Let Go

What are you holding on to?
© Michelle Routhieaux 9/6/2017

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Hope in Electricity

1/23/2017     11:43pm

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I feel so good. My body is really sore and I can’t drive but I feel light. Colors are crisp and clear. They may only last a moment but I have ideas. I smile warmly for no reason. I breathe deeply without having to think.

Today I had ECT (my 1st since April). A change in anesthetic caused some problems but I am so much better. I am blessed with an amazing doctor who genuinely cares about me and a dream support team. Friends are helping with rides. I am released to rest and sleep (both from my depression & ECT).

It’s been almost a year since I was doing somewhat okay. My current therapist says he doesn’t recall ever seeing me not in crisis. Late summer I started to get worse. My repeated calls for help fell on ears that considered them my norm. I prepped to go inpatient in Sept/Oct but thanks to an amazing arsenal of coping skills and extra sessions of therapy I was able to hold off. I asked for ECT. My doc wanted DBT-IOP. I got pushed into a different program instead due to my people being in DBT, despite my multiple warnings that it was not a good idea. It was, as anticipated, a catastrophe that ended with an event appropriately described as trauma that I’ve yet to be able to process. In 1 day I went from 25+ hours of treatment/therapy per week to 2-3 hours. Not good.

Lately my suicidal ideation has been through the roof. I’m fighting for my life. I’ve also been impulsive, angry, self-harming, dark, unable to access empathy, scared, feeling alone and hopeless. Last week I called my therapist at midnight. I packed for the hospital. I cried.

They laid hands on and prayed for me at church on Sunday. It was unexpected yet utterly calming. I was surprised last week when my pdoc offered ECT. In one moment she validated and made my ongoing normalized experience true. I was confused. Even this morning I was panicked as they put me under. But Dr. M had my hand and I could feel God and see the outlines of my angel and D- and some unknown to my left. I am exhausted and sore but I am okay.

God, thank you for blessing me with family & friends and kick ass doctors. Please continue with my healing and keep using me for Your will.

My next treatment is Thursday. I wonder how long they will last – not the set but how long between treatments before the effect begins to wear off. I’m itching to do weekly. I can drive then. ;)

I enjoy resting and sleeping now. And rain

M

Update 1/31/17  1:46am:

I had a treatment on Thursday and another today. The weekend was really bad but I feel better now. I’m getting some rest and reminding myself to do one thing at a time, be “gentle to self,” as we say in group. I’m proud of me and grateful for my treatment team, my friends and ECT. There is hope in electricity.

© Michelle Routhieaux 2017

Is no one else upset?

9/30/16  1:57pm

cajon_custom-7164ab9a3a6a90cc9d89f557696d1cfcdfac2d09-s400-c85I feel awful, and not just because I feel awful.

You may have heard there was another cop shooting this week where the cops killed an unarmed black man. Seems to be a fad these days. I hear them on the radio and they are upsetting but they are far from me, beyond my ability to affect or be a part of. But this one was 2 miles from my house at a taco shop between the vet I go to and the place I buy frozen yogurt. AND this person wasn’t just black, he was crazy.

(*For those of you who take offense to the word “crazy” or believe it promotes stigma, I don’t care. I am proud to be crazy myself and I use the word openly. The term “mentally ill” makes me MUCH more uncomfortable.)

That said, this man was crazy. His sister called for help, made it clear that her brother was not okay. After almost an hour a non-PERT team was sent to the scene and killed him. You can read the details in this article. The officer with extensive psych training responded appropriately by tazing the man. The other one shot the guy. He’s dead.

Immediately the Black Lives Matter movement and NAACP stepped in. Churches, vigils, protests, marches. Only last night did the events become violent. More is planned for tonight and something big on Saturday, though I don’t know what they are or how to find out the details.

I WANT TO BE INVOLVED. My mom says to stay away from all of that. My contact with the police replied somewhat cryptically to my response. My basic interpretation is, “Stay away from that, Michelle.” There are complaints about violence and I hear people look down on those acting out, but I don’t blame them. What else is there to do? What channel is there for expressing extreme anger and distress? for requesting help and change from a virtually impenetrable source? Of course there will be violence eventually. And it’s the only thing that proves effective right now. It makes the news, gets the word out, releases emotion and sometimes causes officials to actually do something they want or need done, like release information.

(watch live feed of press conference and release of video of shooting, approx 40 mins)

Wow. I’m really glad I live in a city that’s so coordinated and connected and prepared (somewhat) for things like this. The distress of the police chief came through the screen. He did a great job. I’m grateful someone asked about PERT and why PERT did not respond… (watch more, read more)

It’s upsetting to me that cops kill people. I try to avoid them at all costs when I’m not at a PERT Academy or similar event. They scare me. They kill people like me for being me. I’m upset that there is way more focus on the man being black than being in a mental health crisis. I’m upset that there’s no rallying behind the family by a national organization like NAMI or DBSA. I’m upset that only today, 3 days after the shooting, did anything related to the shooting show up on my support group FB group. I don’t watch the news but this is unavoidable. Someone heard SOMETHING. Is no one else upset? Does no one else also believe that crazy lives matter too? This event has implications for consumers, family & friends, and the community at large but I’ve receive no calls. I’ve gotten no emails from organizations locally stepping out saying what happened was if not wrong at least really fucked up and didn’t have to end that way. No condolence emails. No vigil notifications. I can’t even seem to find information on the civil rights-related events planned or happening. It’s like it doesn’t exist.

Meanwhile, I sit here wondering what to do. I want to be a part of change. I want to be able to take some action, to make a difference. That doesn’t happen on Facebook or lying on the floor. I don’t want to be one of the people who just stands by, who places their own safety above the greater good. I get mad at my mom for avoiding meaningful rallies and events because of danger. I don’t understand how she lived through the 60s and 70s and never joined a protest. It makes me angry. I walk toward the fire for things I believe in. I’m not afraid to die. But in this case I don’t know how. I don’t want to get injured at a protest. I don’t even know where to find them. I don’t want to miss out. I don’t want to be aloof or to put myself first. I want IN. How do I get there?

All the time I spend networking and talking to people, forming alliances and gathering info is my greatest addition to change, aside from crisis intervention. Here somehow that doesn’t feel adequate. It’s not enough. And no complaint form or grievance or blog post will fix that. I feel really sad.

I asked my PERT person these rhetorical questions:
  • What am I supposed to tell my people?
  • What do I tell my consumers to try and remember to do or not do while in crisis to not get shot? (aside from the ERP list)
  • What do I tell them when they freak out even more when someone does call because now they’re terrified of being shot too just for being in crisis?
  • What do I tell my family & friends people when they want to know if it’s still safe to call 911 and hope for PERT?
  • What do I tell them to make this okay?
  • What do I tell all the sisters and relatives who now don’t want to ask for help because they don’t want to kill their loved one?

For some reason my people don’t seem upset. I’m not getting FB posts or phone calls or texts. I’m not even getting concern from people about the 2 deaths at a popular independent living this week – murder/suicide. Is everyone asleep?

I don’t know. I just want what I do to matter regarding this. I’m not a sit on the sidelines type of person. I’m crazy and I want change. I want to matter. I want to feel safe in my home and my city. I want to be me.

http://www.democracynow.org/2016/9/29/protests_continue_in_san_diego_after

http://www.cnn.com/2016/09/30/us/california-police-shooting-video/

© 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

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

Update from the Farm

11-8-15     2:55pm

I want to die. There is no simpler way to put it. I’ve been in the hospital since Sunday night. After two days of Hell with a doctor who yelled at and literally threatened me I got a really great doctor who is working very closely with me to try and make me better, or at least less close to death. He listens to me and reads my journal and talks about what actually matters instead of bullshit. He changed one med this week but I think it’s making me worse instead of better. I’m more “withdrawn, depressed and apathetic” according to my nurse.

I want to get better. I just also want to die. Quite the dialectic. A lot of stuff is going on in my life, both good and bad, and I’m tired. I am soul weary and worn. There is barely anything left in me. 10 of the 12 days before I came here I came closer than ever to suicide. I don’t care about almost anything. It’s not that I don’t genuinely care about and love my friends and family, adore and protect the girls, desire for nothing more than to lead my group to greatness. I just don’t have it in me right now. It hurts to be alive. I’m using skills. I’m trying. I’m alive. The people who’ve seen me are concerned. I am too.

During the midst of all this a group member decided to try to oust me as President of my group. I did not need that. I was supposed to have a family session with my mom and the social worker yesterday but the social worker never showed up. I tried to have the conversation with my mom anyway. It wasn’t so successful. She says she’ll do anything for me but when I called today to ask for something she was busy. She’s going to the Garth Brooks concert tonight. We were supposed to go together. I want to die.

My nurse today told me suicide is the most selfish act and that sometimes we need to be more selfless. I don’t think that’s true. I spend most of my time giving selflessly to others. I don’t do much for myself. Suicide would be the ultimate selfish act, me choosing to do one final thing for me. People can’t understand that.

I want to not want to die. I want to believe there is a reason for my living other than helping others. I want to be free. I want to believe I can be. Right now I just want to die. I pray for God to take me home and make bracelets with positive phrases to wear just to get me through the day. Am I concerned? Yes. Am I safe? Yes. Do I want to be? No.

It’s been a long year and I’ve done everything in my power to cope and push ahead anyway. I can’t do this anymore now. I want to die. I miss Dr. N. Maybe some sunshine or a nap.

Sorry for the dreary update. I just don’t have anything positive to share right now. I wanted to touch base. I appreciate you reading.

Love, Michelle

© Michelle Routhieaux 2015

Are you the pumpkin man?

11-29-13     11pm

Well, I feel tonight. Jumbled words in my mind let go with the music. A moment just to stop.

I watched the hall empty, mesmerized, listening to the sounds, taking it in. Streisand-man is annoying. Otherwise a wonderful night. Even the food was good.

The anxiety is trying to escape me but it’s stuck inside my body. Tweet tweet goes the bird dog. Scream. I said SCREAM. (scream)

(deep breath)

Parked in Old Town.
I miss my mom.
Want to run away.
Or just run.
I don’t know why.

Feed the toilet.
Arms not right.

Are you the pumpkin man?

Where am I?
Take me home.

© Michelle Routhieaux 2013

Since 2009

8/13/13     3:18pm

What’s different now than in ’09 with Marc? I’m embracing the fact that I’m alone. Dr. N taught me that not all people leave and that I can be safe. Jim taught me how to face my fears through ERP instead of cognitive reasoning. DBT gave me a set of skills to use when I’m freaking out that work. I became closer to God and reassessed my priorities and relationships when I thought I was going to die. I started developing a sense of self. Now I am not so desperate and needy. I started developing systems to get me through the day and track my progress. I faithfully attended DBSA both sharing and learning new tools. I surrendered the pain and defined acceptance. I started doing things for me, in particular attending jazz gigs and making friends with non-crazy (or at least non-diagnosed) people. I gave up and found life. My mom is nicer to me now. I rarely scream or freak out or run away. I use assertiveness daily. I don’t take bullshit anymore. My need for an intense attachment to one person has diminished greatly. I feel more safe, supported. I’ve learned and practiced more boundaries. I’ve moved away from the cognitive approach. I stopped going to school. I found a doctor and therapist who meet my needs. I need the hospital less. My HD phase has passed. I am free.

I forgot to tell Dr. N today that I’ve been thinking about school. I want my degree. I think I’m ready. I think I’d like to major in social work. I should try WRAP and PET first both as prerequisites and to see if I could handle it. I think I might. I don’t think I’m ready for full or part-time. Maybe one class at a time. I have scholarship money I need to use…

(walk around)

I stood up for myself when threatened at Scripps. I walked away stronger, determined. I took care of me.

I learned to say no and to say yes. I’m doing much better with change – if you can imagine. I’ve dealt with health issues bigger than me. I’ve been broken and risen up again, not through ashes but rules. I learned how to observe and listen, to practice empathy. I catch myself earlier in the process so I don’t blow. I’m learning to stand on my own.

© Michelle Routhieaux 2013 

Recipe for a Day List

8/18/13     5pm

This is my day list. I use it every day. Today I updated and prettified it. If you’re trying to make one and want customized bullets, use Word instead of Publisher.

Day List 8-18-13

My day list has been so helpful for me. I have memory problems and things an average person would have no problem remembering slip my mind and run away. Like somehow it’s a trap and they finally escape. So awhile back I decided to make myself a list of things I need to do every day to remind me. I put it in a page protector (clear plastic cover) and mark off each thing with a dry erase marker as I do it. I made a space on my wall to hang it last night because I keep losing it. My day list gets me through the day. 

The day list has helped me keep up with self-care when I’m really depressed and make sure I come back to basics when I’m manic or agitated. I find that when I’m doing better I don’t need it as much and when I’m doing exceedingly bad I don’t even remember I have one. Thankfully, my psychiatrist reminds me. 

I feel accomplished when I do everything, which is pretty rare. I am grateful it reminds me what to take with me. I made it. I love it. I’m proud of myself. 

Recipe for making your own day list:

Ingredients – 1 sheet protector, 1 sheet of paper, pencil or pen, 1+ dry erase markers

  1. Think about what you NEED to do every day (not what you think you SHOULD do or what someone else thinks you SHOULD do).
  2. Write those things down in an order you are most likely to do them.
  3. Place the paper in the sheet protector.
  4. Put the list in a place you’ll see it every morning, next to a dry erase marker.
  5. Use. (Do a task, mark it off, erase marks at the end of the day.)
  6. Revise as needed.
  7. Celebrate your accomplishments!

Just a note – some people think my list is stupid. My mom doesn’t get it. She hassled me about it at first. Why do I need a list? Can’t I just remember that? Honestly, no. I’m glad I kept using it. If it works for you, do it. Let me know how it goes. :)

© Michelle Routhieaux 2013

Even dark clouds pass

3/8/13     7:31 amP1170855

I just woke up to pouring rain. It’s my birthday. I take this as a sign God is washing away my pain. From the comfort of my bed I see blue sky under the dark dark clouds and it’s taking over the sky. It never left. It was just temporarily covered.

I am warm, comfy in bed propped up against three pillows in a soft shirt my friend gave me and my Cookie Monster pants. Bright orange and pink socks on matching palm tree sheets. God is good.

I got out of the hospital on the 15th. Nineteen days. The most painful experience of my life, to my conjecture. And probably the best. 19 days. I don’t want to forget those days.

I went in for a severe mixed episode, rapid cycling from suicidal & lethargic to euphoric or agitated energy about every 20 minutes. I had two doctors because Dr. N was on vacation the first week. Dr. H was great. She put me on a new med that calmed the cycling but it caused such bad muscle problems that I could barely walk. I had dystonia in my legs, stomach & back. But my mood was great. At first. Until the pain wore on me and I couldn’t take it anymore.

When my doctor came back (sunshine) we stopped all my meds in 2 days to start over, find a baseline. We’d reached a deadlock. Ah, the pain. We expected either my body would get better and my mind would get better or my body would get better and my mind would freak out and we’d fix it.

Instead, my mind did much better than expected and my body flipped out. (remembering) Pain. Attacks of being stabbed in the neck with burning knitting needles that would break like thunder into muscle spasms all over my body. Out of control blood pressure. Random spikes in bp and pulse. The muscle spasms at night hurt so bad I couldn’t move or talk. They became constant. My face twitched so bad I couldn’t see straight, made me dizzy. My fingers were constantly tingling & freezing. My feet tingled. The roof of my mouth tingled. I wasn’t sleeping or eating. I became frail, which was pleasing to me but angered my doctor. I hid under the table from the voice in my head, heard an unfamiliar one for the first in a long time. My hands would stop working & turn cold and purple. My doctor didn’t know what to do.

God sent me angels. I could see and feel them with me. He spoke to me. He came as a hummingbird. All around me was God and I was never alone. I cried out to Him to take me home. I was so scared but He was not. He told me, through the words of my mouth and a cloud, “Don’t take your eyes off me. It is written,” quite firmly. I knew the storm was coming. I didn’t see the glory. Before each spike in pain I would hear God’s song. He gave me music. Calming songs would start before and play through and my angels were with me. I was never alone. Heart racing, shaking, body writhing, unable to breathe. They would ask if I was nervous, having a panic attack. No. I felt calm.

Many days of this wore on me. With no psych meds my mood was all over. I wanted to die. We started adding back in meds, building a new ground. The staff were amazing & my fellow patients priceless. Friends. Something finally clicked and I was ready to come home.

Which brings us to now – 3 weeks later. It is my birthday and I feel good. I can’t remember the last birthday I felt good or even semi-ok. Last year I screamed and cried and refused to get out of the car and slept most of the day, reclused. Today I feel good. It’s morning and I am awake. The birds are chirping. My kitty is watching. The clouds part and I feel JOY. Praise God!

This whole experience has drawn me closer to Him. I’m listening. I’m paying attention. I joined a church choir and am reading “The Story.” I don’t feel as scared. I’m taking care of my body, trying to lose some weight. I even want to decorate my room. Goals seem possible.

A different life seems possible too. I don’t feel trapped. I get to choose what to do and what not to. I can move in any direction. That said, I am still exhausted. Trying on shoes last night knocked me out. I am exhausted but not weary. I see the light. Praise God.

May 27 be the best year yet.
My goal is to LIVE.
My theme: Break the Rules.

Even dark clouds pass.

© Michelle Routhieaux 2013

Me

(Note – Yes, I am safe.)
1-6-13     6:30pm

Just got home from RENT. I went with Taylor. Cried through most of it. Exhausted now.

I miss Brandon. I miss my theater family. I miss being me. All of the goodness that I am now isn’t ME.  I miss Sarah and Mr. B, knowing I had a role, a purpose. All of that was taken from me.

It’s something we never talk about in therapy. We talk about sense of self. We don’t talk about me. Is it too late to get her back? Is she gone forever? Is the opportunity gone for me to be me? I so desperately need me.

Please.

healing card - therapyI pulled a healing card today that says this, “It’s important not to get stuck in therapy. Therapy is a necessary boat that takes you across a rough river to a new shore. In time, though, you must step out of the boat and onto new earth and never look back.” There is a passage with it about not carrying the raft forever and being wary of letting supports be a substitute for life.

I don’t understand. Illness took me. Therapy took my life. Therapy forced illness to cough part of me up and became my life. I can’t get the real me back. If I let go of groups and therapy I have nothing.

I wish someone had warned me, told me, “Don’t let go! Not for anything.” But they didn’t. They were living. Now I am scared to breathe.

A little girl wants me to teach her to dance. I’m terrified. Please don’t touch me. You don’t understand.

Who am I?

I am a little girl.
I am a friend.
I am a dancer.
I am an artist.
I am a patient.
I am a child of God.
I am me.
I am not what I feel.

(“I’ll Cover You”)

I want to scream out, “PLEASE HELP ME! Someone’s taken my soul!” But no one’s there to listen, only hear.

If I can’t be who I was, I don’t want to live at all.

You couldn’t tolerate the stress of who you were.

I can’t tolerate the stress of now.

Touche.
Take your AZT.

I think if I got into a show it would bring me back. I would find me again. I NEED me.

Me is dead. She is gone.

No she’s not! I saw her last week.

Elvis has left the building.

My head hurts.
I want to die.

I know.
Do you honestly think in your state of mind you could do it?

I’ve done it before.

But not with the physical ailments.

True.
What am I supposed to do?
I can’t do this anymore.

Sing, take drugs & teach.
Work your way up.
Peanuts to packing peanuts.

Fuck that.
When do we start?

I want to die.

I know.
I’m tired.

Triggers

Theater
RENT memories
B- memories
USC memories
shame about my life
missing Sarah
believing I can never have me back

Vulnerability Factors

Janet’s death
pre-existing severe depression
exhaustion
allergies/infection
headaches
holidays

Thankful Taylor is texting me. Need to take – and -.
Make a plan, Michelle. You can do this.

© Michelle Routhieaux 2013

Feelings

1-4-13     7:27pm

In the silence music comes to me.

Now “I Need a Miracle.”
Before “Walk on the Water.”

Waves of intense anxiety followed by crashes. Labor of feelings.

(breathing)

I colored. I am a unicorn. My head hurts.

I’m glad Mom doesn’t have the tv on.

People keep asking if I’m okay. I don’t know what to tell them. I want their support. But I don’t want to want it. I don’t want anyone to know I need help.

15       LEAVE ME ALONE.

There was so much love and support at the group last night. I couldn’t take it in. I felt squirmy.

15        Leave me alone. Stop talking to me. Hide under my desk.

I’m not supposed to feel. Don’t you understand? Feelings are for secrets, closed
doors and letters. I don’t feel. I dance.

Feelings get me in trouble. I am not allowed to have them. I am pro other people openly having feelings, sometimes. I, however, tuck them away safely in a vault that eats at me. I can’t even get to them if I want to.

Feelings are scary and dangerous. They make me feel ashamed. It is my job to be strong. It is my job to be a robot. Do the work, listen, comfort, be.

I am angry that other people can have feelings but not me. I feel them in a tiny ball, an orb in the center of my brain, best friends with the hippocampus. They hover there and tell me what to do. I speak this out loud as I write it purely monotone, a few syllables at a time. I stare. My head hurts. Please help me.

*Smack* Don’t you EVER say that again.

I see other people cry and they’re comforted. I’m not easily soothed. I get angry. I don’t want people touching me. I don’t want them to know. I want to be fucked up in private and then go back to my life. I don’t accept help. I feel lonely. I push people away. But not out of unlove, out of self-stigma.

15
Leave me alone.

I don’t trust them.
People who say they will help lie.
They just hurt you.
It’s a trap.
Stay in the dungeon where it’s safe.

FG                 
She doesn’t understand.
She has good cause not to trust.
She is learning.

13                               
She is killing us.

FG                
Maybe so.

I want to cut or hurt myself to feel. I could cry a few days ago. Now I just stare. Tears in my forehead. Crashing. Must sleep.

© Michelle Routhieaux 2013

Listening to God

10/28/12     11:36pm

I’ve been listening to God lately. It’s an interesting thing.

I’ve been growing in my faith lately. A lot. It’s strange to me but quite welcome. I’m having a lot of memory problems and other issues so I don’t remember if I told you or not. Last week I watched this sermon online and it struck a chord – Family of Origin Part 5: The Lost Child. I’ve been attending The Rock Church sporadically and hadn’t been in a few weeks so I decided to watch online. It was just what I needed and it talked about something I hadn’t thought about in awhile – the still small voice.

I hear that voice a lot. The still small voice that tells me what to do.  I hear it more lately. No, I think I just trust it more lately. It tells me things and I do what it says. I’m never sure why I’m supposed to do these things or go these places on instruction, but there’s always a reason. I find myself in the right place at the right time, even though it was exactly the wrong place to me and I’m often upset about being there. The voice tells me where to go and what to say and whom to say it to, or not to. It redirects my path when I’m straying in a different direction, creates anxiety when I’m headed away or tells me to stay through the anxiety when I’m not supposed to go. Or to give or to compliment or to pray.

I am at once comforted and confused by this voice. The still small voice of God. I am comforted because I trust it and believe I should do what it tells me. I feel I have a companion, like intuition or a gut instinct that’s always right. But I’m confused and sometimes I doubt. Not because I don’t believe or I think it’s wrong but because doing what voices in my head tell me to hasn’t always turned out alright. It gets really scary sometimes and I end up in dangerous situations or do risky things. Or I give away all my money or run away or in some other way harm myself. I want to listen and obey this voice in my head that sometimes tells me to do things I don’t understand but that don’t seem bad, but I have a hard time trusting that He’s not one of “them.” The them that are out to get me, who tell me things in my head. Who scream at me and haunt me in the night. Who make me believe bad things and hurt myself. How do I know the still small voice is safe?

I guess the answer is that I don’t. I have to take it on faith. It’s just hard trying to tease out mental illness from religion when they’re so closely tied together. When God or experiences with God are such a part of my illness, or what society calls illness, it’s hard to know what’s real. I believe that when I am manic I’m not delusional, just closer to God, more able to experience Him and His presence. Somewhat of a spiritual emergency. When I’m experiencing weird spiritual things I have a choice to categorize them as spiritual experiences or psychiatric symptoms and how I define them determines the course of action. But what I’m hearing lately I don’t consider either. I just hear the voice of God. I listen for it. And I’m surprised because I follow it about 90% of the time.

I’m listening to God. I feel peace. In the midst of chaos and crises and illness, I feel peace and assurance. I seek to raise others up, to show love. I’m becoming a better me. Listening to God, letting Him work through me.

© Michelle Routhieaux 2012

Open to God

7/18/12     6:17pm

I went to an ANAD meeting today. (I’m feeling anxious right now.) I went to the meeting and I realized how grown-up I am, how much progress I’ve made. I am not in that anymore. I’m not even in me. I worked for S-. I’m being opened to wisdom.

I have better boundaries. I understand why I do things. I practice mindfulness and DBT. I plan. I take care of me. I let things go.

Today last year I checked into CAP2. I could barely talk. I wanted to die. I was terrified. Dr. N was mad at me for giving up. I was so tired that I didn’t have it in me to try. Too tired to want to get better.

(deep breath, crickets) zap.

I rested. Then I did the work. And all year I’ve been working, learning, growing. Experiencing. Life.

I am more able now to deal with tsunamis of emotion. I can handle physical symptoms without freaking out. I made it through several crises, one of which I really would’ve preferred to be inpatient for, on the outside. I did it. And I’m doing it. I’m doing it.

My set of symptoms hasn’t changed much, but my ability to deal with it has. I also have stuck faithfully to the charting system I created with Dr. N in the hospital. July 28th will mark one year. It’s been good seeing him often and having a system we both understand and agree on. I trust him.

I’m finally to that point of being able to think about creating a life worth living. I want more for me. Marc wanted me to do that in 2008. I wasn’t ready. I don’t know what it will look like – probably a lot different than the picture in my head – but I’m open to ideas. I’m open to what God has planned for me. I’m open to God.

© Michelle Routhieaux 2012

House of Cards

6-5-12     12:54pm

I just got home from a choir concert. Not my choir. A different choir. The last pops concert of my high school choir director. I got to sing as an alumnus.

I saw a lot of people tonight and had a good 3 hours to reflect on my life. On the dynamics between and not between us and on how I have changed, how I’ve stayed the same. It was not a fun 3 hours but I enjoyed the singing.

I am upset by something that happened. There are large portions of my life for which I have no memory. I remember a snapshot here or there, but the rest is blank. I haven’t had ECT. I just have gaps in memory. So, people were coming up to me tonight that expected me to know them and I hadn’t the foggiest idea who they were. My mom says that’s normal, but it’s not. I played along as best I could. I didn’t know what to do. It wasn’t an environment in which I could just say I can’t remember ‘cuz I’m crazy. Or sick. Or whatever. I don’t understand. They were sharing memories about some concerts we did. I remember one song because I did the choreography, but I don’t remember the concert. I remember the music but not the events. I remember that I liked the guy I was talking to in high school and he remembered me, but I couldn’t remember who he is. 

I sit in my kitchen and cry. I DON’T WANT THIS! I don’t want to see these people and their lives. It hurts SO much… I don’t want to remember what I could’ve been. Please. Please. 

I seem rude for not remembering, as if these people weren’t important to me or special. And I feel scared that they will find out my secret, that I’m not okay and that although I’m becoming more honest I still lie every day. I always wanted to have a people. I’ve always had a book.

I sat next to a group of people I always looked up to but was never friends with. And I watched the choir director, whom I most days can’t tolerate, end her career as a high school teacher. And I was so angry at the kids next to me talking during her solo. I turned around and smacked one of ’em with my music. I’m old enough now to realize the gravity of the moment. And to remember to shut up. ;)

In my day to day life I’m not confronted with opportunities for comparison. I know it’s not good to play the what if card. But tonight… (pause) I want that. I want what they have. I don’t even know what it is. But they have independence and freedom. I have a house of cards held together by a lie. A journal. And a black card at Staples.

Would my life be different if I remembered? I think not remembering protects me. But I don’t remember me. Sometimes I ask people what they remember about me. I can’t remember.

I hear “O Sifuni Mungu” (Swahili) in my head and my whole body tingles. Oh to be 13.

© Michelle Routhieaux 2012

But I want to like me

9-6-11     6:45pm
(written at a cognitive therapy lecture about procrastination) 

This lecture is confusing.
Too many ideas.
Thinking about the future, bills & organic food, & saving for the future makes me more nervous, more likely to procrastinate.

All these people are family.
I can’t help but compare me.
I don’t hang out with normal people ‘cuz they make me feel more crazy.

They do dishes. They read. They have families. Some of them work. Man, Come on. This lecture is not for folks who are crazy…

Crazy.

I consider myself crazy.
Not a word I think about.
I don’t consider myself “mentally ill.”
No, that’s scary.
I’m just crazy.

 I don’t think of it when I’m alone or when I’m with other people who are crazy. Or on the bus or trolley. Or when I’m in therapy. 
I really want to be close to other people but they make me feel crazy.

Good crazy. Bad crazy. Creepy crazy.
All different things. I like being crazy. But I want to like me.

© Michelle Routhieaux 2011 

Acceptance

9-6-11     2:55am

Someone asked me tonight how I accept all these crazy versions of reality I experience and am not freaking out all the time. Have I done ACT or some special kind of therapy? No, not really. I’ve just lived through it.

The first time I experience something new it freaks me out and if it gets bad enough I usually end up in the hospital. Like this last time in July when I was talking gibberish and then not talking at all and then talking all weird. Freaked me out, understandably. But it happens now and I’m fine with it. I have a category to put it in. I know what it is. Or maybe I don’t know what it is but I know that it won’t kill me and it will pass.

I seem to have more and more of these things. These things that I know are bizarre to the rest of the world but have become quite normal to me. So when the universe is orange and I’ve been poisoned and there are people following me I am more able to approach it as an experience than an attack. Some strange experiences can be quite fascinating. I am always hesitant to stop one with medicine too quickly. I lose some of the beauty. It’s not something I can just get back. I enjoy the parts that aren’t super scary, the writing that flows through me. It doesn’t last. I keep it ’til it’s dangerous.

I think dealing with all the physical stuff has made that easier. When there aren’t answers I come up with my own. My own systems of coping, my own reasons, my own rules. My own way of accepting. I may not like what’s going on but there’s no one who’s gonna save me so I might as well enjoy what I can and throw the rest to Hell…

I’m so tired tonight. My brain is foggy and the words aren’t here to write. There are pauses in my mind where thoughts go. It doesn’t sound right and nothing rhymes.

© Michelle Routhieaux 2011