We’re only as sick as our secrets

I heard this a lot when I was in the hospital. The therapists there taught us that sharing the things we had hidden in the deepest recesses of our hearts could help us heal. I was super skeptical at first, but as I opened up and talked about the things in my past that had been buried away, I actually started to feel…different. I felt emotions again. Well…*one* emotion. And it sucked. I hated how sad I felt, and it was a crushing sadness. I had no idea how long it would last, but if that was what happened when you opened up to try and let the inner hurt out, well…I figured I could live without it, especially if it was going to leave me a crying mess all the time. And we were pushed to our limits to feel and acknowledge our emotions, and to open up, and to discuss things. I was no small source of frustration to one of the therapists because I simply couldn’t open up and talk about things. She would push and push and try to make me feel, but I couldn’t do it. Not in front of a group of people. If I was going to lose control, I’d do it in private, thank you very much.

As much as it sucked, it was incredibly therapeutic and I discovered that I had to be pushed into emotional turmoil if I were ever going to make any progress on ‘fixing’ me. And once I told the therapists, they did all they could to help keep me working hard on issues that were incredibly difficult to work through…because I was in a safe place, and if it triggered too much, I would be okay. I begged my outpatient therapist to push me just as hard, but she won’t for liability reasons. She said she is willing to push me, but not like they did because she has to make sure I’m safe when I leave her office, whereas I wasn’t going anywhere in the hospital and I could be pushed harder.

But here I am, nearly a month later, and the intensity of the sadness faded, and other emotions have been felt as well. I’ve felt excitement at going out with girlfriends for lunch, I’ve felt happiness at being with my husband, joy at watching my youngest learn to walk…there are still times when I feel sad, but it’s not that deep dark sadness that I felt at first.

Letting out your secrets is a hard and painful thing to do. My therapist has me doing a lot of writing for her, and she also has me working out of a DBT workbook for bipolar patients. The last writing assignment she gave me was harder than I’d expected it to be. She wanted me to write a letter to my schemas, (for those of you who don’t know, a schema is basically  belief that you have about the world that is severely skewed in a negative light, which affects your thoughts and actions; it’s also called a life-trap) and explain how they made me felt. I know my top 6, and I wrote to all of them. It was a painful process.

My main schemas include mistrust/abuse, social isolation, defectiveness/shame, self-sacrifice, unrelenting standards, and insufficient self control. I won’t go into what those all mean here, because I don’t see any point to it. I don’t like that I have these life traps which affect my thought processes and perceptions about the world. I’m especially frustrated that I don’t know how to fix them myself and that I have to rely on my therapist to help me work through them.

I want to be able to do it on my own because that’s just who I am. I help other people with their problems, and I handle my own stuff myself. If I can’t fix myself, then that must mean it was meant to stay broken. This is the attitude I had for the longest time, but it’s recently began to change to where I can accept that if I’ve tried and tried to fix it, then maybe it’s okay after all to ask for help. I just hate asking for help when I don’t know what help I need.

So are we really only as sick as our secrets? I was a disbeliever at first, but now that I’ve started sharing my some of my ‘secrets’ with people I trust…(like my husband, my therapist, my church leader), I’ve noticed a difference. Some have been eye-opening in your face changes in me, and others have been more subtle. I think I can agree that we’re only as sick as what we’re hiding on the inside, and getting it out into the open…to be laid bare for all to see, can be one of the best healing steps of all.

The friends you make…

So, when you spend time inpatient, you can get really close to the people you’re in there with. The area I was in specifically encouraged us to be there for each other while on the unit. We were each other’s most valuable support system while inpatient. I made some awesome sauce amazing friends this last time I was inpatient, and even though it’s only been a few weeks since I last saw them, I miss them a lot tonight. We all made promises that we’d keep in touch, and that we’d be there for each other, but I wonder if we all secretly knew that it wouldn’t happen.

Of course we all facebook friended each other the minute we got out, but that’s about as much as has happened. I miss these girls a lot, but there are others that I miss too, and they are the ones I’m really thinking about tonight. They were people that I specifically knew I would never be seeing again. How do people handle that? How can you knowingly get close to someone you will only know for a short while, and start to care for them, only to never see them again?

I don’t understand how I was able to make friends so easily in the hospital, because I certainly can’t do that out here in the real world. Maybe when you’re in the hospital, you are the ‘real’ you, and others are the ‘real’ them because there, well, there’s no one to impress, no social appearances needing to be kept up, no facades to hide behind. Your dirtiest secrets are laid out in therapy (if you’re open enough to share them) and for some reason, it bonds you all closer.

But there were other things that bonded us too, the dumb jokes we had, our escape route plans, our teasing of the other units; all these were times that were actually pretty fun between all the intensive therapy we were doing. I mean, not to get all super teary eyed nostalgic, but we had some enjoyable times. Times I never want to forget, for sure.

I mean, there was the time we went to gym and practiced our dance moves, and I swore I wouldn’t dance because we had a black tech and I was entirely too white to be embarrassing myself in front of her. Which we all ultimately ended up doing of course, and had a blast doing it. Then there were the techs who would joke around with us, and the time one did my hair because ‘I obviously had never done hair before’…which is true, I’m definitely not girly!

And then there was the night that one of the boys from another unit started mentioning how he would love some chocolate chip cookies. And he got louder and louder until the whole cafeteria could hear. So, me being me, I spoke up and said, “Man, some chocolate chip cookies would be delicious.” And he took off with it, and we bantered back and forth for a few minutes about how delicious chocolate chip cookies would be. It culminated in him going and standing by the cooks while we were talking and discussing how delicious those cookies sounded. He actually won out, because the next day he talked to the cafeteria staff and asked if they’d make some for dessert one day. And they did! Our unit lost out because by the time we got down to lunch, those boys had nearly eaten them all gone! He got the nickname Chocolate Chip from that first night on, and we were friends from the next day on when he came over to our table to introduce himself.

I made friends with a few of the boys on his unit, and they made my day so much brighter because of their presence. I knew once I left I’d never be seeing them again, but we made memorable moments. There was one boy who was listening to me talk about how rough therapy was going that day who gave me some invaluable advice…when shit gets rough and you can’t handle it anymore…think of a T-rex, trying to make his bed. And it helped turn my day around. One of the other boys, he would do ballerina moves to make us laugh and one of the girls on my unit got a huge crush on him. I told him after she discharged, and he always inquired after his stalker when I would see him.

And those were just casual friendships made. I made especially good friends with a girl in there, who I’ll call Sandra, and we were like peas and carrots. We’re both bipolar, and we just fit together. We both were admitted the same day, which was a Thursday, so we called ourselves Thursday’s child, and always joked that we ‘had far to go’. There’s an old poem that talks about children born on days of the week, and that’s where it came from. We would go out in the prison yard (as I called it), which was a tiny cinder blocked area for you to get some fresh air, and we’d joke about how we could make it over the fence and be on our way to freedom. We also had some good talks, and we learned to call each other out if we felt we weren’t being honest. I probably miss her the most, and talk to her the least 😦

Then there was a girl who had a bright pink jacket, and an episode where the tech with us opened the door to let us to our unit, and someone else opened the door to freedom at the same time, and I joked we should make a run for it…but if we did, I was tripping her for her shoes because she’d be the first one down anyway due to her noticeable jacket. She was so much fun, the stories she’d tell, and the expressions she’d make were priceless. I also befriended another girl in there, who I’ll call Sue…she was so super extreme that it just kept us in constant laughter. We were given journals to use while inpatient, and were encouraged to decorate them as expressions of ourselves. Well, Sue turned hers into a porn star advertisement and claimed it was going to be her newest ‘little black book’…which she did purely for the shock value that it would put on our therapist. We got a lot of laughs out of her book, and we got a lot of sweetness from her too. She was the one who would lend out her make-up to help us feel prettier while in there. She’s also the only one who successfully lied through her teeth to get discharged a mere 2 days after arriving. I know she had a little remorse for not dealing with her shit when she had the chance, but she’s doing what she needs to make it on the outside now. I wish I knew how well my other friends were doing too.

I also wonder about the other girls I wasn’t as close to. There were a couple of older women in there who I cared about, and I wonder how reality is treating them. There was a girl my age who had been there nearly a month by the time I left, and I wonder about her too.

I reread The 5 People You Meet in Heaven  while in there, and part of it really stayed with me, and relates to this whole post. Everyone’s stories are connected…some stories interchange with another’s, some lay on top of another’s, and some stories are side by side to each others. Every person that I met there was part of my story in someway, somehow, and they all changed and shaped me, from the dear friends I made, to the staff, and to the patients on other units. I have a whole lot to say about the staff there and how they affected me, but that’s a post for another time and another day.

So the thing I guess I learned the most about all these friends and acquaintances is to just accept them into your life for the time they are there. Practice mindfulness. Enjoy the moments you have with people, and don’t rehash the past out when you’re with them, nor stress about the future worrying about not being with them. Just enjoy that time you have because you’ll never get it back. I’m new to this whole mindfulness thing, having never heard of it before my stay there (it’s a big part of DBT, among other things) and I tried to practice it and just simply be in the moment with the people there. Of course, that doesn’t stop me from missing them now, but I’m not dwelling in self pity over them no longer being in my life. I’m simply acknowledging that I feel nostalgic, and am doing something about it. Several somethings in fact, lol. I messaged several of them tonight to see how they were doing, and of course, here I am blogging about it too.

This mindfulness thing is something I’m striving to do with all my relationships now. I am trying to live in the moment with each one, because each moment is really all we have. We don’t know if we’ll have another moment to follow, so we need to appreciate the here and now, and be grateful for it…it is called the present after all.