to go home.

My mom and I have been fighting a lot. I can barely stand being around her. I’m fragile and didn’t know what to do. I cried and cried after getting a warning from a cop for apparently cutting someone off. I’m close to max. Then Mom texted that it’s baby day and she’ll be staying the night there. Praise the Lord. We need some time apart. A thousand things I want or need to do. I hope the one I accomplish is rest.

I really wanted the new baby to be a part of my life. I miss the girls terribly. I trust God has a plan for me. I’ve been using my body a lot to ground me, making friends with the present. We don’t speak the same language but it makes me laugh and I’m curious to learn its story.

I can’t wait to sing at the fair this weekend, to welcome God and spread His news. I give up control. I’m doing the best I can. That’s all I can do. And I sing “Hallelujah Anyhow.”

God, please bless whoever’s reading this. Guide me, move my pen, hold me tight and don’t let go. Show me Your will.

God is so good. Praise Him with me.

© Michelle Routhieaux 2016

Dusty Light Bulbs

5/21/16     4:13pm

2016-07-03 16.01.42

I sit in Target. My insides tremble. My face wants to scream. I just left the DBSA event. A fair amount of people showed up and were happy. No one asked me about M-. A few people asked how I am in general, never touched the subject. It shouldn’t be a secret.

Yesterday M- broke up with me. After several months of escalating issues he had reached the borderline of verbal abuse. Constant fights, arguments & insults, passive-aggressive and manipulative behavior. He continuously reminded me I have “no relationship skills” and even stated multiple times that no other boyfriend would put up with the shit I give him. I’m not a “normal” girlfriend. This isn’t a “normal” relationship. I know. He makes so many assumptions and believes them to be truth. Ego flies high between crashes. “Walking on Eggshells” for Borderline doesn’t begin to describe it.

He posted on FB that we broke up both on my wall and in DBSA. In the DBSA post he also said he didn’t want comments and requested that people let us both grieve, said we’re too good of friends and plan on remaining so. Bullshit. BULL-SHIT.

I’m not grieving. I’m not sad. I’m angry. I have taken so much shit from him recently. It’s not okay but I let some of it slide due to fear of a spike in suicidality, which I was correct about as indicated by his new FB photo. I’m angry that he’s not working on his issues. And I’m angry that he needed me to let him go, asked how much longer I was going to make him lie in bed all day alone. I can’t do it. I have managed his money, been involved in his healthcare, answered his calls and texts and put up with some very hurtful things he’s chosen to say. The recent severe symptoms are difficult to handle but I won’t be mistreated or berated or used.

Each interaction begins and/or ends in a fight. He tells me over and over how I have to sacrifice for him, that I’m not a “normal” girlfriend, that he loves me IF I change. He’s putting in the time waiting because I’m supposed to change into what he wants. I stand my ground. It wears me down.

I’m proud of myself for staying assertive and setting boundaries, for not changing who I am just for him. I’m proud of myself for not responding with anger or harsh words. I used my skills. I’m not perfect but I did a damn good job. (tingles) Now the pain is inside of me.

After his FB breakup message I replied asking what the boundaries are he wants for our intertwined lives. He called several times with more insults and asking about my previous relationship. I kept redirecting to the issue at hand. He insisted on coming over right then to give me my stuff back. I was not happy, said it wasn’t a good time. He came anyway. It was an awkward goodbye, however short-lived, since the texts and FB messages resumed arriving late telling me he knew I was up demanding that we talk. Messages too that he still loves me. Today he asked me to come over because he needs to go shopping and asked for food help from -. I replied that he has his debit card now, why does he need me?

I was clear from the beginning about my boundaries. This is the first time I’ve actually stood up for me. I’ve just been taking it, afraid he couldn’t tolerate a loss, but slowly it kills me. I don’t need to be with someone who sees me as a template for what could be. I am already me. Far from perfect, many issues, but I’m proud to be me.

I’m not caught up on the end of my relationship. What keeps running through my head are the biting hurtful things that he said. I feel sad that a man I love has such poor insight and ability to care for himself. I feel sad that I can’t change him, glad I’m not trying. I feel angry that he paints himself the victim, that no matter the issue somehow it’s always my fault. All I asked for was respect and for him to listen. He’s just not able. I feel sad to watch him spiraling when there’s nothing I can do. It’s out of my hands. I am not sad or hurting because he broke up with me.

I thought there would be pause. No such luck. He expects me to come by today. I want to scream and text back, “I’m not your girlfriend anymore. Remember? That’s not my job.” I think I would be so much more angry if I didn’t understand the root of the behavior. But knowing why makes me feel somewhat helpless. I have to remind myself that illness is not a pass for bad behavior. Boundaries are for EVERYONE.

Mom and D- are at a street fair. Neither of them responded to my note but I’m glad they’re getting to spend time together. He’s leaving tonight. That sucks. There’s a withdrawal effect that takes time to dissipate.

When I woke up this morning I slowly moved through my room, freezing at different spots. Last night I completely shut down. I changed my sheets (huge task for me) alone. Mom said she would help but was with D-. I started putting things away. I have a long way to go. I need simplicity. I need me. My gospel choir concert is tomorrow. Yellow pillow. (close my eyes)

It felt good to learn that I’m lovable. Now I have to keep loving me. Dusty light bulbs, show tunes and all. I need to gift myself some rest, set the pain free.

Oh, by the way, my ECT is on hold for now. I miss how it reset me.

© Michelle Routhieaux 2016

How do you…?

5/13/06     11:26pm

I’m sorry I haven’t written in awhile. It’s not because I don’t think of you. I’ve been busy and scared to share the truth. Today’s truth is not so scary.

It’s almost midnight. I have a bunch of stuff to print for an event I have to leave for by 6:30am tomorrow. I’m trying to read a few articles on FB but my computer is too slow to load them, thanks to having to redistribute my cloud files and them ever so slowly resyncing. The tv in the living room is blaring an infomercial and my mom is in her bedroom talking to her jackass boyfriend on the phone. Mine just sent me a short video mocking people who have too much stuff in their front seat when you go to ride with them. Last week he wrote “horder” in the dirt on my back window. I don’t understand. It’s a trigger for me to be made fun of, but if you’re going to do it anyway at least spell the insult right. He finds it funny. I don’t. My car is full of donations waiting for a specific space at a specific hospital that means a lot to me. There’s nothing humorous about that.

I folded clothes for a friend this morning after a long walk. I couldn’t breathe so I rolled on the floor and stretched for awhile. If I listen in the quiet my body tells me what I need. I met with someone about a partnership with my support group and had a muscavado brownie. Fucking amazing. (Eclipse Chocolate) I wrote beforehand in the car, enjoyed the peace of just the sound of wind in the trees. A man with some unnamed movement disorder kept driving around looking for parking. Eventually he came up to me on his motor scooter and handed me a beautiful red garden rose. He said he came to take his girlfriend to dinner but she wasn’t there. So I got the flower and a dinner invite. While I passed up the offer for tacos, the rose was nice.

I wrote for about two hours tonight. I went to my therapist’s office and laid on the floor in the hallway. There was no one there but the cleaning crew. It was a good safe choice for writing, complete with great jazz music overhead. (God-damn vacuum infomercial. Grrrr. I’d turn it off but that would attract my mom’s attention and she would start in on me again.) (sigh) Too late. She’s silently scolding now.

I don’t understand. All I want to do is write. I want to be by myself somewhere quiet and encounter my mind, vent my soul for a night. I miss riding the bus and trolley. I had that time to listen to music, to think and write. I could solve problems and develop ideas. I could passively observe. Doing everything quickly does not appeal to me. I want the privilege of moving slowly. God’s showing me a direction He wants me to move in but I’m too distracted to take the path. Like anything is really more important than God’s will, right? I feel sad and I want the right and the space to just feel it.

My ECT is on hold and I’m facing multiple losses right now. I don’t really talk to my friends. I’m not leading groups very often. I’m working on sharing in them. I’m starting to unfold and re-experience the traumas in my life. It’s scary but worth it. I want the darkness out of me. I want to let it go. I’m trying to learn to be a girlfriend. I suck at it but there has to be something said for trying.

I’ve been trying slowly to organize my possessions and get rid of things. I know I have too much but some of the stashes have a reason and most of the boxes are wired with memories. That’s not just a box of envelopes. It’s so much more – 3 therapy sessions worth of stories. And there are a LOT of boxes. Boxes, piles and bags everywhere. I have my stuff, group stuff, mom’s stuff, dance stuff. I have no office so my things are everywhere. I try. I know my mom and I have “issues” when it comes to things. Let’s face it, we’re hoarders. I know that. Do you think I don’t know that? I try my best not to think about it every day. It hurts when someone throws it in my face.

I’m so tired. I have a resource fair in the morning and then a Super Choir rehearsal. I’m hoping after to do some writing. Most likely I will be chastised all morning to type instead. Can’t I do both? Life is not all about work. I know this. My mom does not…

I’m sorry. I’m rambling. I just felt like talking with my fingers to someone and you were the person/audience that came to mind. I miss writing and sharing me. What helps you set aside everything you’re doing to follow what God’s told you or what you’ve discerned, even when it goes against all reason and odds? How do you set aside what logic tells you is required and do what you know your soul NEEDS? I don’t know how to do that. I want to learn. (Mom is at it again, nag, nag, nag. I wish she could just be content.)

I have to go prep for the event I don’t want to go to now. I hope to share with you more soon, maybe even some core truths. We’ll see. Thanks for listening.

© Michelle Routhieaux 2106

No Batteries

5/2/16     9:53am

I want to write but I’m SO scared.
Curled up in a ball on the floor,
Scenes flash through my head.
TERROR, Horror, Guilt, No control.
I don’t move.
I can’t do what they want me to.
They don’t know who I am.
Do you?

Tick, tock, tweet, meow, the sound of cars.
My mind has passed by.
Why did you leave me?
Radical acceptance. No batteries.

© Michelle Routhieaux 2016

Feral Girl

5/1/16     9pm

PRYT Class
Little girl – I’M STILL HERE
Feral girl

–>

I don’t matter.
-not a core belief, a truth
-embrace it, let everything go
-it’s a lesson, not intrusion, that keeps coming back
It’s what will set me free.

“It’s a loving anger.” -Bill

Urges during class – SH, run away, die

The cat behaviorist on “My Cat from Hell” said last night there’s a very small window during which a feral cat can be socialized. Am I past that time? If so, what will happen to me? I feel like I’m going to die, very close to the wisdom of the Lord, letting me feel Him close to me, letting myself be here with Him. I feel like I may pass out. But in this moment I’m okay. The pain is okay.

Is there anything other than pain?
Why don’t they tell us pain is okay?
Why didn’t they tell me pain was a gift?
Cog teaches the benefit but not the requirement of its presence for life.

“I can’t wait to do this again because I want to hear your next insight.” -B

(walk to 7-11, car)

Look up. Look at me.
Open your eyes. -Rhonda

Jane has cancer. (breathe…)
(still hear “Thy Will“)
So much pain. No tears to cry. I lock her in a closet. She is me – the truth not the lie, not the disease.
I don’t want to lose this feeling, this access to being. How can I learn to stay me?
(still very dizzy)
How much of me can I withstand right now and be able to come back to functioning?
(feel the strong pull of shutdown)
Lord, please don’t let me forget.

Acknowledge Shutdown is important
It shields & protects me.
Even possums play dead.

But I want to matter.

I know.

(hear “Please Don’t Let Me Go”)
I wish I had therapy tomorrow. I don’t know where to go.
(music is slower, falling asleep)

Urge – go to sleep, avoid work, stop helping Kelli, walk away

In my body – pain level 7, dizzy & lightheaded, hard to keep eyes open, can’t focus eyes – dart all over or roll back, jaw clenched, very still, shallow obstructed nose breathing, only feel a few parts, head tilted to the left.

I want to feel, to be the lessons. I need someone to integrate them with. And I need to do this every day. How can that happen? Am I willing or able to care for the feral me? Putting her down isn’t an option right now.
(hug yellow pillow)

© Michelle Routhieaux 2016

He bought me shoes

3/23/16     7:25pm2016-03-25 16.25.34

He bought me shoes. M- bought me shoes today. We went to the outlets by the border to find him shoes and I found an Aerosoles outlet. He gave me money and I pitched in and bought four pairs of shoes. I feel guilty but happy. It’s been a long time since I let myself indulge.

I have a hard time accepting help or gifts. I am constantly telling him, “No.” Even now I’m curled up on the couch at the massage place because I declined a massage. He’s getting one. What does accepting kindness bring up for me? Hope. Guilt. Shame. Fear. Anxiety. Self-hatred. Sadness. Automatic thoughts: I’m not good enough. I don’t deserve this. I don’t matter. I don’t want to owe him. I want to be independent. But there are things I can’t afford that I want. I’ve done really well the past year or two not buying, denying myself. I don’t know how to find balance between getting everything I want and buying nothing. It’s self-deprivation and even looking brings up shame – shame that I’m not independent anymore, that I couldn’t make it.

The more amazing he is, the more shame I feel. I’m not. I try to be. I try so hard, but I’m not. I want to be everything for him, for our lives to intertwine and not just intersect. I want to learn to stop running. M- is safe. I am safe… We are safe, Michelle. He bought me shoes.

© Michelle Routhieaux 2016

Dancing a Prayer

2/19/16     9:17pm

I feel so much better after ECT today. I had a good conversation with Dr. M and an 86 second seizure. He said I can stop the Wellbutrin to hopefully lower the anxiety. There were no students today and the IV guy, D, waited to knock me out until I was done talking. Dr. M held my hand and left me a note. I just have to change the day of my next ECT. I feel safe. I can breathe.

I was so anxious before. I practiced willing hands, straightening my arms and breathing deeply. I reached to the sky and twisted and stretched. I meditated on the chorus of our gospel song “I Love You, Lord.” It’s slow and soothing. And I prayed, A LOT.

I walked into the treatment room praying I’d die on the table. I woke up feeling happy and free. I have a slight headache and I’m tired but I’m like a totally different person. I’m so grateful.

I danced a prayer in the back yard and drew two pictures. I was too tired to color. I ignored my phone most of the day and tried to limit my computer time. I didn’t eat but I put on classical music and lit a candle. I took care of me. I even had a great conversation with my mom tonight. She pointed out that I’m actually talking. Yeah, I guess I am. :) Praise God.

I’ve really been struggling the past few weeks. Every day I have fought back the urge to self-harm or die. My anxiety has been so high that I’ve literally been afraid of everything. I’ve gone back to bingeing, purging and restricting. And the most meaningful activity of my life has been taken from me. I’m no longer a nanny. I miss the girls so much. They’re family.

I’ve also been really scared that the ECT stopped working and nothing else could help pull me out. But today God proved me wrong, reminded me not to doubt Him. I need rest but feel joy and am grateful to be alive.

Thank you for believing in me and reading. I’m going to my aunt’s tomorrow. I love her so much. Maybe we can do our nails together. And I can walk. Yard sales first. Captain’s orders.

Love, Michelle

© Michelle Routhieaux 2016

The Importance of a Fingernail

2/11/2016         4:27pm

It’s been a long time since I wrote. I’m sorry. I’m a bit distracted. My brain is trying to kill me. I’ve been doing maintenance ECT every week since December and it was h2016-02-09 16.33.54-1elpful until about two weeks ago. I’m not sure what happened.

I’m sitting on a bench at Fashion Valley outside L’Occitane. I just got a free facial and arm massage. I’m soaking in a moment to myself. The world weighs heavy on my soul.

I have a really hard time with grounding. I work on it with Soleil and David – and being present, feeling safe and here. I have safe objects or places or people that help me with that. Like a kid with a security blanket.

Some people would call it petty but one of my safe things is my fingernails. I take pride in their length and shape and strength. I play with them all day. Like the floor, they’re always there for me. They’re important but, unlike the floor, they’re fragile. I take caution, pay close attention to them. Then something like Tuesday happens.

I wasn’t feeling well and didn’t want to do physical labor, but S asked and I really need the money. I was sick and irritable and tired. I didn’t want to be there and was trying very hard to do what she asked and protect my nails. Somehow, while moving heavy boxes and sorting things, I incurred black and blue bruises on both feet and broke 3 nails. I was devastated. Bruises I can tolerate but the nails were for me. My heart sank and I stopped in my tracks. My breathing stopped for a moment before it returned angry and incredibly hurt. Core belief: I don’t matter. Her needs are more important than mine. Everyone’s are really. And I’m angry.

Soleil posted this quote on FB that keeps popping up in my head:

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I don’t know how to do that. Everyone’s needs come before mine. It’s an important skill to have but only on a limited basis. I hate people for a reason. I’m ANGRY.

The importance of a fingernail is more than you might think. That fingernail is me. Now I’m broken. No one stops to see.

© Michelle Routhieaux 2016

 

On ECT…

12/26/2015     1:56pm

I’ve been wanting to write on ECT for awhile now. It seems everyone has their own opinion about it, even if they haven’t experienced it. I say, unless you’ve tried it shut your face. This is my experience with it.

In case you didn’t know, ECT stands for Electroconvulsive Therapy (shock treatment.) Right, like in “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” only not. ECT is used for severe depression when medications and other treatments haven’t worked, suicidal depression, psychosis, severe mania or catatonia. It may seem barbaric but it’s actually quite effective. Antidepressants have about a 30% effectiveness whereas ECT is about 70%.

I started ECT mid-November after 15 years of med changes and 13 hospitalizations. I wish someone had offered it to me sooner. 5 of my doctors worked together to make it happen. Here’s how it happened. I was given the option and information that I could sign only after having it for 24 hours. My doctors made sure my labs were good and I passed my EKG. I was evaluated by 2 doctors and then scheduled for my first session. I opted not to view the ECT video. I’ve seen it before. I’ve had many friends who’ve had ECT so I knew a bit of what to expect and considering I’d rather have been dead the outcome really didn’t matter.

I started ECT inpatient 3 times a week. The night before they give you a red wristband that means you can’t eat or drink after midnight until they take the band off (because of the anesthesia.) I got lucky for my first ECT and had my favorite nurse assigned to me. She came to get me super early in the morning when the ECT dept was ready for me and walked me down there. The nurse there greeted me with a smile and took my vitals. The nurse from my unit stayed with me until it was my turn. Then they took me back to meet my doctor in the treatment room. As soon as I go in, I sit down on the gurney (which is ridiculously soft.) The nurse on my left starts an IV in my left arm, the nurse on my right covers me with a warm blanket, the anesthesiologist is above my head and my doctor is either sitting at a computer on my right or standing at my feet talking to me. Someone puts electrodes on my forehead and right temple. I try to stay conscious as long as possible but inevitably mid-sentence my doctor grabs my right hand, smiles at me and says I’m going to get sleepy. The world gets a bit blurry, shakes back and forth two or three times and all goes black. The next thing I know I wake up in the recovery area. I still have no idea how I get there. When I wake up I feel happy and healthy, they take my vitals and someone gives me apple juice.

While I’m asleep they shock me on the right side and top of my head (unilateral), causing a seizure. In the IV they give me meds to paralyze my body so I don’t shake. Because of this, they breathe for me. They tape my eyes shut and put a mouthpiece in so I don’t grind my teeth. I don’t suggest keeping contacts in if you wear them. I did the first time and somehow lost one when they pulled the tape off. Don’t worry. They do it before you wake up and it doesn’t hurt at all or leave a mark. I have longer seizures than most people. Last week I had my longest yet – 148 seconds. The length of the seizure doesn’t seem to matter as long as it’s at least 20 seconds. Some people have bilateral ECT, which means they get shocked on both sides. That kind of ECT has more memory loss and side effects. They don’t seem to know how or why ECT works. I read an article last year that said it slightly damages the part of the brain that’s overactive in depression. Other sources say it basically jumpstarts the brain or changes the chemistry. Either way, it works.

My first ECT was the worst. They didn’t give me any extra meds because they didn’t know what I’d need. I had no idea where I was or who the people on my unit were. I was crawling on the floor nauseous with a HORRIBLE headache. I did at least remember my nurse, who I’ve known for years. My legs hurt SO bad for several days, which they told me was because they were super muscular and adjusted the anesthesia. They “stacked” my first two treatments – two days in a row. After the first one they started giving me Toradol and Zofran in the IV and I’ve had much less difficulty with pain and nausea.  After the first treatment I felt joy, which confused but elated me. I didn’t know it was possible. I had 5 treatments inpatient and was doing so well that they discharged me without a plan for maintenance treatment. Then my therapist fired me and some other shit happened and I took a hard and fast dive towards death. So I decided to go back to ECT. Now I’m getting treatments once a week.

ECT has not been without side effects. After doing treatments three times a week I couldn’t drive for 2 weeks. Now that I’m doing it weekly I just can’t drive the day of or the day after treatment. About an hour after I wake up I get a headache and feel very nauseous. Sometimes I can stay up and work on the computer or write. Other days I just sleep. I have Tigan to take PO for the nausea. My memory is spotty and my cognition is definitely impaired. I have trouble remembering names, passwords, how to get places. My mind, which is usually chock full of thoughts and ideas, is often pretty blank. This is new for me but I don’t altogether hate it. There are certain things I don’t remember at all. I’ve gotten into arguments with people about things I apparently did but have no memory of. This is frustrating for me. Thankfully at least one of those people understands why. My mind is usually a steel trap. If I don’t remember it, it didn’t happen. But I guess now it might have. I’m learning. It’s like ECT as ERP. I’m learning to accept not knowing or remembering. I so often now hear myself saying, “I don’t know.” I also get very sore muscles for a few days after my treatment – sometimes my neck or shoulders, tongue, back. The soreness seems to travel but doesn’t show up until the second day.

I feel offended when people tell me I shouldn’t be doing ECT or when they hassle me about how many treatments I’m having. They say they’re concerned about my mind or the side effects. They fail to take into consideration that it’s saving my life. I KNOW I’m not the same. I’m aware that my mind is different. I’ve seen how it can ruin people’s minds. It’s not ruining mine. I trust my doctors and God has given me ECT. Maybe not for forever, but definitely for now. I finally found something that actually helps me. I do feel sad more often than usual, but I believe that’s because I’m actually feeling. I’m dissociating less, actually living in the moment. It’s new for me. I think it’s good. I intend to keep doing ECT until my doctors and I agree on stopping. Please don’t try to dissuade me.

If you’d like to talk about ECT, feel free to leave me a comment here or contact me personally if you know me. I’m not up for philosophical arguments but I’m willing to answer questions or help you out. It’s not as scary as it seems. I promise.

This is the Mayo Clinic article about ECT. Mayo Clinic – ECT

© Michelle Routhieaux 2015

Sad

12/25/2015     10:49pm10553833_10154419045254307_1138106686227162752_o

It’s Christmas night 2015. I’m crouched on the floor. The tree is lit, as well as a vanilla candle. My mom and the pets are asleep. I feel sad. SO sad.

Today I woke up at 9am and opened presents with my mom. My brother, nephew and two friends came for dinner. Mom made green beans with bacon, spiral ham, mashed potatoes & gravy, fruit salad and a whole spread of appetizers. We even had a Hershey pie. I went to visit my friend in the hospital and got to see some of my favorite staff. That meant a lot.

I feel sad today. Part of me is disappointed that I don’t feel happy. The other part of me is just grateful to feel. I’m not dissociated. I’m feeling sad. I’m feeling…

There’s a Christmas movie on. I can hear my mom snore. I really hate the holidays. My providers are out of the office until the first week of January. What am I supposed to do?

X- texted asking to try again tonight on my terms, in God’s hands. I told him I’m not sure. He said he’s more sure than he’s ever been. He said some other wonderful things I have no great reply to. I don’t know what to say. Why is it so hard for people to understand that I’m terrified of people? I have strict boundaries and specific fears for reasons I don’t care to share. I’m a pretty private person. And why does he stick around for what little I have to offer? I can’t absorb what I need. I can’t have what I want. I don’t understand what I’m being given or what I’m supposed to do. I just know that, except for just after ECT and early in the morning, I feel sad and don’t want to be around people. Or I want to be held by S-. I feel calm mostly. I’m experiencing each moment. And each moment kinda sucks. But I’m okay with that. I’m here. I’m just sad. It feels good to be able to just be sad.

I’m so grateful for ECT & my team. Thank you, God. Thank you.

© Michelle Routhieaux 2015

Sound as Medicine

11/27/2015     8:45pm

I’m sitting at Dizzy’s with C-. I had forgotten the power of sound as medicine. I need to come back here. This is my home. Notes fill the air, float directly into my ears. Vibrations cut through my body leaving memories. I close my eyes and the healing is all around me. A broad bright smile comes over my face and I’m warm. I feel love.

I’ve missed it here. I used to come several days a week. I knew everyone. It was my getaway, what fed me, kept me going. But one day I just disappeared and 6 months passed before I realized there was something missing.  I’ve been hesitant, afraid to come back but it’s time. The music and its family are calling me. This place is full of healing and life, joy. Pain turns to sound & understanding. It’s okay just to be. It’s welcomed. Truth is okay. Truth is me. Welcome back to Dizzy’s.

When I came in I gave C- the biggest hug, then another. He sat down with me and got me a hot cocoa. I wish I had a dad. C- would be a great dad. Dr. H pointed out how much I really miss having a dad. I do.

A- just got here and Dr. C is schmoozing on a girl next to us. Weird. I’m thankful for Dizzy’s. Open-source healing, low copay, no limits. Amen.

© Michelle Routhieaux 2015

I want to be okay

11/23/2015     10:35pm

I just got home from DBSA and Ralphs. They were exhausting. I started the Wall of Hope. I sat in on Libby’s room, finished it off when she left. There were 2 nursing students there I invited from Point Loma Nazarene. On the way home M- had a panic attack on the 52 after asking me what ECT is like. A police officer asked us to switch and me drive. I told him I couldn’t. Thankfully M- improved with time and air.

Mom is on the phone with Don, who won’t answer when he’s coming back. Ellie is asleep next to me on the couch. NCIS LA is on the tv. I see Dr. H in the morning. I’m not sure what to tell her. M- is taking me. A- is driving me on Wednesday.

I don’t know what’s supposed to happen to me now. I feel like a different person. I’m not the same me. When I wake up in the morning I don’t know what to do, where to go, who to talk to. I don’t know what to eat, what to wear. I don’t know me. I think it’s harder coming home this time because my train of thought is different. My whole outlook has changed. I’m just not sure how to change with it. I want to be healthy. I want to be okay.

I wish I could have more structure in the community. I would love to live in a unit like South Rotunda. I don’t know of any that exist.

© Michelle Routhieaux 2015

Building a Life on Happiness

11-16-15     4:47pm

Homework: Imagine a life built on happiness…

Imagine a life built on happiness…

I would have energy and motivation. I would take chances and try new things. I would take better care of myself and spend more time with friends. I would DANCE and maybe have the guts to try musical theater again. I could tolerate spending more time with the girls. I would spend less time in darkness crying.

(eat dinner)

I would probably do more fun things like bowling and Zumba. I would be stronger, more able to handle others’ crises without crashing myself. I would have more art parties and probably shower more often. I might even be able to start brushing my teeth regularly. What a concept.

If I had a life built on happiness I’d paint my nails more often. I’d probably answer my phone and my self-esteem would improve. I could move on to DBT Level 2 and spend less time in appointments and therapy. Maybe my health could improve and I could have less random physical and neuro symptoms. That would be nice.

A life built on happiness would probably be filled with hope and possibility, art and writing, LOTS of music and dancing and yoga and movement. And maybe I could learn how to do nothing. That would be nice. I could find peace. Learn boundaries. Set limits. Take risks. Breathe. Be.

I just asked my nurse how long my seizure was today – 79 seconds. I wonder why they’re getting shorter (105, 97, 79.) I hope it’s not a trend.

I almost lost my room today. I’m thankful I got to keep it. I wonder how my life would be different if I had discovered ECT works for me before now…  I’m glad I’m brave.

I was right. Something did die with ECT – the intense need to die, the voice telling me I need to die somewhat constantly. It is almost absent. I feel a sense of wonder and joy. I do get heavy waves of sadness but not deathly despair. I feel happy to be alive.

Dr. H is letting me go to DBT on Thursday. Armando is going to take me and bring me back. I’m so glad I’m not dead. It’s a new feeling. This is a chance to reinvent myself, build a “life worth living” like they say in DBT. I’ve never been healthy before. Life starts now.

© Michelle Routhieaux 2015

Rearranging the Furniture

11-14-15     8:30pm

I’m listening to the credits’ music from “August Rush.” Feels like it should be later than 8:30pm. Mom brought me dinner and visited tonight. I’m really glad I’m here. I had my second ECT Friday and it went MUCH more smoothly than the first. They gave me nausea and pain meds in my IV and I’m not having as much memory loss. My muscles are still sore but that’s it. It’s curious because instead of forgetting people I know, I think I know people I don’t. Eh. Whatever.

I made a really cool bleeding tissue paper art piece today. It is multicolored with a picture of two mccaws in the middle and says “Fly Free” because that how I feel. I also made a bracelet that says “JOY.” I’m not sleeping very well but my appetite is back. I miss my dog.

I’m not sure what’s gonna happen when I leave here – if I’ll go back to DBT or what my schedule will be like. I know I can’t drive for two weeks but I’m not sure if I’ll be doing any maintenance. I look forward to going back to Soleil and Dr. H and the girls. I’m hoping this emptiness in my head doesn’t stick around and that the thoughts start to repopulate. My doc here says we’re “rearranging the furniture” and not to worry. That’s a tall order but I’m working on it.

(yawn, look around)
I got to talk to my aunt today… I feel like coloring. Maybe I will. I could draw or color some furniture, or just imagine it. I feel SO grateful. I find it curious how whatever controls seizures so strongly influences mood… We were going to watch “Roman Holiday” tonight but the new lady doesn’t want to. (long pause) The noise from the tv is hijacking my brain.  Let me reiterate how grateful I am for this hospital, my doctors and ECT and I’ll let you alone. Goodnight. :)

© Michelle Routhieaux 2015

My Inaugural ECT

11-12-15     7:08pm

I had my first ECT this morning. Kicked my butt. I had one of my favorite nurses today and a doctor I super love and trust did the procedure for me. I gave him a huge hug. I’ve had friends who’ve had it before but I wasn’t sure what to expect. Today – uncontrollable crying, super dizzy, intense nausea and muscle pain, and the inability to remember where I was, why I’m doing ECT and almost everyone on the unit – even people I’ve known for years. It was somewhat of a curious brain teaser trying to remember what the unit looks like. I’ve had a hard time catching my breath today but it’s getting better. They said I had a 105 second seizure.

I feel pretty wretched but I’m glad I’m doing this. I have another treatment tomorrow and then I have the weekend off, more next week. I made myself a bracelet that says “PROUD” today when I was finally able to get out of bed. I don’t have anything brilliant or exciting to share. I just wanted to check in. My mom’s coming with some food soon. I can’t wait to hug her and I hope I can keep the food down.

Thanks for caring and reading.

Love, Michelle

© Michelle Routhieaux 2015

The Red Wristband

11-11-15     8:55pm

I was given a gift tonight. D- visited and we sang. I shared some of me with her. She doesn’t want to lose me. I enjoyed the singing, the truth connection, but I still want to die. The exhaustion of interacting used everything in me. I talked to H- in the hall. Then J- came with a gift – a red wristband.

I never thought I would be one of those people who took a million meds or had a rolodex of doctors. I’ve never planned to be a sick person. I didn’t look forward to struggling through days. Yet here I am with a red wristband. I feel defeated. I’ve turned into Janet, only I’m not dead.

What does it mean about me?

  • I have ECT at 9am
  • My doctors are very concerned about me
  • I am sick
  • I have failed
  • I can no longer tolerate living this life
  • I am… free.

I think I can let go now, stop fighting just for tonight. God is here and my family is around me. My insides are hollow and my outlook dark, but my soul rises up. This is the end. I want to die.

I trust my team. I don’t want to let them down. I will sleep safely and meet Dr. M in the morning for ECT. I’m scared but I trust him with the brain attached to this red wristband. I just don’t trust myself.

I thank God for my doctors and my friends & family.
I’ll let you know how it goes.

© Michelle Routhieaux 2015

One Breath at a Time

11-11-2015     4:30pm

Sorry for the last post. Didn’t mean to freak anyone out. I met with my doctor yesterday and today and he’s working with four of my other doctors. It feels good to have a family around me. I’m going to start ECT tomorrow. I’m nervous but not afraid. I just really hope it helps. I want to feel better. I want to enjoy my life.

Some people are still upset that I don’t want visitors unless we’ve talked about it. That request stands. I’m working hard here on getting healthy and I have a low tolerance for humans. Thank you for caring. I really appreciate it. I have cards and notes from people taped all over my room and a big sign on the window that shouts “YOU MATTER.” I check my email and voicemail often. I’m makin’ progress one breath at a time.

I really didn’t want to tell anyone about the ECT. I feel like I’ve failed and have shame about needing it. I keep most things secret in my life but I think this secret should be something I can use to help others, even if sharing it really bothers me.

I gotta get off the computer now. I’m typing myself to sleep and Chandler is about to propose to Monica on a rerun of Friends. Stay well, my dears.

Love, Michelle

© Michelle Routhieaux 2015

Porta-potty on a Race Course

10/11/15     3:35pm

Yoga Therapy Art_0054

I asked B- how to stop running. There were a lot of words I don’t recall that boiled down in my head to “Porta-potty on a race course.” Find small moments, opportunities to be, and take them.

I want to stop running. At least I think I do. But I don’t know if I can tolerate it. I have a lot of shit in my life and my past always threatening to eat me. To survive, I run. Don’t stop moving. As long as I am distracted or busy the thoughts or memories can’t get to me. As soon as I stop I get flooded. It can be dangerous. I don’t know how to slow down, to moderate. When there’s too much stress I get sick or my body shuts down. Involuntary protection. But running isn’t living. I never even see my mom.

Porta-potty on a race course. Take small moments for self-care and being. Pause. Drop in to existence for the time it takes to pee, then run again. Use the space as a gift of rest, a moment with the freedom to feel. No one is watching. No one is judging. Allow release. No one’s stopping me from choosing to run. Not for that moment.

I want to stop running. I want to be able to tolerate the distress of being, of the voices, the memories, the loneliness. I don’t want to be a secret. In the porta-potty I can hide and just be me. A-‘s wiling to start work on my trauma soon. Who will I be without fear? Can I tolerate the emotional debridement? Will I find me? Will I like her?

I don’t want to run anymore. I’m tired. God, I’m tired. Last night I wept and cried out to God. Today I sobbed all the way down here on the freeway. I’m not me. I don’t know how to be. (Reminder – joy only lies in movement)

My head hurts.

How do I learn to process and be me in chunks? Who will me be without trauma and pain? Will I be more able to help others and feel joy? Will I want to be?

I’m tired of running. I’m tired of wanting to die, of hiding. Of shame and lies. I want to be real. I want to be openly real.

Start by practicing in a porta-potty when you stop to pee.

I don’t know what’s happening to me and I feel scared. I really want to make change in my life, to come to terms with what is and was, to be able to sit safely with the truth. I welcome times of brokenness. I want to accept that though I am broken, I am whole. I’m not there yet. I want to change. I’m not there yet either. Right now, today, I’m sitting in a porta-potty on the side of a race course, grateful. I have to get up again (I’m late) but for now there is peace. Thank you.

God, I love you. Thank you for this moment.

© Michelle Routhieaux 2015

Delegate

8/4/2015     12:07am

I went to group tonight and shared honestly. I feel like I’m at the beginning of losing my mind. I’m in a dysphoric hypomania with the return of physical symptoms I haven’t seen in a long while. I feel strangled by my schedule but it’s what keeps me going. I’ve tried telling people what’s going on but I find no validation. Tonight the group’s wisdom was delegation. Again and again I heard the word “delegate,” as if reassigning some of my tasks would magically make me feel better. The only things that make me feel better right now are chocolate chip ice cream and sleep. They also recommended rest, which I already do, and doing fun things. Did they not listen? I’M FUCKING TIRED. I’m okay and then I’m not. I get dizzy, weak, nauseous. My heart beats too fast and reality fades in and out. Sometimes it’s hard to stay upright or not fall over. But sure. Delegate.

People wonder why I lie, why I don’t tell them the truth. They pointed out tonight that I lied about how I was doing before my last crash, said I hated my life. What they don’t realize is that I lie most of the time and have never really liked my life. One person listened to my request for validation but filled it with a compliment about my work at group. Could not one person have said, “That sounds really difficult. I’m sorry you’re going through it?” Or maybe, “I hear that you’re struggling. Thanks for sharing?” A few people offered to do tasks for me. I just need ice cream and sleep, for now.

I tried going to Ralphs for socialization after group. I could feel my body crashing. I made it through the line at Chipotle and ate my food. I leaned on the table as I listened to the people talk. At one point I just started singing. The noise was too much, too much stress. Cuddling with the group who had spontaneously gathered at the end of the table was too much. I walked back to the pharmacy to check my blood pressure, which was elevated. My vision was coming in and out, dizzy, shaky, unsteady gait. I tried peeing and sitting down again but my body is in less distress when moving so I took to walking around the produce section before sitting in the car for awhile and leaving. I had some ice cream, felt better for about twenty minutes and now I’m exhausted again. I hate my life.

For the record, please don’t tell me to delegate. Especially if you’re someone I’ve delegated tasks to before that you have failed to complete. It makes me angry. Thank you.

© Michelle Routhieaux 2015