I have Put This Off

This post contains possible triggers and talks about self-harm and suicide attempts. Reader discretion is advised.

I didn’t want to talk about this. But I’m making myself. I didn’t know if I should talk about it, but after seeing the posts of some friends I decided to go ahead. I have been hurting myself by choking since I was a kid. I never do it when there are other people around and it doesn’t leave a mark if I’m careful. I was told long ago that cutting was of the devil, and my parents were pushing me into religion. So I never did it. It all started with a suicide attempt. I tried to choke myself to death with my hands. It didn’t work. As soon as I passed out my hands went limp and I woke up a minute later. But realizing I didn’t die I started using choking to punish myself whenever I didn’t get my parents’ approval. I did it more after leaving my parents’ house because I felt like I deserved to be in pain. I also experimented with whipping my own back and picking at zits until a lot of blood came out. I recently got a large boil just below my stomach and I picked at it until my hand was covered in blood. I’m going to be working with my therapist to stop. My appt is tomorrow, and I hope to find some answers then.

Three Songs and What My Parents Wanted me to Be

I grew up in a very christian house. My mom and stepdad wanted me to go to seminary and become a preacher. When I was a teen, I thought I was best suited to culinary school. I got accepted to The Culinary Institute of America. Mom and stepdad refused to let me go there. So I moved to live with my grandma under the pretext of going to a college in NC. They let me go saying I had to come back to Ohio to go to school to become a preacher when I was done. I walked all over Fayetteville looking for a job. I got one, but was fired the next day. I kept looking for the next 6 months. I never got a single callback. So I applied for disability thinking I’d just use it until I found a job. I tried doing a program to help find a job, but my social worker left town suddenly and the program ceased to function shortly thereafter. I tried starting a knife making business. We got kicked out of the apartments for disturbing the peace. We got a random rental house and I started doing beadwork for extra income. I was very good at it. An opportunity arose for me to go to CA to sell beadwork at a local attraction and I took it. A week after I arrived, the attraction closed because the owner died suddenly. I ran out of money and was about to become homeless, so my grandpa drove from AZ, picked me up and took me back to OH to live with my Mom and Stepdad. It was rocky as hell. Then my grandma came up from NC and we rented a house together in Lancaster. I tried to make the old knife business and a new pottery business work, but my illness got in the way. Then we found this place where I live now. I throw myself into farming and when I have a bad day or a bad week, it’s okay, because the plants aren’t going anywhere. I can do this at my own pace. There are no deadlines, no orders to fill, no rush… and it’s quiet. So I’m a farmer.

But do I feel like these songs when my parents are telling me how to farm from the comfort of their condo in the city? Yes, I feel their chagrin at my being out here not bothering anyone, and not being a clean-cut asshole in a suit preacher.

How to Not Get Obese on Psych Meds

This is something I have struggled with for some years. I peaked at 412 lbs and 6’2″. Recently I found a solution and I’m actually losing weight. This is just my own system, it is not medical advice.

If you divide your food groups into 5 parts, you get:
1. grains and tubers – carbohydrate
2. meat and beans – protein
3. dairy – more protein
4. fruits and vegetables – vitamins and minerals and fiber
5. nuts and oils – essential fatty acids

Grains and tubers are very very important. But refined they are terrible. So unrefined carbs come with lots of fiber. Fiber is good for your gut bacteria. It helps you poop, fills your stomach so you eat less, and can be good for people with heart disease. The best way to eat wheat is as bread or hot cereal. You can get a simple hand cranked mill, or a slightly more expensive electric mill. Then buy the wheat in bulk. To get a good price, you generally have to buy 20-50 lbs at a time. You can store it in lidded buckets to keep it safe from mice. I recommend 2 average sized slices of toast made from your freshly milled flour every day. Breakfast is a good meal to have a slice of toast with, as the fiber will fill your stomach.

Meat and beans are also pretty important. Beans are the preferred protein at at least 1 meal per day. They have a lot of zinc which is good for the immune system and reproductive organs. I recommend cooking a big batch on the weekend and freezing individual portions for the week ahead. I personally favor black beans, but different beans have different properties and it is good to go through a weekly rotation of different kinds prepared in different ways. You can smash canned drained garbanzos and use it as a substitute for canned tuna in a tuna salad recipe. Meat is something I eat about every day, but only in small portions. Some meat (especially beef and pork) can have adrenaline in it and make your anxiety worse. I get my meat mostly from small family farms to avoid this problem. I only eat fish I catch, and I only go fishing in clean waters.

Dairy is a touchy subject, and I know it well. I’m lactose intolerant. I eat cheese and use milk in cooking and in my coffee. Cheese is mostly protein. It is probably the richest source of protein. The process of making cheese is basically to extract the fats and proteins from milk, press out the water and add salt, then age it. As much as I love cheese, I use it sparingly, mostly with my morning eggs and toast.

Fruits and vegetables make up more than 60% of my diet. I have anxiety induced ulcers so I have to avoid spicy and sour ones, but other than that, that’s what I eat. I have a minimum of 2 servings of vegetables at every meal. I eat fruit at least once a day. If you’re hungry between meals, snack on raw vegetables.

Nuts and vegetable oils are important for cooking, but don’t use too much. You have to have fats to repair damaged tissues, but you have to be careful to use very little. In fact, steamed food is better, but who would stick with a diet if they couldn’t have fried chicken at least once in a while?

My closing thought is that while diet plays a huge role, you also need to exercise. I do laps around my land wearing my heavy work boots, go hiking in the mountains, and I enjoy cutting firewood. If you live in the city, consider joining a gym.

It’s the Little Things

Self care is probably the most important part of my recovery. I have my own rules and comforts. I live on a small farm. I’m disabled due to mental illness. I can work, but not every day. Try explaining that to a boss. I got fired by the state disability work training program when I had hallucinations, blew my top, and left early. The farm is how I make my $700 SSDI stipend into a livable sum.

That said, I don’t do any work I don’t have to, and I never work before I’ve had a cup of coffee and my morning meds (vitamins and mood stabilizer). The cup of coffee is really important. I buy whole bean medium roast coffees in town and grind them myself before brewing in a french press. Then I have it with just a bit of sugar and a splash of goat milk. I listen to music and drink my coffee and basically do coffee meditation where I clear my mind and just focus on how nice the coffee is: the way it tastes, the hints of this or that, the viscosity, the mouthfeel, all of it. The music is just background noise so I can concentrate on the coffee.

Another comfort I will not do without is my evening tea. I usually buy Stash Double Spice Chai or Twinnings Irish Breakfast tea. Usually I have my tea after the evening meal. I do pretty much the same meditation as with the coffee. But my grandma is home from work (She is following her own dream.), so sometimes we just both have tea and conversation.

I do my work between these two meditations. I designed the farm to need as little maintenance as is humanly possible. So once I get everything set up I won’t have to do much to keep it going. That way if I have a bad day, a bad week, or end up in the hospital; I won’t have to worry about the farm. It will take about 5 years to set it up. After that, there is very little work, and practically none that resembles work as most people see it.

What it’s Like, part 6 The Hospital

I’ve been in several mental hospitals, mostly for suicide attempts and ideation, and once for a delusion. Not all hospitals are created equal. The OSU Harding psych hospital used restraints and had no outdoor time (which is a huge deal). The State Mental Hospital in Athens used restraints, but had outdoor time. That was a huge improvement. Columbus Springs does not use restraints and has outdoor time, and that was the best I have been to. I went there multiple times. They also had group therapy a lot including music and art and yoga.

One thing they all share is possibility for conflict. What you can usually do to stop it before it gets nasty is to vehemently agree with the person even if you really disagree. It usually leads to confusion and their anger dissipates. This has worked for me in 5 situations so far. In one case it was an angry staff member.

In my experience, hospitals are chill most of the time, and conflicts usually happen right before or right after a meal. They do serve their purpose which is to keep you alive if you’re suicidal, and keep other people alive if you are homicidal. Being in the hospital sucks, but it doesn’t suck as bad as dying would, so I pick the hospital over dying.

You would meet all sorts of people. Some are really cool people and you would make lasting friendships. Everybody gets you and knows what its like, those are some positive things about the experience.

What it’s Like, part 5 Addiction

My drug of choice was tobacco. Although it is perfectly legal, it is also crazy hard to quit, and it can kill you in several different ways. I believe that any drug you’re addicted to is a valid thing to say that you’re an addict. Admitting you have a problem is often the first step to quitting. I tried cold turkey, gum, and weaning off. Nothing worked. Then a guy let me hit his Juul, and I went and got one. I was still craving tobacco. So I got online and started talking to other vapers. One of them kindly sent me a Kangertech Squonk Mod. I started using that and my tobacco cravings went away entirely. Then I upgraded to a Dead Rabbit RDA and a U-Well Squonk Box and started making my own coils and juice. I see no reason to quit vaping, but I could quit at any time. I went a whole day without vaping recently and didn’t feel any ill effect. No cravings. Nothing.

The thing about tobacco is it has some unique traits that make it so you can’t go 30 minutes without having another one. It is both something to do with your hands and an oral fixation. It gets you high, but not so high that you can’t function. The high wears off quickly. You build tolerance to the nicotine and need more of it to get high. It then goes out of control. That was me. I was the guy that was always sitting there smoking like a freight train. I couldn’t walk or exercise because I couldn’t breathe. Now I can breathe, and I do exercise. I’m slowly healing from my addiction, because of the kindness of two strangers.

What it’s Like, part 4 BPD and PTSD

I’m doing Borderline Personality Disorder and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder together for two reasons:
1. It is often hard to tell where one begins and the other ends.
2. They were both caused by the same events.

This post contains possible triggers such as accounts of physical and verbal abuse. Reader discretion is advised.

Borderline is best summed up by saying I’m terrified of being abandoned by the people I know. I am clingy and need constant reassurance that I’m loved and my actions are okay. But yet, I have mood swings and angry outbursts. It’s pretty difficult to live like this. All that constant stress… And PTSD gives me night terrors and makes me hyper-aware of my surroundings. There are triggers for PTSD that cause me a rush of emotion and often spirals out of control into either a fit of sobbing or a panic attack. All of my triggers are associated with my traumatic experiences. I began to be abused in 1997 and continually was abused until 2007. The typical day for me during those 10 years was to get myself up and get myself to school and get bullied for being different. Then I’d come home and start doing my chores. I was given more work than my siblings. If they weren’t all done before my parents got home (they never were, there was way too much to do and about an hour to do it in) I would be beaten. If I got help from my uncle or my parents were late coming home and I got the work all done by some miracle, they would inspect the work and I was verbally or physically punished if even the slightest detail was off. If they couldn’t find faults with the work, they would always find some other reason… like the homework I couldn’t do because I was cleaning the whole damn house, my grades, the dinner I cooked, or something else. Once I was dragged out of the top bunk while sound asleep and beaten. A book had fallen off the shelf by my bed and my stepdad accused me of reading when I should be sleeping. But I was sleeping. He sometimes made up reasons. Like apparently if I didn’t look him in the eye while he was berating me, I must be hiding something and done something wrong. So he’d punish me for that. If I did look at his eyes, I wouldn’t be able to repeat back what he said, so I’d get punished for that. There were a lot of things like this where I was damned if I did, and damned if I didn’t. Another one was I wasn’t supposed to talk unless an adult was talking to me, but I was supposed to ask for help with my homework. I couldn’t do both. So at first I fought back, but I just got punished more and more, so then I quit trying to be good. There was no use in trying to be good if I was just going to be punished no matter what. I used to pray that my parents would die in a car accident on the way home from work so I wouldn’t be beaten anymore. I also got into a fight with my stepdad when I was 15 where I actually tried to kill him. By this point, I felt like he deserved it. I lost, and my parents made me see a psychologist, but forbade me from telling him any of the things that went on at home. They were always in the room with me and I was beaten when we got home if they felt I said too much.

Since most of my repeated daily traumas were related to doing household cleaning, I now cannot do it. I can force myself to vacuum and do laundry, but that is all I can do after 12 years of recovery. I can’t clean the bathroom, do dishes, or mop the floor. If I try to do them, I re-experience the emotions that I did when I was a kid, have flashbacks, and then it quickly causes me to either break down and cry or to have a panic attack. One such episode was so bad I lost touch with reality and was hospitalized. I had touched a wet dishcloth. That’s what this is like.

What it’s Like, part 3 GAD

Generalized Anxiety Disorder is probably the most frightening of my issues. But I think I’m mostly over it. I haven’t had a bad panic attack in a while. When I did have them, I often thought I was having a heart attack or dying from some unknown illness. When I do have a bad one, it starts as chest pains. Then my pulse goes weak and I have heart palpitations. Then my muscles start seizing up and I get stiff all over. It’s painful. I can’t calm down or get un-stuck from that point without an injection of ativan and some kind of hardcore pain med. They use oxycodone and ativan and it takes about 10 minutes to relax my muscles, and about 30 minutes for the episode to end. I never did find out what caused it. The hospital saw me about once a month during the time I was going through it. I often had less extreme attacks that put me out of commission for the day. Now I just have anxiety attacks, not the hardcore panic attacks. Usually I can catch it early and use meditation to show it the door before it gets the chance to hurt me. I recommend seated yoga and walking meditation. If it’s warm out, I walk on the grass barefoot and focus my attention on the way the grass feels. It helps me a lot.

What it’s Like, part 2 SZA

Schizoaffective Disorder is probably the most unsettling of my diagnoses. It’s also the best managed by my medicine. I started having symptoms around the age of 7 or 8. Normally, it is brought on by puberty and 20-something angst. But I went through immigration trauma by moving from Southern California to Ohio. Although I didn’t move to another country, I did move to a radically different culture and we were as poor as new immigrants. I also got clocked by a fist sized rock around that time. It is anybody’s guess which one caused it or if it was both together. *shrugs* At that time we joined what I now consider to be a cult. So when my symptoms started showing up, the church said I was seeing demons and that really didn’t help. I still thought I was seeing demons until I was 23 and had my first hospitalization for suicidal ideation. That’s when I got on meds and started seeing that my normal daily life was way off kilter. I heard things and saw things that weren’t there. I believed in things that weren’t true. I was severely depressed and had mood swings. When they put me on haldol to get stable, I suddenly stopped having hallucinations. It was an earth-shattering moment. I got a good night’s sleep for the first time in years. I was also basically a fried egg because that stuff is crazy strong. When I got home, I basically just slept all day every day. Several times my grandma thought I was dead. My personal doctor got me weaned down to a smaller dose so I could do things besides sleep. I’m on different meds now, better ones. I still hallucinate from time to time, but only when I’m stressed out or my meds need adjustment. I still have mood swings but the psychiatric nurse practitioner I see now is trying me out on Vraylar to see if we can make that a non-issue.

I have had to carefully craft a philosophy and a religion for myself so that I don’t have it become part of a delusion. I believe in all of the good things from any religion, but none of the bad things or things that can cause me trouble. This is not an uncommon solution to the problem. Being open minded instead of dogmatic has let me pick what is positive from the religion buffet and avoid the negative in much the same way that you can pick meat and veg and leave the potatoes. Some people get really upset by this, but I don’t really care. My beliefs do not effect them.

What it’s Like, part 1 ASD

I hope that you will take heart in my posts. I’m a mess, and I’m poor, but I’m still following my dreams. I know you can do it too. This short series goes through what it is like to have these mental illnesses. I hope that anyone who has them becomes aware that they are not alone in their suffering, and I hope that those who don’t have them can have more empathy for those that do.

What it is like to have Autism
I’m an adult. I’m 30. Autism is the only mental illness I was born with. It also caused all of the others in one way or another. I have had to learn social skills the hard way, by studying and practicing. I have a hard time still looking at people’s eyes when they speak. I look at the floor or their lips. I can look at their eyes or listen to them, but not both. I also take things literally. I know it’s an issue, but I can’t do much about it. People that know me just avoid things that I could take the wrong way. I always tell people to be specific and only say what they mean. And this other thing, I’m not sure how much is the ASD or the BPD, but I over-detect anger. They might not be angry. I think I get it wrong about half of the time because I’m unable to understand tone of voice. I guess by going through the markers for anger such as being louder, talking faster, and redness of the face. I have another issue. I hyper-focus on one topic: food. I think about food for most of the time I’m awake and food was the reason I learned to speak Japanese and learned how to farm. As you might expect, I’m an outstanding home cook. I have a lot of social anxiety. I have a hard time using the phone or talking to strangers, but I make myself do it anyways as part of my learning. The effects have lessened greatly in the past few years due to my diligence in studying other peoples’ behavior. You may sometimes see me ramble in a post. Autism causes this. I’m overly good at pattern recognition so I go off on tangents without really thinking that I have. If I’m doing that verbally, my family usually stops me.

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