Halloween, Part II
On the day of Halloween, I was very much on edge. While I had planned for weeks and dealt with a steady stream of internal messages, I was still not prepared for what was to come.
A conflict had been building for days about staying safe. That is not particularly unusual. However, I knew the level of risk was. Even with seeing both my psychiatrist and therapist that day, which were both helpful, I did not have a real grip on staying safe.
My first order of business was to get back to my house. That was a battle in itself. I made the decision to go home not because I pushed parts of me away or ignored what was coming up or issued an ultimatum. I have learned that none of that works. I got home because I kept my hand on the "steering column" even though the amount of actual control felt minimal.
I like to use metaphors. Felix Baumgartner jumped last month from 24 miles above Earth and in the process he broke the sound barrier. What interested me the most was his press conference after his landing. When he jumped, he almost immediately ended up in a uncontrollable spin. It wasn't clear to him what to do. He said he reached out with one hand and it made it worse. He then reached out with the other and it made it better. All the while he stayed the course and kept trying.
Now, I'm not equating was was to come during my Halloween evening to this historic jump. But, for me personally, there are similarities. The similarity was that the risk was so great and it was not clear that what I was doing was enough to get me through without serious harm.
I have not often shared writings taken directly from my journal, but as I am trying to get across my experience, this seems to be the best way to give some context for what was going on:
5:58 pm: "It's getting very loud inside. It's ramping up big time. Having hard time staying home."
8:11 pm: "The night has taken a nasty and dramatic turn. All the internal struggle to keep contained what was beneath the surface is gone. It's as if that content is gone. It now has nothing to do with Halloween or anything of the sort. It's now just about getting hurt. That whole dynamic seems to have replaced everything that has been the struggle up to now."
9:09 pm: "It's not going well. Drive to get hurt is huge. It's dwarfing any ability to see what's really going on. I'm flipping about trick or treating and the Halloween party being now Sunday. This feels like an eternity."
9:14 pm: "I'm now in bed. Starting to be more in touch. I'm aware of huge physiological swings: hot cold hot cold, searing pain no pain, loud noise and silence. I'm way too overloaded. This is too much even for me."
9:15 pm: "I am adamant about no medicine. I know that stance is not helping me."
9:21 pm: "It's now escalating."
9:26 pm: "Enormous ringing in ears. Feels a lot like when I've taken massive overdoses. It's some physiologic chaos mirroring mental chaos. It's got to be a good barometer. This doesn't happen that often. This is akin to a medical crisis. It's clear cut now."
Here "clear cut" refers to needing the hospital. The discussion I had with my psychiatrist that morning was about why it is often clear cut for going to an emergency room for a medical crisis, but not for a mental health one. The reality, we both agreed, is that I have been able to get through many mental health crises safely without needing to go to the hospital. But there is always a safety risk. There are many mental health crises I have not navigated safely. Despite those realities, I felt strongly that trying to get through on my own was what I needed to do.
The closest parallels I can think of to this experience are the times I have lost control in the hospital, was not safe, and had to be restrained in the "quiet room." But I was not in the hospital. So my safety was totally up to me. What happened then was that my journal entries got more sparse and, at the same time, much more bizarre.
Because I do not have a "memory" which corresponds to these entries, I will not share them here. I do not think that is fair to me. But suffice it to say that my reading through them is extremely difficult. They were off scale.
But at 6:01 am the next morning I made this post:
"I woke up moaning. I am not leaving house today. Not going to work. Last night was too hard. I need to recover. I can't believe how hard last night was. It was so risky because in the midst of all that was going on, there was a parallel planning to get hurt very seriously. My body feels wrecked. Like I have been beat up. Everything hurts."
At 10 am I wrote:
"Despite how wrecked I feel, there was a huge sense of accomplishment about having stayed safe last night. It was not just that we went through something really hard and came through it, though that is a piece of it. It's way more than just suffering through with all of me. Maybe it was a sense of internal trust. But I haven't been able to hold onto it. The gains from last night are not enough. This is not over. Not by a long shot. I'm way overstimulated. I'm jumpy. Hypervigilant. I'm not settled down. It's only continuing."
Just a few minutes later, four to be exact, I wrote: "I have found my way back to center."
I have a policy to avoid language specific to self-harm or suicidal behaviors. In this post, 'safety' refers mostly towards the latter end of that spectrum (i.e., suicide). Tomorrow's Part III post will focus solely on the aftermath.