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Archive for the 'Crazy Girl' Category

Confession

Wednesday, November 24th, 2004

With the good comes the bad - or, as I prefer to say it, with the sweets comes the sour. But if you don't have one, how could you ever appreciate the other? Personally I love to mix sweet & sour - how about you?

I know, I know, wtf am I babbling about?! It's been a rough week, friends (and it's only Wednesday). I'll be honest with you here - though I've been trying to decide if I was going to confess share this or not - I fucked up. Some of you already know what that means. Yes, I cut. But that's not the bad news! The bad news is I did it two nights in a row. It's a low I haven't hit in many, many years.

I want to first thank you all for you concern - those that commented here asking after me and those that sent concerned emails during my prolonged absence. It's so nice to know there are people who, even though I've never met them in the flesh, truly care about my well-being.

I won't go into the reasons I slipped up; it's not really worth it. What's done is done. It isn't bad, and it likely won't even scar so don't think I was over here hacking at myself like a mad woman as in days of yore.

The sweet of this seeming-bowl-of-lemons is that today I feel better. Not because I cut, but just because I do. I don't know why I've been so depressed and I don't know why I woke up feeling a little better today than I did the day before. That's just the way of my psyche. Maybe it's the holiday tomorrow - I enjoy the chance to get together with my family. Maybe it's the break in the overcast, dreariness that has been our permanent weather for going on two weeks. Maybe it's because there's finally a cool snap rather than the tepid and sticky humidity that has been hanging heavily in the air. Perhaps because The Worm and I had a huge fight last night which ended in an amazing make-up and opening up to each other that brought us much, much closer. Whatever the reason, for the first time in many days, I'm happy to be alive. I'm not yet overjoyed at the prospect, but you've got to start somewhere. If I can make it back to the giddy joy that I felt a few weeks ago - loving life and being in high spirits every single day - I'll be most content.

So enough of all that. Today is a new day - a fresh, clean slate. I want to wish every single one of you and yours a very blessed and Happy Thanksgiving. I hope you all gorge yourselves on turkey, green bean casserole, rice dressing and booty bread. I hope you share a million laughs with your loved ones and fall asleep tomorrow night full, happy and content.

In closing, I'd like to hear from all of you - tell me, on the eve of Turkey Day - what are you thankful for?

Dark, Dirty Secrets

Sunday, November 14th, 2004

I've been a naughty girl.

Reading Dooce's memories of suffering through anorexia & how she's doing now with it gave me an urge to get some thoughts out about my cutting - and my almost-slip-up.

The other day I almost cut myself. I came so very close that at the end of the evening I shamefully handed The Worm my almost-instrument-of-destruction.

"Here," I told him. "I've had this hidden for some time now. I never planned to use it. It just makes me feel good to have them hidden around the house, but I'm giving it to you now to punish myself for coming so close to screwing up and slipping back."

He didn't understand, but he took it and gave me a hug. He tries.

Yes, I have blades hidden around my house. Like an old boozer who has liquor bottles stashed away "just in case" the urge should ever overcome him - just so he can sneak off and have "just one sip" if life becomes too much. They are usually plastic pink disposable razors that I have painstakingly altered - the front pieces of plastic are ripped to expose the blade, the blade is usually darkened from my "cleansing" it with a flame. It's something I used to do countless times to ensure I had an ever-ready blade, or in the moments just before I cut when I had nothing else to use. That may sound bad, but it was better than when I had none and got desperate and switched to the serrated knives in the kitchen.

That sounds terrible - seeing it on the page like that I'm thinking, "I cannot fucking POST that on the Internet. What will they think about me?" But it's a part of me - it's something I did and it's something I will struggle with for the rest of my life. I can't run from it. People that know me in person actually see my handiwork (my scars) and that's much worse than reading about it. I know what they think - I know no one can imagine purposefully hurting themselves; especially so viciously. But I try to remind myself that people also can't understand drinking one's self into an early grave, being unable to stop taking copious amounts of harmful drugs, or even making themselves throw up every time they eat. I don't need them to understand it - I just need them to know I'm not that different than them; I just have a more fucked-up way of coping with my problems.

So why did I almost cut? What was so devastating that I almost slipped back into the "dark side"? You're going to laugh. There was a kitten I'd met and bonded with at a friend's house a few weeks ago. I got a phone call wherein I was told said kitten had been hit by a car and was paralyzed from the waist down; otherwise it was fine. Would I take it? Otherwise it was going to be put to sleep. Can you imagine how that made me feel? Crippled-ass me who has been on crutches for two years, a cane for almost 6 mos now and who will NEVER walk right again???? They were going to kill her because she couldn't walk. I was overwhelmed with hurt and sadness and the weighty decision over whether I could take on such a responsibility. I wanted to, with all my heart, but could I? Baret was against it and since we do share a home and my current disability puts much more burden on him to get household chores done, his say was a huge one. I was so extremely torn. I have the largest soft spot for animals. My fellow man can be damned - I'd just as soon off one for driving stupidly - but I tear up at even the sight of a kitten. My mind was literally in a state of turmoil and chaos and I couldn't handle it. I knew that cutting would calm me - it would still me enough that I could make sense of everything and make the correct decision. I also knew that wasn't the answer, but it was such a tempting one! I went into the bathroom under the premise of getting ready for work, but Baret tried to follow me in there. He knew. I quickly got my pink plastic encrusted blade out from its hiding place and stuffed it in my robe pocket. I left the bathroom and told him I was okay. I was going to wait until he went to take a shower. Part of me was hurt he'd even leave me alone in such a state - didn't he know what I was capable of?

But in the end I didn't do it. Reason somehow won out - perhaps its just years of self-therapy, and real therapy and medication and learning how to deal with my "manic-depressive" self - but I didn't do it. That evening I handed the blade to Baret. Letting go of my "security blanket" was hard, but I wanted to punish myself. I'll likely make another and hide it away anyway, if I know me. But for the moment it was shameful to confess that I'd had it and that I'd almost done it - so that was what I did.

This is a battle I fight every day - even if some days I never get the urge to cut, the thought and the desire is always in the back of my head. I've gotten better - I can now safely collect daggers (something I've always wanted to do) without fear of using them on myself (I would *never* use my two beautiful daggers to cause myself harm - I made a very serious pact with myself and have found no problems upholding it). My first instinct when I get upset is not to cut (unless I'm *very* upset and then it still is, but it's all work-in-progress). I know you can't understand it - I know you think I'm crazy - I know my scars scare you. But just remember that under these battle scars is another human being who isn't that different from yourself.

It wasn't easy to write all of this down for people to read - especially people whose opinions and thoughts I respect & value as I do each & every one of you who comes here faithfully to read my babble. Thank you for your time - for listening - and for at least trying to understand. I've only ever blogged for me, but you guys make the experience all the more rewarding.

Busy Is As Busy Does

Thursday, September 9th, 2004

Look, I'm not even going to say "I've been busy" anymore. Just assume it because it's always infallibly true. I'm always busy - too busy to do anything I'd like to do and too busy to do about the half the shit I should be doing. So - I've been-that-thing-that-now-goes-without-saying.

I saw my therapist today - yes, I'm seeing one. I'm still trying to figure out how I feel about it. I like my therapist, I think she's great and she is a Pisces, and who's more understanding than a Fish? But it's weird - I mean, usually when I go there, I'm fine. I'm not freaking out or about to cut or on the edge of a panic attack - so what do you talk about? The times you were - in the past? I'm still getting used to it. And yes, I'm going to try the happy pill route for a bit. We'll see how it works out.

I'm bringing this up only because my therapist seems to think there is something deeper to my utter distaste for the marriage thing. She asked if it was because I feared commitment; hardly - all of my relationships have been years-long. I don't even date because I know right away if the person in front of me is someone I could have something long-term with; and I don't dick around with dates. She asked why I think other people get married and I told her that I have no earthly idea what would prompt them to do something so insane. She keeps digging with this - I suppose thinking its the key to some much deeper issue, but I really don't think so. Not everyone jives with the marriage thing - and I'm against it more than most. I don't understand it, don't know why people do it and can't figure out why they'd even want to. The whole concept is beyond me. Look all I know is that more (much more) than half of them don't work - and, hey, I'm not a gambling kinda gal.

Which brings me to another subject in the same vein. Someone recently asked me how I could be so against the whole idea of marriage yet be so passionate about allowing gays the right to do so. This is what I told him:

No, I don't believe in marriage. But that doesn't mean I don't believe that people who do believe in it shouldn't have the right to do it if they so choose. As Voltaire said, "I may not agree with what you say, but I'll defend to the death your right to say it." That's the principle here. I believe firmly in William Allen White's quote: "Liberty is the only thing you cannot have unless you are willing to give it to others." How can I expect freedom and equality if I don't support it for others?

And that's just that.

The Bad Day…Not So Bad

Monday, September 6th, 2004

Usually when this time of year rolls around, I think back to the nightmare of September 7's of the past; the fateful Labor Day that changed my life forever. Normally I am putting all of my strength into getting past my "bad day" (the 7th) and the week before it - having usually fallen into the deepest pit of black depression. Even last year, the first year as you'll see that it didn't drag me down, I was still remembering what had caused it be so hellish for me.

Not this year. This year, coming up on the 6 year mark of my grandmother's death, I want to remember the woman that was the rock and the glue of two small families. I want to remember the person that I was nicknamed "Little Dot" for taking after her so much.

Not that it was always a compliment. Like me, my grandmother, Dorothy Beauvais Prestenback, was a passionate woman - a person of extremes. She could be downright nasty and wicked, and turn right around and be the most loving, warm and generous person you ever stumbled across. Being a passionate, stubborn and strong-willed woman wasn't the easiest thing for a woman born in her time and I know a lot of her life was spent in constant conflict with these very demons; damaging qualities as much as they were also the beauty that made her her.

We shared a dark and hateful side that always threatens to surface - we shared similar addictive struggles; she with her drinking and I with my cutting. Though we never discussed these things, there was a shared and unspoken understanding between us both. There were times, when we'd talk alone, we'd tell each other "I know you're the only one who'll understand this." What we meant was "you're the only person that understands me." Perhaps it's that Beauvais blood that produces such complicated women.

Whatever her downfalls, my grandmother was an amazing woman. One could not know her and not be in awe of her in some way. She let nothing stand in her way, and not a soul or a thing would've survived her protective wrath if it involved her children or grandchildren. She loved to buy us things - she loved to just spend time with us - she loved to see us happy.

I remember the twinkle of devilment in her eye when she was cracking a joke, the sharp bite of her tongue when she scolded us, the all-embracing warmth of one of her hugs. I miss those hugs. I remember her dynamic personality, how much her friends loved her, how much we all relied on her. I remember the smell of her Giorgio Red perfume and her penchant for red hair dye. I remember thinking, as a child, that in her younger pictures she looked like a beautiful 40's movie star. Though there are actual days that go by now where I don't think of her, she's never but a second's skip from my heart. I still talk to her, I still ask her for advice and complain to her when life is just too much. I know she hears me - I know she's out there somewhere, still understanding complicated-little-me. But I still miss her.

I've posted her life story, that I wrote, in case you'd like to get to know this fabulous woman that you'll never have a chance to meet.

That's all I wanted to say.

For you
July 7, 1932 - September 7,1998

Burning The Candle At Both Ends

Saturday, August 28th, 2004

I don't have time to post - I really shouldn't be posting at all as I'm supposed to be getting ready to leave for dinner at Baret's sister's house tonight. But that's kind of been the running theme in my life as of late - trying to squeeze in things I want to do with all of the things that are piled on top of me.

I feel like I'm drowning in a sea of deadlines, anxiety, unpaid bills, the roller-coaster of recovery from my surgery, and good 'ole stress. I'm stuck in this nauseating wave of too-much-to-do-and-not-enough-time-to-do-it which leaves even less time for doing the-things-I-like-to-do-that-relax-and-destress-me. I'm sure just about every suffers from this particular conundrum in today's lightening-paced society - but I guess some people are better able to handle it.

I let myself get so stressed out this week with work, bills that are starting to come in from my hospital jaunt, family issues and arguments with Baret that I actually came to a point where I was struck completely numb. I couldn't think, couldn't function, couldn't make a decision about what to do next or what I wanted to do. By Friday all of this stress had complied on top of me - burying me in an avalanche of jittery anxiety and teetering on the verge of a panic attack. It was then that I decided it was time to start seeing my therapist again and go ahead and began trodding down the path of Those on Happy Pills. I just need something to help me cope with all of life's demands these days.

I'm someone that needs my recoupe time - and every evening this week, and the last and the one before it has been filled with either social obligations, work-at-home, or stress and fighting. I've had no time to seek refuge from my stress and it's destroying me. I need a fucking break - I need something to help me cope with non-stop train wreck my life has become. There, I said it - I'm admitting it - I NEED HELP! That's the first step, right?

In all of this stress though there has been some light - when I returned home yesterday I had email from a fraternity organization that puts out a "risk management" publication for college students around the U.S. They tackle many issues and this issue they would like to tackle self-injury; mainly cutting. It's a one-piece publication that includes a photo and resources for help along with a personal story. They read my personal self-injury story, Chronicles of a Self-Injurer and want to use it. I can't even begin to tell you what this means to me. Even more than the joy of being actually published (which is my dream), my story will reach an even wider audience and will help so many more people who are suffering from self-injury and think they are all alone. I can't tell you how many young women have emailed or IMed me after reading my site to tell me they thought they were the only ones in the world who self-injured and how much of a relief it was to them to know they weren't the only ones.

I went back and read the story, which I wrote in early 2000 at the start of my therapy and recovery for my problem; it's definitely not my best writing, but it's open and honest and I hope it will help someone.

Now I'm running late and Baret is fussing. Have a good weekend all.

Junk Mail, Celebrity Baby Names & Therapy

Friday, June 25th, 2004

I learn so many important and enlightening things from my junk email box. I'm talking about the kind of peace of mind that can only come from knowing, for example, that I can consolidate my debt with a Christian perspective.

I was musing over the strange celebrity name-thing I wrote about last entry, and realized that if Madonna's son grew up and married David & Courtney's daughter, the headlines would read:
Rocco Ritchie marries Coco Cox-Arquette.
Perhaps I'm the only one that finds that sing-songy heading humorous.

Well, folks, I went to my very first therapy session yesterday. I liked the social worker, she was a very nice Pisces lady. Yes, I asked her what her sign was - maybe it's not important to some people but being a slightly-higher-than-novice astrologer, it's important to me. Of course, she scribbled something in her notebook as soon as I asked her that; yes, let 'em know you're a looney right from the start, that's what I say.

I know it'll take awhile to warm up to her, but I like her. I'm going again next week and she wants me to see a psychiatrist to talk about getting on some meds. Yeah, you know, the thing I said I didn't want to do. I still don't want to do it and am in quite some turmoil over it now.

I explained to her my personal reasons for not wanting to be on pills; that I felt it was a cop-out on my part, that this is who I was, as mental/emotional as I may be, and getting on pills to "be normal" (whatever that is) was skirting the issue of learning who I am and how to live with myself. That if I just let the pills "make me" some certain way, then I wasn't getting to the root of who I truly was and why I was that way. Maybe I think too much.

She said that if I was a diabetic and had to be put on insulin, I wouldn't think there was anything wrong with that. Well, no, but that's different. Isn't it? She said that my mind might be sick with "chemical imbalances" that the meds would help - that they might help me be who I might be without those "chemical imbalances".

But I'm not a person without chemical imbalances so why would I want to live like one?

I'm really confused, okay?

I've told myself that this is only temporary. Honestly, I'm usually quite capable of dealing with my roller-coaster emotions and panicky, over-wrought mind. It's just that with this struggle with my leg, I'm not as equipped to handle my mental/emotional self as I once was. So perhaps this is temporary help. I won't be on the pills forever - I don't need to be, I know I can deal with my "mental imbalances" perfectly fine when I am functioning perfectly fine again. Really. I believe in the power of the mind, and I believe in me. Right now I'm just in a rut.

So maybe I will take the pills to help me out of this rut. Once I'm a healthy, mobile person again I can get off of them and learn to deal with my mind and emotions as I should.

But damn it's hard to go against my own thoughts on the subject; I think I can do it without pills. No one seems to think so! They act like it's impossible, it just can't be done. But is it right to think that everyone in the world's problems can be solved with a bunch of synthetic, man-made pills? If everyone is getting on pills to deal with LIFE, then how is anyone learning to cope naturally? How can we learn about our true selves and how to deal with our selves and our nuances if we're hiding those behind all this medication?

Help me out here. Your thoughts? I'm really stuck.

My Struggles with Mental Illness

Monday, May 17th, 2004

(Note: It's way long, but because of the content, I decided to post it all and with no editing.)

Struggles with Mental Illness

If you've been keeping up with my good friend Rose's trials as of late, you might have read about her decision to try out medication to help with the crushing anxiety and mild depression she's been suffering through. Another young girl that I talk to online, a teen who cuts and found me through my self-injury site, Bleeding Out the Pain was telling me that her mental-meds (as I call them) had been upped, and how she wasn't happy about it. I watched my sister take them for a few years, to help with social anxiety and I've seen her boyfriend struggle through trying to find the-one-that-works-for-him. He, along with his doctors, seem to have found the right pill and his quality of life, according to him, has improved drastically.

I've probably mentioned before that I'm an (unofficially) diagnosed mental/emotional wreck. I'm aware that I have problems, some psychiatrists I've visited have suggested bi-polar and/or borderline personality disorder. Never one for labels anyway, I'm content not to have an "official" diagnosis of my psychosis - I rather prefer just being "me"; even though "me" tends to be a little bit crazy.

Seeing so many people as of late going through mental/emotional struggles, and even reading Rachel powerfully professing her similar struggles, has brought all of this to the fore in my mind. I've never sat and combined all of my battles, looked at the entire mess of it as a whole; in fact, I rarely deal with those issues at all - preferring, instead, to chalk it up to "this is just who I am" and just dealing with it. But last night, during a phone conversation with my soulmate, I began to lay it all out before me and put to the test my thoughts, beliefs and musings on mental illness and where I fit into the big scheme of it all.

I truly believe such deep soul-searching is best shared; brought out and expressed. You never know who might be helped by reading what you've written, who might be going through the same struggles and confused in their own right. Besides, baring my soul is cathartic for me, believe it or not. As any recovering cutter will tell you, we're of the type that likes to "bring things out" rather than keeping them inside to fester. So it is with complete open honesty, warts and all, that I share with you my walk down the unstable road of mental illness and emotional distress. Perhaps you've been there, or can relate some - mayhaps you'll just think I'm a nut. I'm not worried about what people think; I'm interested, only, in reaching out to others that understand, and finally stepping up to the plate and admitting my own problems in the light of day.

It may not make much sense - I'm just going to go with it, so bear with me. Let's have at it, then:

I've always been somewhat of an emotional wreck. The happiest of children until I hit my teens, some sort of black cloud developed over me at that time. Puberty does that to people - to extremely passionate people, the effects are rather magnified. I was unhappy, and made sure that everyone around me was so as well. Misery loves company, after all.

I've never been one for blaming my family for my shortcomings. There comes a time, as an adult, that you have to take responsibility for who you have become. My family isn't the sanest, most ordinary bunch around - for which I'm thankful. But we've come to blows many times over the years; I having always been the "black sheep" of the brood. It is probable that some of my earlier problems stemmed from my family, when I lived with them. I did begin cutting to try and reach my alcoholic father - to convince him that his drinking was hurting us in tangible ways. But I don't blame him for that - cutting is something I would've done eventually and regardless. That or some other form of self-injury; I am my own worst enemy. It is true that the constant brow-beating was injurious to my self-esteem; but that's how my family is - we ruthlessly tease and berate one another. Making cruel and hurtful stabs, also, seems to run in our blood; I'm guilty of it myself. Yet I feel that I've conquered the self-esteem issue pretty well as I've grown, so I hold no blame there either. Since family seems to always be a dynamic in these things, I wanted to clear that up.

From 13-on it all went downhill. In case you weren't aware, I'm lactose intolerant - I can't digest milk products (cheese, ice cream, bread, etc.). The malady is a bit better known now, but back then not many people knew about it. All I, or my family, knew was that one day I started getting severe diarrhea; horrible, painful diarrhea that can only be compared to food poisoning. I had no clue that my body was unable to digest the lactose that was in just about everything I was eating. No one could figure out what was wrong with me, and those close to me begin to believe that I was dying of stomach cancer. I stopped eating - because doing so made me ill. I, seriously, lived off of Light Pringles. I dropped down to 99 lbs and looked as if the believed diagnosis just might be true. At that point, I didn't care. I was in pain constantly and truly felt death would be a welcome release from the hell I was living in. That I was existing in the black blanket of a deep depression would be putting it lightly. Two years later my paternal grandmother suggested that I might be lactose intolerant after reading about the affliction in a magazine. I bought some Lactaid pills and began testing the waters - it took a year for me to get it all straight; how much to take and with what foods. For that year, and the one after, I suffered through various stomach and gastric ailments - brought about, obviously, by having had severe diarrhea for two years. Though still in pain, and miserable, having a name to call my illness was a light in the darkness.

I got through it - and towards the end of that struggle, I cut myself for the first time. The first time was baby steps - really nothing. The next time was in a fit of rage that produced my very first (though not my last) scars. Those that know or have met me can attest to the vicious scars that cover both arms (and parts of my legs). They are not pretty and in no way inconspicuous - I scar out rather than in, and though some are faded, white lines, others are thick, pink, ropey marks that are impossible not to notice. A long-ago count had the total number at 18 - but I've added a few to the fray since, including my worst to date. I no longer cut on a whim, but the need is always there and so I will always call myself a "recovering cutter" - it's not something you ever truly get over.

The cutting went on, and into, my early adult life - which is when I really lost it. I can't say exactly what triggered my breakdown; my downward spiral to rock bottom. Like I said, I've always been extremely passionate - positively and negatively; nothing is ever pastel with me. Whether it was the overwhelming experience of my first love, the nagging fear that I knew he would leave me someday, or the anxiety that arose from my being unable to trust him, I slowly came unhinged during our three+ years together. Though I freely talk about, and admit, to my behavior during those times, it is still a bitter pill to swallow. I'm ashamed of how I acted, and how I treated my ex; I'm ashamed at myself for losing control. Without going into details about the mess our life had come to be at the end, suffice it to say that I was undeniably, at that time, crazy as a fucking loon. My parents, I've since learned, went to my ex and talked to him about getting me put away and getting me some help. There were times, not few, that he threw me over his shoulder and marched towards the door, with the intent of bringing me to the mental clinic and leaving me there. I had become so obsessed with him, and the fear of his leaving, that I never allowed him to leave my sight. He lost his job, because I wouldn't let him go to it. We lost everything because I couldn't work either - it got so bad that I couldn't breathe if he wasn’t in my presence. I lived in constant fear and panicked anxiety - watching his every move, sometimes afraid to fall asleep for the fear that he would sneak out on me. For all intents and purposes, he had every right to! My mind was in constant chaos and I was mentally and emotionally drained, exhausted and defeated. When he finally did end it, though it was horribly painful, I believe I was ready. I knew I couldn't take much more.

Six months later I had planned to kill myself. The date was to be March 7th, and I still have the notes that I wrote to each of my family members. I had no job, no life to speak of, and I was wretched. Everything was ready and planned, and on March 7th I intended to slit my wrists and end my miserable existence. I only intended to tell one person of my plan - my ex. We still saw each other every few weeks - no doubt not helping me one bit in my attempts to "get over him". On what was to be our last visit, I told him. He cried, said he couldn't stop me if that was what I wished, but that he hoped I would reconsider. He then did something that changed my life. He said I should, rather than kill myself, try and get some help. I insisted that I didn't need any help - that I was quite clear on my motives and reasons. He asked me, if I was so together, then what about my cutting. That, I informed him, was not a problem. I had it under control and could stop at any time. He simply, without saying another word, took one arm and begin counting my scars, out loud. He'd gotten way past 10 before he even started on the second arm, and I was in tears. Why that changed my perspective on my problem, I don't know. Perhaps I was no longer able to live in my fantasy world of denial with the brutal truth right in front of my face. The next day he left and I called my Mom (I was living with friends at the time) and asked her to come and get me. I admitted, for the first time, that I had a problem with cutting and I wanted to get help. The day after that I was enrolled in a daily group-therapy program that I began attending. I felt life deserved a second chance. Again, there was light in the darkness.

They say when one door closes, another opens. They also say that we often look so longingly on that closed door that we sometimes miss the new one swung wide open. Not long after I enrolled in therapy, my ex disappeared. No one knew where he'd gone, but I did. He'd left Louisiana - I knew it and felt it in my heart. Though it broke my heart with despair and pain when I realized it, I knew it was for the best. Without that door opening and shutting every few weeks in my life, I truly could begin to move on. Many doors begin to open for me as I took another stab at this thing we call life. I met my soulmate, and in the months following, I got a job and had moved in with two friends in the city.

I was happy for a few years, then this nightmare with my leg problems began, which has thrown me way back down into despair, anxiety and depression. That's where I'm at now in my life - it's been quite a long, strange trip.

It's not that I never tried to get help along the way; just that it was always a joke when I did. When I attended college (I only went for a semester and a half), just when I was first meeting my ex, I tried to go to see a psychiatrist at the college clinic. Obviously a doc-in-training, this fresh-faced kid (not but a few years older than myself), looked positively horrified when I showed him my scars and told him about my cutting. Not exactly what you want to see when you try to get help. This person could not help me, I thought, and I never went back. When the ex and I were together, I went to a free clinic here in Baton Rouge. I told them my problems - depression and anxiety and cutting and they determined I was somewhat suicidal. That's about as diagnosed as I've ever been. They sent me on my way with a 'scrip for some mental-meds that I no longer remember the name of. Did I mention that I'm sensitive to pills? Whatever this shit was, it had me, literally, tripping balls for 12 or so hours. The next two days I couldn't get out of bed because every muscle in my body was sore from the exertion of being tense while I was on the medication. I never took another, and never went back. Though I followed through with the aforementioned therapy I enrolled in at the end, I was out of there in two weeks. You see, I was ready to stop cutting, and that's all it really takes to stop most addictions; an intense desire to really stop. I didn't need much counseling. In those sessions it was suggested that I was likely bi-polar and co-dependent, and possibly even borderline. And that's about as official as it ever got. After leaving, they put me on Zoloft.

And here's where I entered the world of the millions of others diagnosed with mental problems and hopped up on happy pills. And it lasted about a month.

Yes, I was happy. Yes, I could handle things and, yes, life was better. But I wasn't me. The happiness and calm wasn't real, and I had turned into a pastel Shanna, rather than blood-red passionate Shanna. I got off the pills. I'm not saying my decision is for everyone or could even work for everyone. Some people do need the pills (shit, I probably do, too) and I don't think there's anything wrong with being on them. Please don't take me wrong on this. But for me, personally, I couldn't abide living life inside of a pill-bubble. I decided then and there that I was an emotionally unbalanced and rather crazy individual - but that was WHO I WAS and I had to learn to live with and around my problems and my nuances rather than masking them or trying to be someone or something I was not. Again, this was my decision and my thoughts - and it's not like that for everyone else. Perhaps I'm wrong, perhaps the quieter, more sane and calm Shanna that was on medication is the real Shanna. But I had to do what I felt was right for me, and being pastel didn't feel right at all.

I learned to live well being on an emotional roller-coaster. I was happy otherwise in my life and so what if I was crying one second and laughing the next? It was who I was. Some days I woke up angry, and others I woke up elated. Many days I was stressed and full of anxiety, but this, I told myself, was life. Life is stressful and hard - I just had to deal with it. I truly had found my "zen" spot.

Of course, life threw me another curve - it likes to do that. These problems with my leg have made me someone other than the strong, independent and emotionally able-to-handle-myself person I'd fought so hard to become. There were times I thought about going back on the pills, and there were times when I seriously considered ending it all. I've taken it all in stride, and just fight the fight every day instead. But it's hard, and I wouldn't call myself 'happy' these days in any way.

On the phone last nite my soulmate asked me why I always feel so "bad". He knows because he feels what I feel, and he wondered why all he ever felt coming from me was hurt, anxiety and depression. And I began to wonder - was I wrong about the meds? Would it be a wise idea to try them again, and see if they helped? He himself is an "officially diagnosed" ADD & ADHD, bipolar, borderline personality individual who also suffers from some sort of post traumatic stress syndrome. He gets it and he believes, from what he knows of me, that I suffer from the same or a few of the same.

The thing is, I've never liked to apply labels to myself. It's easier to think I'm just a little more messed up than the next guy and deal with it. If I say that I am these things, then they own me. Then everything I do I can just blame it on my illnesses rather than trying to work through it. Maybe I wouldn't do that, but that's what I think. It seems that everyone and his sister is bipolar or borderline or OCD these days. Are we all really that mental, or does the society we live in create such unstable living conditions that we just can't cope with this life? I don't know the answer. I know that myself and all of the wonderful people I know who do have these problems, or others, are not hypochondriacs or making it up. But I always wonder if people in the older days just handled life better - it was much simpler in many ways. Did they just have better control of their emotions and their minds? Or was everyone just undiagnosed and living very unhappily? They didn't smile in their photographs, so maybe that's it.

It's all very confusing to me, you see. I *know* that I have some mental problems - but if I own them and call them by name, it seems, somehow to me, that I make them all the more real. If I'm just "kinda crazy", that's one thing - it's just me and I can live with it. But if I'm "bipolar", that's something else. That's an illness, a condition of the mind that stops me from functioning like "normal" people and that I have no control over other than to take pills to live "normally". What the hell is normal? What's a normal person live like? No stress, no anxiety? I don't believe that. Where does being a regular Joe who is very emotional and suffers from stress with everyday life turn into bipolar Joe who needs to be on meds to deal with those emotions and stresses? Where's the line drawn, and who draws it? That's where I'm lost. I'm emotional, highs and lows; sometimes I'm so namelessly sad that I can only cry and go to bed early. Sometimes I'm bouncing off the walls with silliness and joy. Sometimes I'm just really stressed out and having a panic attack. Am I just a normal almost-30-something year old living and experiencing life (which is, let's face it, stressful and hectic and a wee bit crazy), or am I a person with strange chemicals affecting my brain that causes me to be a little more passionate and emotional and stressed than everyone else, and who needs to be on meds to correct that? How do I know? How does anyone know??

This is where I'm at - struggling to find some answers in the whole swirling mess of mental illness and the stresses of life. Perhaps others can offer some insights. In the interim, I hope that my own admissions of past pain and struggle can help some of you.