But I can’t write every day

My relationship with writing is complicated and borders on ridiculous. A lot of writer advice says to write every day, every day, every day. Or else. I can’t do that, I can’t keep it up. Quite simply my health won’t allow it – both my physical and mental chronic diseases – but I continue to shame myself for not writing every day because I have so much time so I should be writing every day. That’s not helpful! One might even argue it’s not healthy!

On top of this shame I hold this belief that there’s no reason for me to bother to write since I can’t write every day because I’ll never get anything done. This is further enforced by the fact that I’ve never finished anything. (outside of the writing ‘classes’ I did on the Coursera platform. Wait nevermind, I didn’t finish the last one class that was the capstone. Seeeee what I’m talking about? Sigh.)

Recently I’ve come to wish that I’d majored in creative writing in grad school, not applied sociology. I can’t be disabled and do anything with an applied sociology degree, aside from be angrier at the world than the average compassionate human being. But I can’t change that. I did a lot of writing in grad school, but none of it was fiction.

Instead I need to change the dynamic of the relationship I have with writing. I have accepted that I cannot write every day for a variety of reasons, the top of the list being because of my health and physical limitations. Like I can’t type all day and still use my hands the next day, even with one of those natural ergonomic keyboards. Even typing this now my fingers have started to throb. Or at least I think I’ve accepted this, maybe I haven’t yet?

The biggest thing to change, maybe, is the belief that having yet to finish a project (usually novel size projects) doesn’t mean I’ll never finish a project, regardless of how frequently I work on it. There’s plenty of (fantasy) authors out there I can be… inspired by? GRRM still hasn’t finished his series. We’ve been waiting on Rothfuss to finish his last book for how many decades? I compare myself to others but I only do it in a way that further defeats me. That’s a poorly worded sentence. I’m trying to say I seem to only compare myself to others when it enforces my negative beliefs. I say seem to because I’m sure there’s something I’m not remembering or there’s a different area of life where I don’t have this issue. Wait, maybe I say seem to so I can hope that it’s not true. It doesn’t matter how long it takes you to write a book, unless your publisher gave you a deadline.

To further compound this problem I’ve made, I have serious issues coming up with new ideas. New ideas take a lot of energy and it’s difficult to tell when an idea is good. I haven’t figured that out yet. By good I mean something useable, to develop, and spend energy on. I want to write a book sized story. I have premises but I’m not sure I have any actual ideas. Developing a premise into a book idea is exciting but also terrifying because then you have a book to write. Books are huge projects I have no other context in life for, including work or school. The longest projects I had in school lasted one semester. The only other creative hobby I have is knitting and it doesn’t compare.

So because of my anxiety and depression and memory problems, I find it easier to not do anything and then I find myself wishing I was writing or wishing I wanted to be writing. It’s a sick little loop that’s not helpful and I need to destroy it. I don’t write because writing is hard and I make no progress and never finish anything. I shame myself because I’m not writing. Continue to not write. Rinse, repeat. This is gone on long enough that I feel like brainstorming is a mountain that’s impossible to climb and who wants to climb an impossible mountain? (I know there are people out there that do, I don’t understand them.)

Finishing reading Writing Down The Bones helped me to put these feelings into words. With the words attached to the feelings maybe I can move forward. Finally. Wait, who am I kidding? I’ll have to continue to fight this cycle if I want to write. Sometimes it might go away, but it’ll keep trying to come back. I’ve given it a life of its own. The real trick here might be remembering all of this and remembering that what I’m doing to myself doesn’t help my mental health.

Or maybe the trick is to continue to focus on writing despite everything. Because writing is magic.

Some observations – I have a dissociative disorder. I think.

I feel very stuck right now. A year ago I was working with a therapist who was guiding me through internal family systems therapy. I was doing things people with dissociative disorders do like identifying my different parts. I answered the hundreds of questions of a tool used to measure dissociation. It was enlightening and stressful all at the same time because I was discovering the way my brain always was wasn’t normal and maybe it could be better. Then I had to switch therapists to someone who also had a different focus and we did different things, like EMDR therapy. All of the confusing work and all of the energy I spent learning about and trying to map and identify my parts was…for nothing? I have a list of my parts with characteristics as well as some art trying to draw relationships between my parts. That therapist said that EMDR would make me feel better so I did EMDR.

Fast forward to a month ago and I just started with yet another therapist who has yet another focus….Sigh. And as part of the getting acquainted phase of the process we have talked about dissociation and my parts and wait a second. I do have parts? What does that mean exactly?

Since then I have done some reading on my own and now understand the hundreds of questions of a dissociation measure test (that I cannot remember the name of other than MID for short) is actually a diagnostic tool. I also understand that trying to map and identify your parts is a thing people with a dissociative disorder (like DID) do.

And now, this week, I’ve realized that exercise helps me to not dissociate and exercising every day is great for my brain but my physical chronic illnesses can’t do it. I noticed, thanks to my bullet journal trackers, that when I was exercising less/inconsistently I was also dissociating in that way where you feel like someone else is driving the car and you’re just watching ’em. I suspect I did this a lot through most of the 4-5 months that I was doing EMDR. I suspect it didn’t really get bad until after I started to remember trauma from childhood in a more detailed manner. And not doing EMDR for nearly a month is why I stopped dissociating.

Which means the questions I answered about dissociation in a different test would possibly be different since I was dissociating when I answered them.

Did the time that I spent pushing aside the feelings and thoughts related to/coming from my different parts slow down my healing? Like years ago I accepted that my memory is shitty and there’s nothing I can do about it. And about the same amount time I accepted that sometimes I will have thoughts pop in my head seemingly from no where, with no origination point but that I should still trust these thoughts as my memories.

Also also while dissociating more I was depressed more and isolating myself in general. With less dissociating I engage on social media and I’m more likely to leave the house for any reason.

So now I’m wondering if I should stop EMDR for a while and do something else. And I’m wondering what my psychiatrist thinks about all this. And I’m wondering if doing more internal family systems therapy could help integrate my parts and give me back some of my memory. (What did I do last week? I can’t remember. Oh. A movie! Saw a movie! That’s all I remember.)

I feel stuck. Earlier I dumped out my coffee because suddenly I (we?) didn’t like coffee. But I’m drinking green tea right now and it’s just fine. Something is definitely.. off. And I’m wondering if a dissociative disorder diagnosis would explain everything from episodes where I go from incoherently upset to calm, cool, and focused in the blink of an eye, feeling like the thoughts in my head are screaming, and not being able to decide what to do – because my brain actually wants to do everything now. And that’s just what I can think of right now.

I’d like my dissociation and shitty fucking memory to get attention for once in my life and if being diagnosed with a dissociative disorder on top of all my other disorders is what it takes then so be it.

Everything I learned from tracking my mood for a year

In 2019 I used a “pixel-a-day” spread in my journal to track my mood. To keep it simple I used five colors/moods total with no more than two moods/colors in one day. Two colors in one day usually meant mood swings occurred.

My moods or options for filling out the pixel grid were a mood for the day to summarize how I felt in general. My scale is great, good, average/usual, meh/difficult, and terrible. I did not have a terrible day all of 2019. To be fair I didn’t have anything terrible happen like deaths or break ups or family dinners. Take what you can get. The difficult days usually ended up being when I was having a difficult time coping with my mental illness symptoms. Sometimes the difficult days had triggers like being sick and sickness had more of an effect on my mood than I realized.

I also set up a pixel-a-day tracker for my chronic fatigue. It tracked my fatigue in a similar fashion with a scale of low, usual, bad, and terrible. (Low being good.) I was surprised to find that higher levels of fatigue did not automatically negatively affect my mood like being sick seemed to. I learned that taking a b12 supplement did make a big difference in my fatigue and possibly in my mood. CBD oil might also help me with mood swings.

So the biggest thing I learned is that bad days are never as bad as they seem when you’re in the middle of them. I thought for sure at the beginning of 2019 I’d end up with at least one terrible horrible no good very bad day (who gets the reference?) but I was wrong. Next is that a little part of me enjoyed tracking my mood and fatigue because I could see how my mood and mental illness symptoms improved through the course of the year with work and medicine as well as what helped my fatigue. Sort of related is that looking back at the graph is a reminder that bad moods and difficult days don’t continue forever and even small things can make it better.

And some days I found myself grudgingly admitting I had a good day, despite something that happened to make me feel bad. There’s research that says the brain remembers bad experiences better than good experiences and I feel this acutely. So for 2020 I’m trying to be… more objective? More open minded about rating my moods and we’ll see if that affects the year overall or not.

Overall the pixel-a-day tracker for a journal is fun and as long as you limit the options it’s quick and easy to do every day.

I think my body is trying to tell me something

I’ve had this thing going on the past few days? longer? A week? I feel like there’s something going on in the back of my brain. My brain is processing something in the background. I’ve realized only today that it might be why I’ve been hit with sudden terrible world stopping fatigue more than once. Sometimes my body is so tired it wants everything to stop. No input, no output, just stop.

I can best describe this as feeling as if my brain is trying to tell me something…. But that doesn’t seem like something anyone can understand. I think it’s related to EMDR therapy. Maybe. Probably. I don’t know. Previously I’ve felt this compulsion to sit down and write about my past but then when I sit down there are no words. So now I try again.

(CW for references to childhood trauma)

I suppose I cannot explain this clearly enough for anyone to understand. I’ve thought about my past childhood trauma from when I was a tiny helpless baby. How I learned at an early tender age to dissociate to deal with my physical and emotional pain. I’ve thought about my CPTSD diagnosis and how my multiple physical diseases are physical manifestations of my psychological diseases. I’ve thought, again, about how if I had an entirely different first five years of life I’d be an entirely different person. What if I hadn’t been neglected or sexually abused. What if adults in charge – foster families, social workers, judges – had a better understanding of the effects of trauma and stress on children? Would I be better able to love and to share my feelings? Better able to reciprocate? But I’m not – not that person, as much as I wish I could be. I’m broken, cracked. Only I can repair the damage …. but only so much damage can be repaired …. and I don’t know where to start.

I’m so tired of being different and knowing how different I am and not knowing what to do about it. 

I experienced such stress and trauma, such upheaval in the first five years of life that .y brain was irreversibly changed. My love was damaged and stunted when I was severely neglected as a small baby. I witnessed things that children should not be exposed to. Still a small child I learned that adults aren’t to be trusted and that everyone leaves eventually. Abandoned so many times I’ve come to always fear it, in the core of my being, even when the fear is thoroughly unfounded. Even my ability to adapt to new situations has been permanently hobbled as my body became consumed with survival. 

I’m so tired of all of my psychological diseases manifesting as physical diseases. So long as a child I was asked to be brave, told to be quiet, left alone by different adults – foster parents, social workers. So long growing up did I push all my feelings and fears and worries down and deep. So long I pushed everything down for fear of retaliation. So long have I worried, wished and wanted, not knowing why. 

And now? Now I don’t know what to do. What I should do. What I can do. I’m stuck doing the same pointless actions day in and day out. Wishing I could be something more and left wondering what I could have been if my early life had been different.

Writing While Anxious

I have figured out that my anxiety causes me to second guess myself through most of the writing process. It makes it nearly impossible to successfully brainstorm anything because I have a lot of trouble accepting that when you’re brainstorming (or whatever you want to call it) it’s completely okay to have more than one option and not know which direction you want to go. I’ve also come to recognize that this anxiety either freezes me out of writing completely or slows the entire process down to an excruciating crawl. This is especially annoying now that I’ve learned after NaNoWriMo 2019 that a writing session has the power to drastically improve my mood, probably because of how much I enjoy the writing process.

I wish that anxiety didn’t destroy my enjoyment of writing. How much I enjoy the writing process also makes the anxiety worse because I kick myself for being anxious and not writing so it’s a cycle that feeds back in on itself so it can continue on forever.

Anyways, I haven’t addressed why I’ve started writing this on this day. I wrote every day in NaNoWriMo 2019 but in December everything slowly fell apart. Part of the issue was realizing a new angle in my story which meant I had/have to go back and redo a lot of work – probably anyways. No that’s an excuse.

Since then, the longer it’s been since I’ve written I feel like I haven’t been able to write. When I think about writing I go and do something else, or push aside the thought because I have this tangled up knot inside that’s between me and my writing. I know the best way to deal with anxiety is to finally stop and face it but it’s still taken me weeks to get to the point of acknowledging this. So I’m writing this trying to face my anxiety and knowing it’s anxiety but not knowing what I should say. Even now, second guessing myself I am.

So. Writing. I have my developed idea that I started writing some scenes for in NaNoWriMo 2019. One of the problems with that story is that I don’t have that much character development completed yet. You can get so much advice on plot and setting and world building but less so characters. But I’m getting off topic again. I also have an idea that’s barely a premise that’s completely different and I’m wondering if I should switch projects and develop this old new idea. Right, that sounds like a lot of excuses now that I’ve gone back and reread it.

Anyways. I suspect anxiety is making me want to switch ideas too because getting further into an idea and having more content is overwhelming for my anxiety.

Now that I’ve babbled on about anxiety and reread my words it sounds like I’m making excuses to avoid writing so that I can avoid my anxiety but it’s not working because I’m anxious about not writing because I made a goal to have 28,000 words by 12/31/2019 and I’m still stuck on 18,000.

Ah hah! That’s the first time in my life, outside of a NaNoWriMo that I’ve made a word count goal and apparently it flew back in my face.

So no more excuses. And I need to find a new way to have goals and track progress in my writing.

NaNoWriMo 2019 – 10k word milestone

I finally reached 10,000 words! Today. And that’s okay. I think I’m excited about this but my depression makes it kind of hard to tell. My depression has been kicking my ass making everything a struggle since the time change for DST. Like a switch went off in my brain. Literally everything, from getting out of bed to eating. Anything that requires a decision. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve edited this blog post even.

I prepared quite a lot for this year’s NaNoWriMo, putting in months of time for brainstorming and organizing my ideas. I felt pretty good going into November, except that I didn’t find a way to outline scenes that worked for my brain. I’m still having trouble outlining scenes actually.

From the first day of the month, words have been hard and they slowed down the farther into the month I got. My top word count day was 1,148 and my lowest count day was 97. The good thing is I feel like I have beginnings of some scenes. I also feel like I still have gigantic holes in my story that I’m hoping will fill in as a write.

I wish I could tell you I’ve found some kind of amazing plan that gets me over 1000 words a day every day, or something, and that’s why I’m writing this post. But no, not so far. At some point in the last week when I realized that it was depression making me struggle I decided to continue working based on the writing plan that Chuck Wendig shared on his blog quite a few years ago. So far it’s working. So far I’ve been putting the time in at my laptop until I have at least 350 words. The first 100 are the hardest. I’m going through the motions.

Instead of writing this blog post to share some amazing observation about writing, I’m writing it for everyone else out there with a chronic disease who doesn’t think they are good enough because they can’t reach 50,000 words in NaNoWriMo. You aren’t alone. Writing with chronic disease, whether it’s depression or chronic (physical) pain, is difficult, and slow.

The only way you finish is to keep going. So I’m going to keep going. I’m hoping to have 25,000 words by November 30.

It’s beginning to feel like it’s just depression

Which actually makes me feel better. Strange as that sounds. I was hoping I wouldn’t end up with winter/time change/holiday depression since changing my medicine in the first half of the year but apparently I’m not that lucky. Saw my psychiatrist yesterday and she commented that “The thoughts are cutting but you aren’t cutting.” and that’s a pretty good way to put it.

I don’t have a lot of family or things to worry about over the holidays so I feel like I shouldn’t be upset or triggered or stressed or what have you but apparently it’s not that easy. Holidays are a void I struggle with instead.

I’ve spent more time staring at my knitting thinking I should be working on something than actually knitting. I have one gift project started and a few others that have been planned but those also feel the weight of that word ‘should.’ Hmmm. Working on those gift knits would help with that aforementioned void. I bet.

With doing EMDR therapy over a month now, which is for my PTSD and dissociation and childhood trauma, I think my mood has been a little “off” as well … so add in the time of year and things have gone … somewhere.

I’m also doing NaNoWriMo but it’s kinda been a failure. I haven’t even hit 10,000 words and halfway through the month I should have at least 25,000. More words than I had November 1st. And no blog posts for over a month too! That’s a sign depression has creeped in.

Oh and can’t bring up writing without mentioning anxiety! Anxiety that won’t ever go away. Anxiety leading me to avoid things I usually like doing. Didn’t realize that was a thing I might do until recently.

My chronic diseases also haven’t been helpful but I guess they never are are they. It’s more like they’ve been more overwhelming than usual. I’ve had more back pain all the month of November so far – which doesn’t help a writing schedule one bit. I’m trying to taper down on my daily prednisone from 5 mg to 4 mg and after 2 and a half weeks maybe I’m getting back to normal. Back to normal in this case is not needing an hour nap almost every day. Still tired, but I’m mostly functioning at home.

So it’s probably not something medical, it’s probably just depression. It’s weird to hear myself say “just depression” but …. that’s how it is. At least right now. I think I get through this by going through the motions and pretending. Yea, I think that’s it. Right?

And here’s some wisdom from inspirobot. Thanks inspirobot.

Talking about EMDR

I want to write a blog post about my experiences with EMDR so far but I don’t know where to start so I’m just going to talk about EMDR for a bit. My experiences are different from others since my memories are very fragmented and my flashbacks are mostly emotional and my intrusive thoughts are for more recent events. I can access very few memories of my childhood. 

EMDR therapy is weird and hard. It can also be interesting to see what thing pops up in my brain when in the middle of EMDR therapy. There’s lots of details to the process that you can find with a simple Google search. It’s harder to find information on how it will make you feel. It took awhile for my therapist to decide that I was ready to start EMDR. Based on my experience with my therapist, you don’t start EMDR until you are ready to start EMDR. I had to get better at self soothing before starting. 

I dissociate during EMDR but I’m not reliving a specific memory/event so that’s something else that is different from what other people understand – if I understand this correctly. I’ve fought through worse episodes of dissociation too. In fact it’s different because I’m not fighting my brain to stay in the present, my brain is leading. And I’ve been okay to drive home alone after.

I’ve had 3 sessions of EMDR and none of them have been severe or distressing (yet?). I’ve also (already?) started to have memories come back outside of EMDR. That part is weird an uncomfortable but since I’m better at self-soothing and my meds have helped my nightmares it hasn’t been terrible. I’ve been nervous before each session and I don’t expect that to change. However, after the last session dealing with the post EMDR brain isn’t as hard as the time before…. So that’s obviously not going to be the same every time. 

Right, post EMDR brain is hard. The day of my appointment I end up feeling like I did something strenuous – because I did. I compare it to completing a final in college – the kind that takes like an hour in class and you walk out relieved it’s over. It’s draining because your brain is doing a lot. Last time I ended up with a migraine – but that’s not guaranteed either. I’ve had to take it easy after every (full) session of EMDR. Less focus is pretty common for me. 

Overall I can say that EMDR isn’t as scary as I imagined it but it is as hard as I imagined it to be. But healing isn’t easy. 

August writing workflow notes

I didn’t manage as much writing time in August compared to July. I think Camp NaNoWriMo was extra motivation. A big part of all of this tracking is to find what I can succeed at despite the aspec

I increased my goal past what I did in July, to 1320 minutes or about 43 minutes a day. I finished my July goal of 1080 minutes.

For August I worked for 920 minutes for the month. Few things interfered, like my birthday and some PTSD stuff. I worked on writing for 900 minutes in April so I feel like 900 is a reasonable minimum.

For tracking I made note of the estimated time I worked, the estimated total minutes I worked, and where I worked. I went to Starbucks 6 times in the month of August and 9 times in the month of July – when I wrote more.

I suspect I need to clean up clutter at home more and I’ll be less distracted when working at home.

As far as content is concerned? August was definitely a success with more details down on paper for my plot embryo and working through more of Janice Hardy’s Planning your Novel.

I continued to track what I worked on every day I wrote separate from the number/time tracking and I think that works well. I make note of what I made progress on with a + and make note of what I think I need to work on next with a bullet point. This is especially helpful when looking back on old notes.

Overall, August was still a success.

For September I’m going to make my goal 900 minutes – or 15 hours. At the current time I have ten doctor/medical appointments, including starting emdr therapy, in the month of September. This is up from August (6) so I’m not going to try increasing my goal yet.

I think, thanks to experimenting during Camp NaNoWriMo that I finally found something that helps me feel like I’m making progress in my writing, especially since I’m not actively writing and still developing and brainstorming.

I definitely recommend working on time goals in Camp NaNoWriMo if you’re trying to build a routine for writing. Appointments on a digital calendar on your phone help too.



Depression’s weakness

Image by Inspirobot - reads "Revelations are kind of a turn on" with what I think is the picture of a tall building in the background.

The other day I found myself looking at a book I was super excited about and received as a winter holidays gift some years ago. I’ve never read that book. There’s so many other books we own I haven’t read either. Why you ask? I realize now, with the work of done with a new therapist and a new psychiatrist that it’s because of depression. I always thought it was so many other things.

Staring at that book on the shelf surrounded by other books I haven’t read I decided the worst thing about depression is when you’re actually excited about the potential of something but you’ve never able to follow through. Depression taunts you with the potential of all the things you could be doing if you had the focus, energy, enthusiasm, and motivation. (That list is probably near endless. I’m trying to generalize.) You’d probably have more energy too if you weren’t looking at all the things you should or could be doing that are impossible because depression. Depression steals your action, your follow through, your doing.

It’s like a book sitting on your shelf, taunting you. Why haven’t you read me yet? Why? Why? Why?

Depression is sneaky and knows how to protect itself so it lies. It tells you there’s other answers to the questions of why. When you have depression, the answer is depression… except depression tells you it’s because you aren’t good enough, or it’s your illness (and therefore nothing you can do about it), or you’re afraid, or it’s the actions of another person, or, or, or, or….. There’s so many other answers to that question that aren’t true. (And yes, some that are, but we aren’t focusing on that right now!)

That’s depression’s weakness. You can do something about depression.

You can reach out and talk to people (even though it sounds impossible), take medicine, work with a therapist or counselor, read about techniques like cognitive behavior therapy, take different medicine (because the first one didn’t work), exercise, journal or write, eat chocolate, and … something that works for you that I haven’t thought of … It’s a long list. You might have to find what works but I promise something does.

Important note: I assume you have access to healthcare which also means you can also afford healthcare.

Doing something about depression is work. But it’s work worth doing because you can get back to doing life instead of just wishing you could do life.

One more important note. The details and feelings of depression are different for different people so maybe this doesn’t apply to you. (Like I have chronic illnesses and other mental illnesses so my depression is different.) Also, I’m not talking about being glum or sad or down for a few weeks or having bad days. I’m talking about being diagnosed with depression (or needing diagnosed with depression). If you want definitions, go here.

National Suicide Prevention Life Line

American Foundation for Suicide Prevention

Trans Lifeline

I am a survivor

I am the sum of all my parts. Even the broken bits and the parts I don’t like. The cracks are proof that I’m still alive.

People tell people with chronic illnesses to not let their illness define their identity. People say are you sure you want that ‘label’ in relation to being diagnosed with mental illness(es).

Well. Chronic illness makes you feel all kinds of things. I’ve come to believe that people without chronic illnesses don’t understand how it’s part of your identity and always will be. Every time I leave the house I have to account for a list of things a ‘normal and healthy’ person doesn’t. That’s part of who I am.

The same goes for mental illness. I was diagnosed with anxiety and depression over a decade again. In the past 5(?) years I started to wonder that there was something else. There were other things about my brain that made life hard to cope with, and they weren’t anxiety or depression. There’s been so many times I felt broken. Because I couldn’t remember something (from yesterday, this morning, or three years ago) or confused because I forgot where I was going when I was halfway there. I often feel disconnected – from everything – including myself. My therapist at the time dismissed these concerns. More than once. Hindsight says why didn’t I go elsewhere? But logically, I know it’s because I was too busy trying not to drown. (Now I know what a shitty therapist is like.)

Before now I was scared to learn more about my traumatic first five years of life and how that trauma effects me as an adult. Neglect and abandonment are just the traumas I know of for sure. In fact I have focused on my physical health until the last year or so. I wanted to be “normal” so I could go back to work. In that time my mental health suffered more. Probably. And I’ve survived too much stuff to be “normal” – but that’s the thing. I was strong enough to survive.

Last year I was diagnosed with borderline personality disorder and PTSD. (It’s probably cPTSD but I haven’t remembered to ask my doctor.) So I have more labels. But the labels are important because now I can get the treatment I need.

Now I understand much about the effects of trauma on the body, how these effects stick around, and what I can do to heal. I’m working on it and I still feel broken but now more importantly I realize I’m a survivor. Understanding trauma has given me some answers but theres so answers I’ll never have.

I’m broken and sometimes I feel like a mess but I’m still whole. I’m sick but that doesn’t make me less. I’m strong and I’ve always been stronger than I realize. I’m a survivor.

…. This post has sat as a draft for a long time. I’ve edited it a few times. I’m not sure the point, but I still feel I should publish it instead of deleting it.

Research: Borderline Personality Disorder and migraines

Borderline Personality Disorder: Treatment and Management — National Collaborating Centre for Mental Health (UK). from 2007 but the link to the full pdf can be found here

Borderline personality disorder and migraine. Study from 2007, full article behind pay wall.

Relationship between borderline personality disorder and migraine. Study from 2017. full article behind pay wall.

This one upsets me because doctors seem to group everyone with Borderline Personality Disorder and migraines together, saying they will all abuse their medicine, which isn’t true. Borderline Personality Disorder and the Chronic Headache
Patient: Review and Management Recommendations

This one is a little better because it notes where more research is needed. Personality traits, personality disorders, and migraine: a review

But I still cannot find the article I stumbled on that says people with Borderline Personality Disorder often have longer lasting, more difficult to treat migraines. It sounded like the type of migraine that occasionally destroys my life for the past 5-6 years.

Mental illness and the medical industry

inspirobot meme: Words say "Friendship is life itself. Life itself is friendship."

I really have no idea how to title this post, let alone start it, past picking an image from inspirobot. But here it goes —

As I learn more and more about my PTSD I realize more and more about how ignorant medical professionals and staff are (seemingly willfully at times) about mental illness. The people I expect to have some kind of awareness or understanding seem to have none. Initially I found this shocking, at this point, it’s unsurprising and tiring. I also realize experiences similar to mine – and worse – are not uncommon. I’m referring only to my personal experiences here.

Recently FB memories reminded me that in January 2014 I was basically assaulted and abused by ER staff. Part of the experience included me blacking out, I only know because my husband was present. Through my entire time there, when I was desperate to receive care when my migraines – which had just started to become severe – things continued to be handled badly. (There’s a thing known as patient’s rights – I’m not sure they respected any of them). I didn’t report any of the hospital staff’s behavior because it was too traumatic and I was too new to the going to an ER for a migraine experience. I tried to move on. I thought moving on would be better, safer, easier. It took at least 3 years to stop feeling like I was there when I remembered anything from that night. When I remember it now, it’s closer to a regular memory.

The FB post that triggered quite a few memories:

Reading the memory and posting about it triggered other memories including parts of an interaction with my previous counselor. I can remember talking about having flashbacks to being in the ER, and being confused and scared. I was questioning if they were flashbacks, questioning if it was a sign of PTSD. I was probably in some kind of crisis. She said yes, it’s post traumatic but no it’s definitely not PTSD. Denied that I had any further problems, just was having isolated problems with a difficult experience. Dismissed my emotions.

Not once, in the 4-5 years, with a visit every month on average, that I met with this woman did she ever consider that maybe she should send me to another professional, like a psychologist or psychiatrist. I have come to realize that she denied any chance of me having anything more than anxiety or depression – continually. Almost regularly. I must have started seeing her in 2012 or 2013, well before January 2014 when the shit happened in the ER. She offered me bandaids, and occasional realizations like a few sips of a cool drink, but nothing to actually help me understand my behavior.

I’ve come to learn that her behavior was at least in part, because of the stigma in the medical/healthcare industry that people with mental illness will try to collect more mental illness diagnoses. Sure, some might feel that it’s helpful to do this. I’m not judging them. But not all of us do. When I finally sought testing – an idea she resisted – after learning I might/probably/do have borderline personality disorder, she still resisted this idea and disagreed – but never elaborated on why.

So that’s four years of worsening symptoms – flashbacks, blackouts, dissociating for sometimes days, severe mood swings, and severe migraines triggered by psychological stresses – that maybe I could have had help with sooner. Because I wasn’t educated enough and because this (older) woman was so stuck in her ways of thinking, including her mental health stigmatization, I continued at many times, to not do much better than survive.

I think I have to continue to try to “move on” from all of this. Writing out this jumble might help. Since then I’ve started seeing a new counselor, further trained, and therefore prepared to help me understand my behavior. The new counselor has been a fresh and new experience. I wish that I had sought out testing and “fresh eyes” much sooner than I did but for so many reasons I didn’t. I wish I had “fired” her sooner. Sometimes I debate one more appointment with her to ask why she disagrees with my BPD and PTSD diagnoses/symptoms/presentations. But that’s a $50 question.

I think it’s also important to note that I have found it necessary to only tell some of my doctors that I was diagnosed with PTSD and Borderline Personality Disorder – because of the stigma, especially of Borderline Personality Disorder – thanks in a large part to TV.

Navigating the (American) healthcare system is difficult in general, and an especially exhausting and stressful ordeal if you are trying to get help for your mental health – assuming you can even afford to do so. Everyone’s experiences with mental illness are different, and everyone’s experiences with medical professionals are different too. Also remember, medical professionals are humans too. Unfortunately, sometimes I think some of them need reminded.

So my point. If you have mental illness and you are trying to get help, keep at it. It’s difficult and scary but worth it in the long run. It took me from July 2018 to November 2018 to finish psychological testing, get all the results, find a new counselor and find a psychiatrist. Now I have a counselor I appreciate and trust who’s warm and friendly. The psychiatrist I found (on the second try) seems to be really laid back and competent.

And if you know someone with mental illness – even if you have mental illness – offer them empathy. Educate yourself. Keep an open mind. Ask them how you can help. Don’t tell them what to do – which is hard when you see people in pain. Sadly, some people will also be in denial all their lives too – but that’s their choice because everyone has to seek care at their own pace.

Remember, you aren’t alone.

My Most Successful NaNoWriMo Ever

I did a lot different this year. I used some bullet journal style tracking including my word count for the day and a sentence about what I did.  I wrote down a variety of things for inspiration or brain storming. I prepared for NaNoWriMo by setting up a process and working on *my* process.

I realized some things. Like when you’re developing a story you don’t need to pick the perfect option or motivation for your character now, you can consider every single option you can think of. Silly things. I realized silly things. But important nonetheless.

This is the first year I’ve ended NaNoWriMo with multiple story ideas. I’ve done enough work now to recognize some trends in my own writing ideas – so there’s a story I want to tell. But there’s other ideas I haven’t figured out yet. For example, writing a character with mental illness who still manages to be successful and kept together and, well, a hero (or heroine).

My goal became to write for 30 days in a row. I did not have enough of my story developed to actually write scenes and dialog and content. I spent a lot on further development – because I was trying to cram too much into 1 story? I also arbitrarily assigned myself a word count goal of 16,000 – and also removed/rewrote a chunk of 700 words and still kept over the 16,000 words.

My next steps: 1. Set up scrivener files for each story idea. 2. Figure out how to track progress and word counts. Progress is story specific, word count doesn’t need to be story specific. 3. Start Chuck Wendig’s No Fuckery Writing Plan. Like officially. 4. Writing next will be outlines for at least 2 of the 3 stories. The third story is probably a short story? It’s got to sit and simmer for a while so it’s decide if I want to bounce around or focus on 1 at a time.

See that?  A plan!

I’ve had improvements in my physical health in the last few months – and now better mental health treatment in the last 2 months – and I think that’s helping more than I can possibly explain. I’ve participated in NaNoWriMo every year since 2012 —-

— This is the first year I’ve felt I have something I can continue to work on. Mental health treatment probably has a great deal to do with that. I’ll know more for certain after I’ve done more work on my mental health/well being. I have this funny feeling as I write this blog post. I think it might be pride and accomplishment because I did a thing! Emotions are confusing and hard. Anyways –

If you’re a writer, or trying to be a writer, and dealing with depression, anxiety, ptsd, or any kind of mental illness. You aren’t alone, keep at it. As they say, “Your story isn’t over yet;” Also Chuck Wendig has  lot of good things to say on the subject.