My APE, Part Two

My APE began a few weeks ago. While I haven’t journaled in a long time, it was so important an experience that I wrote it all down immediately afterward and it’s really still the best way to put it. So, here’s what I wrote:

 

It is 11:06 p.m. and I just had a life-changing experience. I’m going to write about it in present tense. [It seemed to deserve that.]

 

My parents are gone. It is late, but I have some energy. I decide to do some small house chores and to straighten some things up. I put something away in a folder, in the study, in the black box on my desk, and when I do I see my Fear cards. I wrote them many months back. I was so afraid. I was terrified about work (and many other things) so to try to help get over my fears I wrote on separate index cards my biggest fears. There were 8, I think. On the front was a fear. On the back was a fact (or facts) meant to prove that that fear was FALSE. It was a useful experience because it got me thinking more deeply, but they didn’t “work”—my fear didn’t lessen.

 

Fast forward to now. I am reading these fear cards and I feel…nothing. I don’t feel afraid. I don’t have that short-of-breath, churning gut, dizzy-headed feeling of dread I get when I am really anxious. Nothing. I read them and discover that now, having been working for some time, all of these fears are irrelevant. I am elated. I take out a red pen and put big “X”s over each fear and write encouraging words I actually mean below them like “IMPOSSIBLE” and “NO WAY”  and “I WIN” and “I AM STRONG.” That isn’t enough, though, so I pull over the shredder and shred them all. I sit down at the kitchen table and make a post on Facebook about how I am not afraid anymore. I log off, still thinking, and all of a sudden, it REALLY sinks in: I am not afraid anymore. Not of anything. I search myself—these big things that have terrified me for so long—am I scared of any of them? NO! And then I start crying. I cry and cry and then cry harder and then eventually it hits me: everything. All the emotions I have struggled with for so long. The fear that I’ll never be capable of being on my own and having a real career and a life separate from my disorder. The anger for being so different and so stalled. The rage for being sick at all. The bitterness for the mistakes I made when I was sick. The sadness wondering who I could have been if I never got ill—how college would have gone, if I would have studied abroad. The bitterness about gaining so much weight from my medications. All the hurt. All the pain. The loneliness when I cut myself or wanted to die. It all swirls together, all at once, flashing through my head and on fire in my heart and I just sob. I sob and I know, as I’m sobbing, that I’m crying it all out and away from me. I am letting it all go.

 

I feel so relieved. Light. Free. And then I start to laugh. Well, more like cackle like an old witch. (I hope no neighbors heard me!) And I laugh for a while, still crying—robust laughs from all the way down to my toes, up and away HAHAHAHA. And I realize—Here is it, here is the big moment, what it all comes to—EVERYTHING IS GOING TO BE ALL RIGHT. I AM GOING TO BE OKAY. EVERYTHING IS GOING TO WORK OUT. I MADE IT.

 

I have never thought that and meant it since I got sick. Not. Fucking. Ever. And now? I don’t just think it: I KNOW. I know.

 

There you go, there’s my APE. Aptly named because it was truly the most amazing, profound experience I’ve had yet.

 

Since then, some things really have been different, three most notably:

 

One, I met with a total stranger, a potential client, in a place I’d never been to before, not knowing anything about her, including what she looked like, and I was not nervous. I started to feel my nerves creeping in like always, but then my APE came back to me and affirmed: I’m not afraid of anything. And just like that, my nerves went away. I was confident and clear and I got the job.

 

Two, I decided to cut down my therapy to every other month. I’ve learned so much and I really feel like whatever happens, whatever happens, I’ve GOT it. I can handle it on my own, and successfully.

 

Three, I agreed to stop taking two of my medications. I can’t possibly stress enough how big a step this is for me. Right now, I take three medications and I’ve been taking them for several years. They’ve done wonders for me, as far as I’m concerned, but my new psychiatrist has assured me that while I should definitely stay on one permanently, I can get by without the other two. Guys, my remission is that fucking good. And you know what? I actually believe her. I actually feel, for the first time ever, I don’t need all the medication I’m taking. (But some still!)

 

In general, I’ve found myself in the best of moods since my APE. Almost every day I have a moment or two where I feel boundlessly happy and so proud of myself for having gotten here. There will be more after-effects, I know. And I’m so excited to see what comes next.

 

Just as it has been a long time since I posted, it may be a long time until I post again. But it’s for the best reason possible, so I’m O.K. with it.

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My APE (Amazing Profound Experience), Part One

I know it’s been a long-ass time since I’ve posted anything here and really that’s not altogether a bad thing because it means I’ve been doing so well I don’t have anything illness-related to break down and discuss. But I do have something I want to talk about now, and it’s going to be long, so I’m going to break it into two separate posts. Here’s the first:

 

Somewhere in the middle of the worst three years of my life, back in college, I found myself thinking this: “I wish I could have one day where my disease is such a non-issue that I actually forget I have it. Just one day when even though I’m not free, and will never be, I feel free.” At that time, I wasn’t sure I’d ever get there. Well things are pretty different now, that’s for sure. I’ve been in remission for well over a year. But I’m not relaying the story of my wish because I’ve been granted it; I never really got there. The fact is, my disorder isn’t forgettable, not really. Even in my last remission, where I had days during which I felt wonderfully, deliciously normal, I couldn’t forget; maybe for parts of a day, but never a whole day. There were reminders everywhere. The same is true today. I go to therapy regularly. I go to see my psychiatrist regularly. I attend a DBT skills-building group weekly. I take my meds each morning and night. My disease is never not-present, but the magical thing about where I am now is this: I don’t care. I don’t care that I likely won’t ever have that day. Because it doesn’t matter to me anymore. I don’t need to ever have that day to be at peace.

 

I am at peace now. Genuinely. Blissfully. When I had my year-and-a-half-long remission a few years ago I reached a level of happiness I never thought I could ever reach. But that time was all about self-discovery and just relishing and lounging in every single happy moment. It felt amazing and I will cherish it always, but looking back now, there was, I have to admit, a certain flatness to it. It is to this day the happiest I have ever felt, but that was it. It was the happiest I’ve ever felt. Now, in this new remission, I feel similarly happy, but I also feel the strongest I’ve ever felt, the most successful I’ve ever felt, the proudest I’ve ever felt. Honestly, the list goes on.

 

How did I get here? It was a combination of things, including therapy and medication, but if I absolutely had to boil it down: hard fucking work. That’s where the proudest comes into play. It is really hard to stay alive when you are suicidal. I did that. It is really hard to keep trying different medications at different dosages when you’ve already tried 10 that didn’t work. I did that. It’s hard to whole-heartedly commit to therapy knowing that it’s going to be very painful as much as helpful. I did that. It’s hard to go into several more depressive episodes and make it through them. I did that. It’s hard to admit to yourself that you, yourself, have made your suffering worse and you have held yourself back just as much as your illness has. I did that. It’s hard to keep taking medication that’s helping because it’s also hurting with negative side effects. I did that. It’s hard to keep at all this work every single day in the exhausting pursuit of wellness. I did that. And once you’ve done all of that work and reached wellness, as I have, it’s hard to take all of the pain you’ve ever had, that you’ve never let go of through it all, and let it go.

 

Because that, for me, is the biggest success I have ever achieved. And I know it probably happened slowly and most of the time I wasn’t even fully aware of it, but recently I had one big moment (my Amazing Profound Experience, which I have shortened to “APE”) that brought it all home for me and made me feel, for the first time in my life, that against all odds, I may just be all right—for good.

 

PART TWO COMING SOON