Tuesday, April 3, 2012

My Story: Realizing I needed to take a leave of absence from school

I’ve been experiencing some difficulty in continuing to write out my story. I’ve found that either my thoughts starts racing or my mind just goes blank. I have several hypotheses for this tendency.

Firstly, I think this experience is partially due to the fact that a few weeks ago I handed over the completed portion of my story to my therapist. Although I asked her to read it in between sessions, we’ve been working on discussing it during therapy sessions in a slow, controlled manner. I am happy to report – so far, so good!
Although this advancement in therapy is a good thing, I think that it hinders my writing because thinking about sharing it in therapy creates a strong sense of anxiety whenever I attempt to write out more of my story.

Secondly, I think it’s been difficult to proceed because I am just beginning to consider this next portion of my story, and the memories are much less cohesive in my mind at the moment. Certain aspects of the immediate aftermath are vivid in my mind; some memories quickly enter my mind and then vanish before I can wrap my mind around them; others remain locked away, or can best be described by emotions or images. Very few memories from this time flow in a nice, linear fashion that allows me to create a nice cohesive story line; therefore, for the time being, I have decided to take that pressure off the table.

I am going to attempt to write out memories as they come to me – no matter how erratic. My hope is that I can get over this mental block and piece together my story later. Perhaps as I start writing, more memories will surface, and I will be able to fill in the holes later. I think it’s important for me to ultimately create a linear version in my story, but for now, I think it’s more important that I continue to “get out” these memories.

Anyway, here goes! Thank you for your patience in bearing with me as I jump around a bit. I really appreciate your ongoing support.

Nothing really stands out in my mind from the time in between my sophomore fall and spring semesters. I went home for the holidays in between semesters, and my older sister was also there. After Christmas, we took a family vacation to Mexico. I remember having gained a lot of weight and feeling uncomfortable in my swimsuit. I also remember feeling like my mind was in a fog, demanding a lot of sleep, and that my stomach was in overdrive, demanding a lot of food.

I wanted to sleep so badly, but my family felt like it was in my best interest to maintain a normal sleeping schedule because they thought that increased sleep would only amplify my feelings of depression. I tried to go along with their “wake-up-and-enjoy-the-day” approach, but I felt so incredibly sleepy and struggled to stay awake if I was not moving.

Prior to leaving for Mexico, I remember my parents and sister commenting on how much I was eating and expressing concern over my weight gain. When I responded that I was  “so hungry,” my sister suggested that I start eating the fiber cereal in our pantry (the one that looks like rabbit food and tastes like how I imagine rabbit food tastes). Her rationale was that if I was truly hungry and it wasn’t “just food cravings”, then it “shouldn’t matter what I ate” as long as I was eating. So to prove a point, I made an effort to satisfy my hunger cravings with bran cereal. I quickly tired of hearing snide remarks whenever I went to the pantry, so I ended up just carrying the cereal box around with me.

Over the course of break, I shared stories from the psychiatric ward. When I did so, I stuck to “humorous” stories and avoided touchy subjects, such as the emergency room. I went along with any comments my family made regarding my being bipolar and alcoholic, as I had accepted those diagnoses as accurate. I do remember getting defensive when my mother made a comment about my mouth watering when we passed by a bar in our hotel.

My sister already knew about what had happened at school prior to my coming home at the end of the semester; however, I do not remember specific conversations that occurred during the holidays.

When break ended, I flew back to school to begin my spring semester. Prior to the “incident,” I had been taking 5 classes. I ended up withdrawing from two classes and taking “Incompletes” in three. My goal was to return to school for spring semester and finish up the three classes at the beginning of the semester before the coursework in my other classes picked up.

I was still taking the meds from the psychiatric ward, but my symptoms began to take on a mind of their own once I returned to school. Yes, I felt “crazy” prior to leaving school for the holidays, but upon my return, I began feeling like I had really lost my mind. Funny how things like that happen…it never even crossed my mind that someone would have suggested I be admitted to the psych at the time I was being admitted; now, all of sudden, I began to think that perhaps I needed to return. Or something. All I knew is that I was going crazy.

Frequently, when I walked by bushes on campuses, I heard whispering. Sometimes I could decipher words, usually “whore,” but sometimes it was only whispering. During the times that I stuck around long enough (instead of taking off running), I usually discovered the noise was being caused by rustling leaves. Still, this realization did not completely shake my fear.

I also frequently felt as though I was being followed. I “knew” I wasn’t being followed, but the feeling was too real, too overwhelming, to avoid either running or jerking my head around time after time, just to make sure. I felt like I was stuck in a perpetual seesaw of fogginess and a state I know now as “hypervigilance.”

I hated being in my dorm room. It felt like there was a bad energy present. My roommate, who had also been a transfer student, decided to return to her old school, so I had the room to myself. Not having a roommate gave me a place to be alone, but I still did not feel safe.

To this day, I cannot stand listening to Enya. It makes my heart immediately pound in my chest. It makes me feel lonely and scared. Not scared of a certain person or thing – more like a fear of losing control or evaporating into nothingness. The music sounds so eerie.

If someone were to design a haunted house made especially for me, they would fill it with clowns and snakes, pale blue comforters and papers, and empty peanut butter cartons. There would be no loud, unexpected noises. Enya would be playing, a noise-maker with cricket sounds, and whispering would come from all angles of the room. And the worst part would be a smiling, blond haired (to the point of being white) preppy guy walking around whom you could bump into at any moment. He wouldn’t say “boo,” just “hi.” The eerie thing about this character would be the stark contrast in how he looked/was treated by others and the terrible way his presence made you feel. Even when he wasn’t around, you could still feel his presence crushing you.

I found out that there had been a meeting during my time in the psychiatric ward. This meeting included school administrators, my R.A., counselors, and I’m not sure who else. I never found out about this meeting until after it occurred.

I had never spoken to my R.A., but I guess she needed to know about my hospitalization in case problems were to emerge later. I’m not sure if she ever told anyone, but I have always suspected that she told a guy on our floor with whom she was a close friend. Following Christmas break, this guy began making a point to check up on me and let me know that he had been concerned about my absence the previous semester. There was really no reason for him to be alarmed as I could have already left for home during the time of hospitalization or have been swamped by exams. Besides, others on my floor with whom I had spent more time did not seem phased.

Okay that is enough for now. 


  1. Dearest Because You Are Worth Waiting For - I highly recommend reading Peter A Levine's book, "In An Unspoken Voice:How the Body Releases Trauma and Restores Goodness." Healing from trauma as I have learned these how many decades later, is not a top down job - it's not about what you can remember and piece together it's about releasing the traumatic memories bound in your body. Movement and breathing are so important and it's a process that cannot be forced. It's about awareness of how the trauma is manifesting itself in your body and how you can find ways to soothe and comfort and find peace in the midst of the storm; calm in the midst of the struggle and then eventually how to not struggle with it. It is as Michele Rosenthal says, "A long and winding road." I love how you are becoming aware of the 'triggers'. The next step is finding those places and spaces within you that bring you joy, love, comfort and then over time those spaces get bigger and bigger as the trauma recedes. Blessings to you on your journey and huge disclaimer - these are just my thoughts based on my healing experience and yours may take a completely different path based on what is right for you and your body mind and soul.

    1. Hi Graceful Lady, thank you so much for your input. I am planning to place a book order on amazon this evening so I will add your book recommendation to my list. I have been exploring the mind-body connection in yoga and breathing exercises, and so far I have found it very helpful in managing my anxiety levels. I'd like to explore it deeper in terms of trauma release so I look forward to reading this book. "The next step is finding those places and spaces within you that bring you joy, love, comfort and then over time those spaces get bigger and bigger as the trauma recedes." - What a nice way of putting this particular element of the healing process! Thank you so much. xxx

  2. I am sure that took a lot out of you to write this post. Treat your blog as "your" journal. That is how I began. It is your own journal and you can write anything you want. There is no right nor wrong. This is you! Rooting for you and I am in your corner! Safe hugs.

    1. Thank you so much, JBR. It's great knowing that I have you rooting for me in my corner! xx

  3. We are all rooting for each other as we walk to the light. There was a NY Times Article that talked about post traumatic growth - the gifts that come out of our traumatic experiences. Sending you much love.