The imperfect, structured prelude
Critics at their worst
Could never criticize
The way that you do
No, there’s no one else I find
To undermine or dash a hope
Quite like you
And you do it so casually, too
— Aimee Mann, “Nothing Is Good Enough”
I am my own worst critic. And the negativity and criticism have reached critical level in my head to the point where I have seriously considered suicide. I even had a plan, too. Won’t tell you what so I don’t give any ideas to others who might be vulnerable but it was a plan I was comfortable implementing.
I have cried a lot recently. Cried over my self-worth. Cried over the time PPD took me away from my child. Cried over my difficult relationship with my child.
I guess it’s kind of bad. I have this “Christian” faith in God. But when it comes down to it, the faith that once helped to keep me alive I have now, in actions, abandoned. I haven’t really found a good excuse to stay alive. Except for my husband. I know he’d be devastated without me.
And I mean, devastated.
On September 29, I enrolled in a partial hospitalization program (PHP) in attempt to avoid full hospitalization. (The last time I was hospitalized, I was almost sexually assaulted.) My actual PHP began on September 30. Insurance has approved 10 days in the program and I have only been able to attend 5 out of 8 days so far due to medication side effects and illness (the worst migraine of my life that lasted at least 48 hours).
I have been dealing with a lot of anxiety too. It prevents me from doing the most basic (and annoying) tasks. I had an anxiety attack over balancing my checkbook, checking my personal email, looking at my reactivated Facebook account. I refused to even try checking my work email for fear I’d get sucked into flipping out of work projects and concerned emails from coworkers.
My husband has repeatedly expressed his desire for me to live. I want to honor that. If for no one else, I am going to attempt to fight back against my suicidality and negative thoughts so he can enjoy the rest of his life with his life partner. I feel fight in me right now. I can’t promise that I’ll feel fight in me on Monday. But I’ll try to hold on to this feeling.
I was enrolled in a PHP after my full hospitalization back in 2006 and I don’t remember it being half as good or effective as it is now. While it was structured back then, it is even more structured now. There’s a pattern to it. A 50-minute pattern that I appreciate. It starts off with the full group participating in either yoga (Mondays and Fridays) or mindfulness meditation. Then we break off into 2 groups for a daily check-in where we rate and discuss how we are feeling that morning. Subsequently, the 2 groups combine for a class based on a specific topic, such as core beliefs, shame, self-care. (Quite honestly, this is the one “class” where many of us nod off. Sometimes it’s boring but sitting there as if it were a class is sleep inducing.) After that, we have lunch and then head into open group where we can discuss anything that is on our mind or help someone who is particularly troubled or struggling that day. Finally, we end the day with mindfulness meditation again and a “check-out” that allows us to rate how we are feeling at the end of our daily PHP.
Quite frankly, I never appreciated structure until this program. I always disliked structure because I felt like things would become “routine,” which of course was the point. I preferred variation, changing things up, and never knowing what might come next. But as I’ve gotten older, lack of structure bothers me. It drives me nuts. Life with a toddler is anything BUT structured. Never knowing each day whether I’m going to work late is NOT routine. Structure doesn’t have to be precise or exact. Group doesn’t always end exactly at 12:20 pm before lunch like it should. Sometimes it ends at 12:17 pm. Sometimes it ends at 12:25 pm and cuts into our lunch a bit. And that’s okay with me. It’s a simple reminder that life doesn’t always go according to plan, and I can get back on track as soon as I am able.
My PHP experience is teaching me quite a bit. I’m learning to forgive myself and be patient with myself. To not be so quick to criticize myself when I screw up or to spew negative words at myself when I’m not perfect. I’ve identified a few core beliefs that are extremely negative and cause me to feel worthless and hopeless. I’ve learned that shame causes me to be impatient with myself, to not settle for being anything less than “perfect,” and causes my inner worth to feel tainted.
I’ve also identified several aspects of self-care for myself. I’m not sure how to incorporate them daily but weekly may have to do. A few activities that I consider to be self-care include the following:
- journaling or blogging
- listening to secular music in the comfort of my home
- writing a short story or novel (yes!)
- spending time with friends
- reading the Bible
- listening to Christian music that inspires me
- attending church regularly and being part of a community
To help manage much of my anxiety, I have learned breathing techniques and grounding techniques. I never knew there were actually tangible things I could do to calm myself. I’d rather use these techniques before popping a Xanax.
So my PHP has been extremely helpful for me, and I’m really trying to absorb all of the information provided to me. I’m not ready to return to work yet. I still need to get my medication adjusted to the right dosage that allows me to function regularly (eg, lack of day drowsiness, lack of extreme morning grogginess, absence of headaches and nausea). I still have a weird jittery side effect whenever I’m still or at rest so I’m hoping that eventually goes away.
One of my primary tasks is deconstructing the core beliefs about myself.
- I can’t do it.
- I don’t fit in.
- I’m a loser.
- I’m worthless.
- I’m not as smart or talented as others so I’m no good.
- I’m boring.
- I’m not important
- I’m not capable.
- I’m stupid.
- I’m ugly.
- My thoughts are dumb.
- My opinions aren’t wanted.
I’m having a moment where I feel like many of those things aren’t true. But WOULD TO GOD if I always thought that way. The first step to breaking down my negative core beliefs is simply identifying them. Somehow, I’ll need to move from there. (I have a handout about this but it’s riddled with spelling and grammatical errors so I’ll have to find something on the Internet.) 🙂
There’s a better story
Of true love of true grace
There’s the hope of glory
And our first chance to be truly brave
It’s the place we’re going
When we can’t stay where we are
— Sara Groves, “Rewrite This Tragedy”