Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Into the Abyss..... (read with caution)

I debated with myself a long while about the wisdom of writing this. It is very personal and some might find it disturbing. If you are disturbed by discussion of extreme depression or psychosis, click by for today. Things will be back to normal tomorrow.

It seems to be important to do it for a few different reasons. The primary one being that I would have gladly given my left tit if someone would have done it when I was in the depths. More than anything, I wanted to know I wasn't alone.

Secondly, if one person loads this page, sees herself in it and gets medical help, any blowback I get from writing it will be well worth it.

I have to put this in a little bit of context for it to make sense. Throughout my lifetime, I have always been an extremely sensitive person. Everything in my world was amplified. When I am happy, I am very happy. When I am content, I am very content. When I'm sad, I'm really sad and when I hurt, it hurts like ungodly hell. I am not one to recover from things quickly. I forgive very easily but often have trouble forgetting. And that's not in a vengeful way. No evil, angry thoughts. It is just hard to move on. I also perceive color more brightly and can not tolerate loud noise. Elaine Aron calls it "HSP", Highly Sensitive Person. Our brains process stimulation differently than the average person.

Additionally, I have always hated commerce. I do not do well in competitive situations or environments that are built on distrust and deception. That has made working outside the home extremely difficult. At the same time, the culture shifted just around the time when I would have been old enough to get married, stay home and raise children. Women went into the workforce in droves and I was expected to ride along with the tide. I never wanted that and did not adjust well to it. I am the sort of woman who should have stayed home.

The option wasn't available in the late 60s and early 70s. Men no longer wanted stay at home wives, at least not where I was raised. So I went out into the workforce and proceeded to get pummelled. Each day felt like being beaten by an angry husband. This person (job) had entire control of my well-being and I could do nothing to change it. My very survival depended on taking the abuse.

As a result of that, I developed post traumatic stress which became chronic because it was untreated.

I don't know exactly when the depression started but I will guess it began around 1987. That is a significant date because it was my first "get in the car and disappear" episode. Finally having had enough, I walked out my apartment door and never returned. During the next ten years, I would live in four different states and seven different cities.

Fast forward to 1997. I arrived in Northern California from Tucson, somewhat battered and bruised but I did believe things were getting better due to all the metaphysical training I'd had in Tucson. I thought I had a fairly good handle on things and did indeed do quite well until the early 2000s. In those few years, I was quite active. I held a steady job in the Information Technology field until 2003 as a software technician. During that time I took my first trip to Thailand. I had a steady significant other during most of those years. Life actually looked pretty good, if a bit overwhelming for someone like me. But, still, the worst appeared to be behind me.

It wasn't long though before the fog came in the room again, the fog that blurs color and perceptions, makes everything kind of fuzzy. My thinking wasn't very clear. I couldn't concentrate and had the attention span of an infant. Most days, I could blow it off and go on. Those days became further and further apart. Thinking clearly and coping with normal, fairly simple problems became beyond my ability. As the illness escalated, it became harder and harder to leave my house. I felt safe only in my own little part of this house (the mother-in-law unit) and the few places in the neighborhood I normally frequent. I gained weight. This was an insidious change, not something sudden.

There must have been a spark of life in me somewhere because I eventually called someone for help. I went to see a therapist who was rather confused but intrigued by my history. It is an unusual history. It was so interesting to her apparently that she saw me without charge when I was fired from the job that provided the health insurance that paid her.

Ultimately, she told me that I needed to visit a medical professional, specifically a psychiatrist. My issues were a little too complex for her to manage alone and she wanted me to see about medication. I agreed to go. She looked for a recommendation.

The final crash came in June 2003 when I literally could not leave my house without breaking out in a cold sweat. I couldn't stop crying. I couldn't breath, couldn't eat, couldn't think straight. Thoughts intruded and wouldn't go away. I honestly believed it was something outside of me pushing me to kill myself. I decided to do it later in the week. Why? I don't know. That's psychotic thinking. The laundry had to be done or something.

I called Dorothy, my therapist, keening and wailing and told her I could not do it anymore. Period. I was done. I hated my life so much that I couldn't face another day of it. She called Emergency Services and the police. I was committed for three days to a hospital for threatening to kill myself.

During those three days, I was given tests and a good number of people talked with me. I was immediately given Seroquel, an anti-psychotic drug. On some level, I was relieved to let someone else take over. Sort of. That was the small voice of sanity that remained in me, buried in the subconscious where it does its work.

Those who treated me had to fight a big thick wall of abject paranoia. I accused them of trying to poison me. I accused them of being nothing more than toadies for the capitalist oligarchy who didn't give a shit about me as a human being. They just wanted to patch me up to send me back to the gerbil wheel so that I could contribute to their disgusting, evil economy. They just wanted to poison my mind so that I wouldn't go back to Thailand and be happy. They wanted me to murder myself first. The sad thing, I told them, is that they didn't even know it because they were brainwashed automatons whose own minds had been poisoned. I literally fought physically with hospital attendants who tried to get me to take my jewelry off. One guy got a bloody nose when he tried to remove my Thai ankle bracelets. (Yes, it's funny now but somehow I don't think he spent much time laughing.) I wasn't just being difficult for the hell of it either. I believed this stuff. In my mind, it was all perfectly logical. How others didn't see it was an enigma wrapped in a puzzle.

Okay. That is a brief description of what it is like to be insane.

Once the cycle of treatment began, results were fairly rapid, all told. Within six weeks or so, I was able to see a substantial difference in my thinking. The static went away. I started to see light and colors differently. I could articulate my thoughts and feelings without the crazy thinking. That is not to say that I became a good little "productive citizen" (really think about that phrase and what it means) who supported or who supports now the cultural standards I live under. I am permanently disabled and will not be going back to the mainstream at all.

Naturally, there is much more to this story as far as my recovery. That's for another time. I had bad days and good days ~ but I am no longer in the grips of that deep dark hole where there is no light, no love, no peace, no comfort. It is the darkest, loneliest, most desolate place I can imagine. I do not have words to describe it. Simply no words. It is hell. Think of every description you have ever read about "hell" ~ and all of them fit.

So... why would I put such a thing on a public blog? You know, admitting that you went crazy isn't socially acceptable in any culture, let alone this one. I might lose readers here. Some people may decide that I am not worthy of respect or might choose to reject any contact with me, including reading this blog. If so, go with God and be well. Some things matter more than that. I want to provide a glimmer of hope for anyone who might be experiencing it now. It is not shameful. It is nothing to be embarrassed about. It is a chemical imbalance in the brain. Our brains don't produce it and we need medication to provide what nature can not. It is a hard road back, lots of damage to fix, lots of self-knowledge to gain and many decisions to make.

I will make this commitment: If you are in my area, I will personally walk you through it. I will hold your hand until you come through the veil. That is not idle talk. I mean it. If you are not in my area, I will offer you email support. Click the link at the top of my blog and email me. You are not alone anymore.

Take the first step though and get help. Please. Get help. If you don't have health insurance, there is Medi-Cal or Medicaid. You don't have to live like that. Take it from one who has been in hell and managed to escape it. It is worth the effort, as hard as it is, to take the first step.

One last thing: I don't think it's necessary to hide behind "Thailand Gal" any longer. While that is the name of the blog, that is all it is. I will use my Thai nickname here, just as I do on all of my Internet mailing lists. It is Chanakarn.. pronounced Cha-na-kahn. Most people shorten it to "Chani" for simplicity and ease. I am okay with it.

Much love and peace to all ~



Anonymous said...

Nice to meet you, Chani.

Are you left handed? Because if I got to choose, I'd get rid of my right tit.

But then again, there are lots of things we don't get to choose, mental health sometimes being one of them.

The stigma attached to mental illness is yet another thing that I just cannot fathom. Who are those people? Some rare, highly functioning people who have never experienced it? It must be difficult for the physicians because even though there are similarities, each illness seems to be as unique as the individual suffering.

I truly hope that most people who have survived it would feel the way that you obviously do: beyond glad to feel better and desirous of helping others in various ways. I can't imagine knowing what it's like to be in the abyss and turning your back on someone who is there.

It is sometimes sad and frustrating for me to accept that I, too, find the stressors of "mainstream" life too difficult to constantly endure.

I trying to figure out how to have a life that is full enough, challenging enough for my "up" periods, without leaving too many things hanging when I need to regroup a little (or a lot).

Cranky baby who wants juice seems to think I am shirking my responsibilities RIGHT NOW.

Peace to you.

Pea said...

How very brave of you to share something so personal. Every now and then I need to remember to put myself in another's shoes and you did that for me today thanks...

Anvilcloud said...

Hey Chani. Placid moi has a placid cat sitting beside him, and we both think you're A-OK. Purrfectly okay. Thanks for baring it, and I hope that it is helpful to someone.

Anonymous said...

Sweet Jesus, Chani. You never told us this. Some things make sense now that didn't before. Thanks, hon.

Cuppa said...

Hi Chani, nice to meet you.

Over and over again I am amazed at the beauty that comes out of pain. The dark times in your life only serve to give depth and dimension to all the colour and beauty that is you now. Your light and beauty comes through in your writing

Years ago I read a little book by William Styron, "Darkness Visible". It gave me a glimpse of that darkness known as depression and how deep and dark it can be.

You are making the light visible now. Good on you.

KC said...


*big hug*

I think you may feel vulnerable for putting that out there, but I think it's safe to say that your readers will be inspired and touched by your honesty, not driven away.

How generous of you to share this story with others so you can help.

I've been thinking about writing one of my own struggles but I can't seem to find the words. Yet.

Girlplustwo said...

Chani. I like it.

Sister, what an incredibly brave and powerful post about someone walking through hell and emerging on the other side. What you call vulnerable, I call victorious. And you extending your own white flag and hand of support is so beautiful.

I am honored to witness your journey, and I am honored to have the opportunity to walk alongside you on this path of life. You've touched me in ways you'll never know today.

Thank you my friend. The world shines brighter because of you.

Leann said...

been there done that.know how you felt.I ended in the waco ward in the 80,s.and if it had not been for the Lord I would not have made it.thank God for people who are there to help when we need it.some times its to save ones self that we need to walk away.the ones who ask for help are those who get well,its the others I worry about.and there are people out there who are just hanging on and refuse to get te help they need.glad you made it out of the abyss.God bless you.

meno said...

I understand depression quite well, but i understand psychosis better after today. That was beautiful and i thank you.

I think i'd get rid of my right tit too, given a choice, it interferes with my squash game.

Bye Chani.

Mari Meehan said...

If you lose any readers it is thier loss.

Gobody said...

Chani, I think you are brave to come out in the open about something in your past in this manner. I applaud you. I also don't think that there is anything to be ashamed about if you were weak at some point, we all have been there. I went through a complete rethinking of my life at some point (read clinical depression). I am lucky that I had the ability and the heart to do self-analysis. It lasted couple of years but I came out of it a better person. I am glad that you shared this with us.

Tabba said...

I can say that after that post, you gained my readership - certainly have not lost it.
How brave of you & how wonderful of you to put yourself out there to help others.

Stephen Newton said...

Thanks for being brave, Chani. I know about depression. It killed my son. I started a depressed men's support group as a result based upon psychologist Terry Real's work. It is the most significant thing I've ever done. The group has helped men come to grips with covert depression, because men aren't allowed to be depressed.

After I started the group, I got calls from women who told me there were no support groups for them and could I start a group for women. Sad, that the only recourse in most cases are psychiatrists who are more than willing to prescribe drugs without understanding. You were fortunate to get help when you need it and I know your post and your willings to serve as a guide down that rocky road will get the help they need.

Peace to you Chani. What a journey you're on.

QT said...

CHANI - I like that.

I have to echo the other comments and say your post is very courageous. I have been through some dark days, but nothing that compares to that. I get "down on this world" sometimes too, so I understand where you are/were coming from.

Every time someone opens up and talks about mental illness it removes a little bit of stigma and perhaps your post encouraged someone that felt alone - if there is s soul out there that judges you negatively for that, they have some looking to do -inside themselves.

Bravo to you and thanks for letting me (us) be a part of your journey.

Lucia said...

Chani is such a wonderfully beautiful name for a strong and beautiful woman. Thank you for having the courage to be real in the world.

OhTheJoys said...

What a powerful and important post. Thank you for writing it all down and putting it out here.

Anonymous said...

Daufiero, well, I dunno. Somehow my left tit sounded better. LOL ... The stigma amazes me as well. It's so prevalent. It's like the proverbial elephant in the livingroom. It is far more sensible to deal with it than to ignore it.

I honestly believe mainstream life is too much for most. That is because it doesn't feed the soul.


Littlepea, thanks. :) If it raises a bit of consciousness, I am all for it.


Hey, Anvil... placid moi is here with a placid dog beside me on the desk and all is well. :) Thanks!


Brenda, most of that was going on when I was lurking on the list. Go back in the archives and you'll find a lovely rant occasionally. (smirk)


Cuppa, my metaphysical teacher in Tucson once told me that most beauty is a process of evolution ~ and usually comes from very difficult or painful experience. I've done my best shamanic journeying after a period of extreme stress. The point being that we must shatter to create something new. :)


KC, thanks. :) I hope you will put your struggle out, regardless of how the words flow. I honestly believe we put this stuff out because someone is waiting to receive it.

Jen.. and you have touched me as well. Perhaps we are both doing something right. :)

Leann, these events are often the catalyst for making major life changes. You're exactly right. :)

Meno, maybe we should all give up both our tits. Life might be easier, leh? :)

Thanks. I'm glad you liked...

Mari, thank you. I try to think of it that way..but, you know, being the kind of overly sensitive, paranoid type, I haven't quite mastered it yet. Workin' on it! :)

Gobody, I don't think of it as "weakness". There are so many levels and complexities to this ~ what we acknowledge, what the culture allows, our biochemical make-up. We haven't evolved yet as a species to respect and honor these diversities. Unfortunate. I hope for better in the future.

Tabbi, thanks. :) I enjoyed your blog. I'll definitely be back to read more. :)

Stephen, I am so beyond sorry about your son. This damn disease steals so many lives.. needlessly. And you are so right about men not being allowed to have normal human emotion and fluctuation without being judged as somehow defective.

Nope. This culture falls very short when it comes to support for all of us. It's all about cowboy up, be strong and tough ~ all else be damned. Reminds me of the old Carly Simon song, "close the wound and hide the scar." The only problem is that it will come out, one way or another. Some drink, some do drugs, some isolate and some pull the f*** it switch and kill themselves.

QT, right on. Sunlight is the best disinfectant. We need to talk about these things. I was rather surprised to turn on Oprah today and found this was the topic.

Lucia, ... thank you. You know what I mean.. just.. thank you. I'm trying. :)

Oh, The Joys... Oh, What A Wonderful Blog You Have! :) Thank you for reading this one!


My love and gratitude to all of you!



Pam said...

Hi Chani,

I missed your post yersterday, just catching up. You are very brave and beautiful. I lost my way once and have looked into the abyss...in hospital for two weeks. What I know is that who we are is the sum of our life experience and for those who walk on the edge and make it back there is great understanding. By reaching out and sharing, you not only help yourself but others. I can tell by reading all the comments that you have touched many people and they are the better for it. Count me as one of them.

Susan as Herself said...

What an amazing and moving story. While I have known many people who have suffered from depression, and even a couple of people with bipolar disporder, your detailed history is very eye opening. Thank you for sharing it.

I am working on a theater project (which has been on and off for the past year) and will be taking it up again in the spring---with a theatre company I know. It's a collaborative project, and the main themes are women, insanity, and creativity. It is titled "The Walls." I believe your blog post here would be an eye-opening piece of reference for the rest of the cast---do you mind if I print it and pass it around for them to read? It contains valuable and personal insights from someone who has experienced the darkness first hand, and came out on the other side. And that is huge. Please let me know if I can share it... sooz86@hotmail.com Thanks!!

heartinsanfrancisco said...

Dear Chani,

I suffered from undiagnosed depression for many years but soldiered on because my family was remote and indifferent, and I was afraid to burden my friends. I became quite macho to overcompensate, and refused to give myself any kindness or sympathy.

I considered suicide as a teenager because I didn't think I could survive my home until I was 18, but I really didn't want to miss the next blue sky with cumulus clouds. I'm so very glad for that now.

Somehow I freed myself after a couple of marriages that were wrong for me, although they did produce three amazing children I could not have lived without. Since I had to support them alone, I logged a lot of ungratifying jobs

I know too well how it feels to be a misfit in the workplace when one doesn't share the values (or lack of same) endorsed by others. I was always conscious of the hours I was losing out of my life in this way.

I've never had therapy, and now believe that I was depressed because I was discouraged from being who I really was, and tried to please my "keepers." I was too sensitive to give up completely, so I was always at war within myself.

I really believe we attract what we need in our lives to become our true selves, even though much of it can be painful.

I admire you so much for transmuting your deepest pain into compassion, and am sure that is your main reason for this incarnation, to suffer so you can help others. I hope the worst of your suffering is over now.

I am very proud to know you.


ecogrrl said...

Hello dear, just read your post on my blog and came over here to find this truly amazing post. Thanks for your bravery and empathy.

Anonymous said...

I appreciate you willingness to write about something so raw and honest, and your comment about mainstream life not feeding the soul is spot on.

I read different blogs to gain insight into other opinions and other lives. I'm not one to jump ship over a post that might rub me the wrong way. And for the record, I found your post informative, selfless, and brutally honest. I admire your strength and only hope that I could find such within myself if faced with similar "demons".