“I had told a friend of mine [at school] that I felt like dying, and had a plan to kill myself. She told one of the teachers, and they said the school couldn’t handle me anymore.”
“She would run my head under the faucet, kick me, grab me by my hair and shake me, take things from me, throw away my things, forbid me to come upstairs from the basement…”
She loves music, listening to bird calls, and reading. Although she’s just in her early twenties, she’s already been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and dysthymia. Her diagnoses follow a difficult and abusive childhood.
What makes Sveta’s story a bit different from most stories of PTSD and abuse is this: she’s also blind.
Although she can perceive colors and shapes, and distinguish between light and dark, that’s the extent of her visual ability. The blindness affects everything from her ability to escape triggering situations to her anxiety coping strategies. Her parents still largely control the minutae of her everyday life, so Sveta finds herself struggling to carve out her own strategies for controlling her environment.
Summer: Have you always been blind, or were you able to see at some point in your life?
Sveta: I was born 3 months and 2 weeks early. I was put on oxygen because I couldn’t breathe. The result was that not only could I breathe, but the blood vessels in my eyes grew too fast, forcing the retina and the eye apart.
SB: And you suffer from an anxiety disorder, correct? Do you mind sharing your diagnoses?
S: I have been diagnosed with dysthymia, also known as chronic depression and complex PTSD, which is like BPD but to a lesser degree.
SB: Do you feel the dysthymia was always present, or did it develop at some point in your life?
S: The dysthymia was always there for as long as I can remember. My parents used to make fun of my love for minor keys saying, “You only like songs where someone dies”. This, of course, isn’t true. I like the minor key, not the death. It happens, sometimes, that songs where someone dies are in minor keys. It also happens that in songs in minor keys, sometimes, someone dies.
“I can now kill a very small spider with a vacuum, which is something I wouldn’t have even considered just a few years ago, and if I see a spider that’s not moving and it’s far enough away, I calm down very quickly and I’m able to rationalize that it won’t hurt me. Until it moves. Then that’s all out the window.”
I can’t think of any other creature that can be practically invisible, then suddenly appear in quite the way spiders do.
(This is the fifteenth post in a series called “Anxiety Society,” in which I interview everyday anxiety suffers from all walks of life about their struggles, their triumphs, their coping methods, and more. I believe that the more we openly talk about our mental health, the less of a “thing” it becomes. Conversation can reduce stigma, and my interviewees want to be a part of that.)
She’s been hospitalized six times for mental health emergencies.
She’s a twenty-something NYC-dweller who enjoys jogging in her spare time.
She’s got three diagnoses: borderline personality disorder, bipolar II, and panic disorder with agoraphobia.
She’s also got three lovable dogs.
The one thing that’s clear from the first two parts of City Panicked‘s interview is this: it is not easy to manage a double life. In her outer life, City plays the role of a working professional who commutes, drinks coffee at her desk, and excels at what she does.
But in her hidden latent life, things aren’t nearly as easy: the subway makes her panic, the panic makes her upset, and the “upset” becomes something to obscure from others.
To ease the tension between both lives, she started an anonymous blog.
(This is the fourteenth post in a series called “Anxiety Society,” in which I interview everyday anxiety suffers from all walks of life about their struggles, their triumphs, their coping methods, and more. I believe that the more we openly talk about our mental health, the less of a “thing” it becomes. Conversation can reduce stigma, and my interviewees want to be a part of that.)
Meet City. She’s spending her mid-to-upper twenties living and panicking in NYC. On the surface, she’s just like any other upwardly-mobile young professional living a busy life in a busy city: she has a college degree, she works in an office, and she loves coming home to her small studio apartment so she can play with her dogs.
We first met her last week in this post where she introduces herself and talks about her one two three mental health diagnoses: Borderline Personality Disorder, Bipolar II and Panic Disorder with Agoraphobia.
City recently tried Pristiq — an SNRI medication that had previously done wonders for her. But this time around, it made her feel suicidal.
From City’s blog:
Last week I started having increasingly severe panic attacks which over the course of 24 hours progressed to severe depression and thoughts of suicide. For the first time in my life though, instead of acting upon these thoughts, I went for help. I setup an emergency appointment with my therapist and we decided after speaking that going to the hospital would be best. She called 911 and smoked a cigarette with me until the EMTs arrived and that is when it all went downhill.
Summer: What was the hospital like? Had you ever been there before for anything mental health-related?
(This is the thirteenth post in a series called “Anxiety Society,” in which I interview everyday anxiety suffers from all walks of life about their struggles, their triumphs, their coping methods, and more. I believe that the more we openly talk about our mental health, the less of a “thing” it becomes. Conversation can reduce stigma, and my interviewees want to be a part of that.)
They say bad things comes in threes.
It certainly can’t be the puppies — no way. Meet City Panicked. She’s a “twenty-something NYC-dwelling chick” who loves dogs so much that she owns not one, not two, but three of them.
She enjoys the puppies.
She does not, however, enjoy any of her three DSM-IV diagnoses.
City and I talked earlier this week via the internet.
Summer: So, what type of mental illness (or illnesses) are you dealing with? I can tell from reading your blog that you seem to be struggling with more than just one, right?
City: Well, I am one of many people with multiple diagnoses. Currently on the roster and up to bat are: Borderline Personality Disorder, Bipolar II and Panic Disorder with Agoraphobia.
S: How did you get that many different diagnoses? Were they from multiple doctors? And, pardon me while I briefly imitate a psychotherapist, but: how does that make you feel?
C: Yes – they do come from multiple doctors, though the last shrink I had an ongoing relationship with had brought up all of them at one point or another. And BPD, being the problem child of the personality disorders, tends to hang out with Mood and Anxiety disorders quite frequently. Frankly, I wish I had just ONE issue to deal with. A lot of medications end up being contraindicated and it is so frustrating.
As a teenager, Jemima was diagnosed with OCD and has discovered that her anxiety manifests differently now as an adult. Her main triggers are interpersonal conflicts and romantic relationships.
Jemima lives in Brooklyn and deals with anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorder. She was officially diagnosed with OCD when she was a teenager.