Rages and Paranoia

The past couple months I have been all over the place emotionally and mentally. I plan to go over all this with my psychiatrist when I see him later this month, but felt I would share here some of what I’ve been going through.

It is kind of weird because I have had several bouts of certain types of emotions/feelings that were overwhelming and lasted at least a few days to a week. For around a week last month, I had a real issue with rage. Not just anger, but pure rage. I hate it when I have these rages, because I normally end up taking it out on myself or my things because I don’t want to inflict it on anyone else but have to get it out somehow. Sometimes during these rages I destroy personal things that I later regret. I don’t cut or do anything physical that leaves real scars, but I do sometimes pinch myself or dig my nails into my skin as hard as I can, just to get the anger out and because acute physical pain can be a way to distract yourself from intense emotional pain.

A few weeks after the rage phase, I went through an odd type of paranoia. I just kept having nightmares every night, one after another. All of the nightmares were either about home intruders or something scary chasing me. The first night it started I had a full night of nightmares about home intruders. I became so paranoid I had to get up and double check all the locks in the house and make sure every door was closed and locked between the outside doors and my room. I was tempted to sleep with a knife nearby (which I actually have done in the past when I was afraid of something like this), but instead, I settled on sleeping with my phone next to me. I have never been a victim of a home invasion and currently live in a safe neighborhood, so this paranoia seems odd to me.

This past week I have actually had a positive upturn, where I have felt fairly happy and almost a little hopeful. These extremes of emotion I have felt recently do make me wonder if maybe the bipolar diagnosis is correct. I have never really understood why I had these rages and paranoia episodes, but if I am truly bipolar, that probably would explain it (although my PTSD could easily be a culprit as well I suppose). It is tempting once these episodes are over to make excuses for them or to try to convince myself they weren’t as bad as they really were, but that is being dishonest with myself and won’t help me learn to deal with these problems in a healthy way.

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Hallucinations in Childhood

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Something I’ve been thinking about recently is hallucinations. As an adult, I haven’t really had a history of hallucinations. The closest things I can think of are a few times I have been awoken from my sleep by my husband or my mother’s voice loudly calling my name, only to find they are either not even at home or they swear they didn’t call for me. It is easy to assume this might be just weird remnants of a dream though, so I don’t consider it definitely a hallucination. There have also been a few times I hear a weird, high-pitched whining noise that no one else seems to hear. This could just be my autistic sensitivity though, picking up on something others don’t. It isn’t tinnitus, I have that as well, so I know the difference.

However, as a child I do have at least one vivid memory of a hallucination, maybe two. The first happened when I was around 5 or so, and it happened in the middle of a church service at my grandfather’s house (he was a pastor that ran his own church). In the middle of the service, this huge bird suddenly appeared next to my grandfather as he talked. It was a beautiful, rainbow colored bird, and I could physically see it, so it wasn’t like an imaginary friend (which I also had). I was excited by its appearance and made a bit of a fuss trying to tell my mom about it, but it became clear soon that she couldn’t see it and apparently no one else did either. I got in trouble for yelling out, so ended up sitting there staring at this huge bird and wondering what the heck was going on and why no one else could see it. To this day, I have no idea what happened that day or why. I wish I remembered what was going on in my life at the time, to see if I was under acute stress at the time, but I really don’t know.

The other possible hallucination happened when I was 12. It was soon after my father died and I was having the worst panic attack of my life up until that point. I was sitting on the bed, trying to breathe, feeling terrified and alone, when suddenly a bright figure appeared at the end of the bed. At first I was terrified, but the being told me not to be afraid and I immediately felt a calm I had never felt before in my life. The panic attack was gone and the bright figure somehow communicated to me that I was safe and protected before leaving. I assumed at the time it was my guardian angel, but now that I am no longer religious and not sure what I believe in, I wonder if it could have possibly been a hallucination brought on by grief and terror. I honestly don’t know. I certainly wouldn’t mind having a guardian angel, but if I do, why didn’t they protect me or show up during even more dangerous moments of my life, moments when my life was actually in danger?

These two experiences as a child makes me wonder if they were hallucinations, and if they were, is it normal for children to have hallucinations and then grow out of them? Or is this just a warning that if I am pushed too far emotionally or mentally, that something may break inside me and I could lose touch with reality? Could I someday have another hallucination out of nowhere? That is a scary thought. Has anyone else out there also had experiences like this as a kid and apparently grown out of them?

*Art by Maranda Russell

Feeling Torn in Half…

Last night I had a really bad panic attack. The situation that triggered it is a complicated one that has me feeling rather torn in half. As I have probably mentioned before, my husband is a special education teacher. He is extremely devoted to his work and his students and loves what he does. This past Monday, he found out that one of his prior students, a girl who is now 19, needs a place to stay. My husband would like for us to take her in. I am really conflicted about it.

My husband and I used to do foster care, so I’m not unfamiliar with taking in strangers and looking after them, but the reason we had to quit foster care was my deteriorating health. That worries me about taking in a new, adult person who has both emotional and developmental issues. It also worries me because we recently downsized into a much, much smaller house and the autistic side of me is deeply worried about having no privacy or time alone which is essential to my well-being. Plus, I don’t know where we will move all the stuff that is now in the extra room.

On the other hand, I do feel deeply for this girl who has been through A LOT. My heart aches for anyone who already struggles with physical or mental disabilities and then has to add the weight of being abandoned or alone. She is living my worst nightmare in many ways and I can’t help but feel compassion for her. However, having never met her myself, I also worry about whether we would be a good fit or not. Often, that is something you just can’t tell until you live together, and if we do take her in, there is a good chance we would need to keep her at least a couple years until she graduates school and is moved into some form of independent living housing.

I feel so conflicted and anxious.

Suicide Isn’t My Biggest Fear

Recently I had kind of a weird realization. If you follow my blog closely, you probably know that I have written posts about how I fear I would be driven to suicide if I lost my husband, mainly because I fear I wouldn’t be able to support myself with all my health problems, and if I lost him I feel like I would lose 90% of my support system.

The other day though I realized something that rather shocked me at first, even though it may not seem such a big thing to others. And that realization was that my real fear isn’t that I WILL commit suicide if I were alone, it is my fear that I WON’T. Maybe that sounds crazy on the surface, but let me explain further. If my husband were to die, that would leave me utterly alone, and I honestly do not believe I could continue to live this life all by myself. If I found myself in that situation, I would have to either A) Give up and commit suicide or B) Find others to trust and rely on.

Option A isn’t my real fear, it is option B. I am terrified of trusting others and letting others in. I don’t trust my ability to choose people who will not take advantage of me or end up abusing me. I feel it is almost a kind of luck that I avoided marrying an abuser in the first place. Most people who grow up like I did, in horrific abuse scenarios (physical, sexual, emotional, or mental) tend to end up surrounding themselves with people who perpetuate the cycle of abuse. I also fear that if any of my past abusers are still around, if I found myself all alone, I would be so weak that I would turn to them. Which horrifies me more than anything. It took me a long time to get free from it all (and I’m still not 100% there), but the thought of returning to hell is far more frightening than the thought of death.

However, deep down I doubt my ability to actually take my own life. I do have a strong survival instinct and an immense amount of anxiety when it comes to any form of danger. Perhaps that is why I always told myself that if I did commit suicide, it would have to be a form that is instant and leaves no chance for reconsideration, because I know if I gave myself time to rethink it I would freak out and seek help.

So, with this odd realization, what is the point of it all? I guess it is some reassurance that maybe I am stronger and more resilient than I always told myself. But more importantly, I need to work on my fear of opening up to and trusting others. It is funny that here on this blog I can be so open and bluntly honest, but in interpersonal relationships I tend to build walls and push people away before they can get too close. Somehow I need to learn to trust myself to be a good enough judge of character to give people a chance. But I don’t know how to do that. I don’t know how to trust myself, let alone others.

Bipolar or Borderline? Part 1

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Although I was recently diagnosed with Bipolar type 2 mood disorder, honestly, I wonder myself if it might not be Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) instead, or even in addition. The reason I say this is that so many of the stories of other Borderlines hit close to home and so do the symptoms. My greatest fear is fear of abandonment, and has been since childhood. It doesn’t matter if that abandonment comes from rejection or death, it all feels like being abandoned to me.

As a child I wouldn’t even spend the night at friends’ houses normally because I would have panic attacks at night and end up calling my mom to come get me. I was always afraid something would happen to my family or they would somehow be gone in the morning if I wasn’t there with them all the time. This fear became much, much worse after my dad died when I was 12. After that, my fear centered on my mom dying or leaving me, which wasn’t helped at all when she remarried when I was 15 and started dumping me off on anyone she could while she went on trips with her new lover.

When I got married at 20 years of age, that fear transferred to my husband. At first I feared he would just get sick of me and leave or find someone else he liked better. I was extremely insecure for a long time. I would get upset over the silliest things, like thinking he loved the kids he worked with more than he loved me. It was ridiculous. The one and only time we have been apart since being married was when I went with a church group to Tennessee for a week. One night during that week he told me he would be home by 10pm, so I called him after that and couldn’t get an answer. I freaked out, and ended up leaving 19 tearful messages for him within an hour because I was so scared something had happened to him.

Fortunately, I have matured over the years and my fear of my husband leaving me or cheating on me has greatly reduced due to his loving nature, although deep down I know I must still have some of those fears because I have nightmares about those things happening. However, now my fear focuses mostly on my worries that my husband will die before I do…a fear that might be somewhat justified by my being about a decade younger than him. This fear of something happening to him is so strong it literally gives me panic attacks if I think about it too much.

My fear of abandonment and rejection greatly affects my ability to develop other relationships because I tend to push people away before they can get too close, mostly out of fear of them rejecting me once they really get to know me. I know I have poor self-esteem and a flawed self-image, which I’m sure I will address further in part 2 of this post.

* Art by Maranda Russell

New Year’s Goal – Fear and Appreciation

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I’m not going to call it a resolution, but I do have a goal for the coming year that I hope to work on, and somewhat it was inspired by my last visit with my psychiatrist. You see, I spend far too much time worrying about what would happen if my husband were to pass away. I have very good reasons for worrying about it (fear of homelessness being top), but it has almost overtaken my brain in many ways, probably partly due to OCD and partly just because it is my deepest fear.

Due to this fear, I feel like I have not even been enjoying the time I do have with my husband. I live in such fear of something happening to him and being left alone, that I almost live as if he is already gone sometimes, and that needs to stop. From now on, to the best of my ability, when those horrifying thoughts intrude of something happening to him, I will try my best to redirect my thoughts to thankfulness for having him in my life and for the good things we share right now. I know that won’t stop the fear from coming and it will probably be something I always struggle with, but if consciously choosing to appreciate him now means that we grow closer and both of us feel better, why in the world wouldn’t I try to do that?

– Art by Maranda Russell

Artistic Loneliness

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I’d show you my soul,
open it up before you
and hold it to the light,
but I worry you’d laugh
shredding any self-confidence
that has snuck through
my long line of offenses
and survived.

~Maranda Russell