Setback Q and A

Am I well today? – No.

Am I really unwell? – Not sure.

When was the last time I was this unwell? – Sunday, June 6.

What did I do then? – I didn’t take the Lorazepam.

Is today better? – Yes.

In what way? – Didn’t cry all day. Didn’t spend the day in my bed. I’m slowly getting over it.

Do I know what triggered this? – Yes.

Can I avoid the trigger? – Yes.

Can I solve the actual problem? – I don’t know.

Can I just forget about it? – What do you think I’ve been trying to do?

Am I going to be okay? – Who the hell knows?

Just take a guess, will you? – I’m obviously going to find a way. I always find a way.

Will I have a beer? – I think I will.

Hey, you. Walk away. No excuses.

I can’t count the times I’ve made excuses for others.

And I can’t count the deliberations that have been going through my head when it comes to interpersonal relationships. Do they care? Was that thing they said a sign they care? Was the other thing a sign they don’t? How do I know? How do I judge?

The thing is, a simple metric exists, but many of us refuse to see it. It goest like this: if someone cares, they make time for you. Doesn’t have to be much. Five minutes are all it takes.

I can’t begin to count the people who’ve told me “I don’t have time” through the years. Sometimes it was understandable, of course. People have responsibilities – I have responsibilities, too. But, somehow, I always thought people were more important. They came first. I made time.

They rarely had time for me, though. Those same people who among their nights out and movies and dates and hobbies and everything they did for themselves and those they did have time for, just didn’t have a couple of minutes when you needed them. They didn’t, even if they claimed to care. Even if you were always there when they needed you, no matter whether it was convenient for you or not, if you took time from your family, your work, your sleep. Because you made time for them. You stayed up late into the night, talking when they needed it. You helped solve their problems. You even told your children–who shouted at you, “Mom, why are you still on your phone, why don’t you play with me”–to wait ten minutes, or twenty, or thirty, because you were doing something important. You were looking after someone you cared about.

You made time. You prioritized them. But they just couldn’t bother.

In nine out of ten of all cases, what people mean when they say, “I don’t have time,” is: I have time for a whole bunch of things. I make time for a whole bunch of people. I just don’t have time for you.

All of us, all of us make time for the things and people that are important to us. There’s no exception to this. Don’t try to find excuses for those you hope will, someday, give you their time. They don’t want to. It’s as simple as that. Barring serious problems–health or mental health issues like severe depression or anxiety come to mind–they don’t want to talk to you. (Note: If you have a friend with severe depression or anxiety, please, check up on them at least once a week. It’s important, trust me.)

Some people will make time for you, even though they do have serious problems. I have such friends: with children in therapy, elderly parents with health issues, family members with serious illnesses, being ill themselves, or combinations of the above and more. And yet, they make time. Those I’m holding on to. I’m never letting go.

I know it hurts to let go, but you have to be brave and see the necessity. You have to see it for the truth that it is: they don’t really care all that much about you.

If you’re anything like me, it’s difficult for you to accept this. You believe people when they tell you they’re busy. They just can’t find two minutes to check in. Week after week, month after month; what can you do, life! As if you didn’t have a life, problems, shitholes to climb out of. So, trust me when I say: they won’t make time. Walk away. It will be hard, oh, so hard. But, I promise you, once you do, your life is going to be better. Don’t fall into the trap of the sunk cost fallacy (“I’ve invested a lot in this relationship, so I can’t possibly stop investing now.”). Go on, remove them from your emotional map. It hurts, I know. So many relationships in life just rip your heart out. But, as in the finance world, so it is in relationships: sometimes you have to just let your investment go, because if you don’t, you’ll lose much, much more.

Don’t keep throwing mental and emotional resources into black holes. Use them where they’ll make a difference.

Thank the universe for women

These past days – you must have guessed – have been some of the hardest of my life.

The first anniversary of my breakdown hit me hard – especially since it coincided with the re-evaluation of certain relationships that have been important in my life. I decided to be strict with myself. I’m not letting my soft side concoct excuses anymore for those who keep hurting me. I just won’t do it anymore. My fortieth birthday, I’ve decided, this October, will find me surrounded only by people who are good for me and my mental health.

So, the past weeks have been painful. As I’ve been doing for a year now, I put my pain out there (well, here, on the blog) for all to see. I do this for many reasons: the main one is that I can’t not write about my pain. These blog posts are just the tip of the iceberg. I’ve written a sixty-thousand-word book about my mental health struggles of the past year, for example. I don’t really expect to ever publish it – even if I do someday, it won’t matter much in the grand scheme of things. Nobody really reads my books anyway. Maybe a few close friends will read it, and that’s probably going to be it, and that’s okay. I also write down thoughts, I compose angry letters to the people who hurt me (kept in a folder on my computer, never to be read, but still serving the purpose of letting me vent), and endless chat messages to anyone who cares to read my lengthy analyses on psychology, mental health, literature, and anything else.

This blog is a slightly different matter. The blog is for giving the world a real, uncensored view into pain, despair, mental health disorders, the dithering and fluctuations that accompany one on such a journey. We all hide so much every single day. Even I, one of the most open, unfiltered people you’ll ever meet, can’t help but disguise what’s inside. When I chat with friends online or in real life, or meet someone in the street, I often put on a smile, real or digital, and I jest, I jibe, I twitter merrily along. I give a happy, breezy impression, even as I speak about how hard this past year has been (and the twenty that preceded it). You can’t survive without humour, after all. You can’t take yourself too seriously.

I’ve been told that I’m very efficient at not letting show how hard this all is. I seem confident and capable, apparently. I have no idea why that is or how I do it. Even people who are close to me, those who know I’m usually on the verge of a mental health crisis or fully in the middle of one, can’t reconcile this knowledge with the picture they have of me in their heads. Again, I don’t know how this happens. I cry often enough. I have emotional outbursts often enough. If you asked me, their eyes and ears should be telling them I’m not okay. But there you have it.

The blog is also for telling people, “you are not alone.” And, to my surprise, it does this more than I thought. The one group that it speaks most to is mothers.

The number of mothers who told me they feel similar things – always on the verge, feeling nobody really cares about them, that they exist for the convenience of others – is astonishing. What is this society doing to women? I thought I was an aberration, an abnormality; but feeling overworked, overlooked, devalued, seems to be the norm among mothers.

Turns out, a lot of us have been brought up to specifically not heed our own needs. We sacrifice our bodily and mental health for others, while when we ask for some help and support, they (do I dare say it? Men) respond with, “Wait a minute, I have to take care of me! My mental health! My rest!”

Is this a nurture thing? I believe it is. The feminist in me doesn’t believe there’s a genetic or innate difference in the male and female brain (I’ve read a little bit about that, and although male and female brains seem to have physiological differences, it seems that brains can look outwardly different but still perform the exact same tasks). So I think this is purely a societal thing. We’re taught this since birth: the boys to take care of themselves, put themselves first, take care of their well-being first. The girls to self-efface and sacrifice. To take care of others.

But still, there’s another aspect to all of this. This past year has also taught me what lengths women will go to to help a friend.

You’ve heard the name “Dimitra” often – and for good reason. She’s the one person who’s been by my side through all of this, although she lives 800 km away. In the past year she and her family have been through a whole fuckin lot. You wouldn’t believe me if I told you; I often think things should be the other way round, and I should be the one offering all the support for all this shit she’s been going through. And yet: this person with the multiple health and other crises has never wavered. Today, I sent her a message with the opening, “Well, let me talk about my little woes again…” and she said, “You know I’m always here for you.” Little or big woes. How the fuck can anyone compare to that? Even my husband comes short.

Women never cease to amaze me. A couple days ago, a friend contacted me, asking me how I was. She knew I’d been having a hard time. She told me she’s been thinking about me but reads the blog posts and didn’t want to burden me. We talked about vaccinations, and she expressed her dismay that despite my depression (yes, I’m admitting it – Dimitra has been shouting depression for more than a year now, and it’s time for me to accept the facts), I haven’t gotten bumped up the list yet.

I told her the world isn’t fair – because, duh, it isn’t. If all those people who treat me, prescribing antidepressants and having me in their practice nearly once a month, can’t bother to help me get vaccinated before I enter “getting the car and driving fast up the Autobahn” territory again, then who will?

That’s not right, she said. I should call my doctor. I should ask her for an attestation of my condition, and I should declare my mental health status on the vaccination website the German government has set up. I’d be category 2, she said (of 4 – pretty high, since category 1 are basically people with life-threatening conditions).

I have no strength, I told her. I have no strength to fight over this. I cried over my phone as I typed.

She’d help me, she said. She’d go on the website, she’d put my data in. She’d do the phone calls.

This gave me strength, and I called my doctor right then and there – before this brief surge of energy this wonderful person gave me was dissipated. I think the doctor, too, had fallen victim to that illusory picture I give, the picture of the woman who has it together even as she supports a mentally ill family and spends her days in therapy and her nights crying. Well, she’d give me the attestation, the doctor said pretty much immediately. “What should I write on it?” she asked.

“I don’t know,” I replied. I’m not a doctor, I don’t know what she should write on the fuckin attestation. She’s been treating me for over a year, and she knows I and my family are being treated by a bunch of therapists. Shouldn’t she know what’s wrong with me? I told her exactly that:You’re the doctor, you write what you think is best.

My voice was breaking on the phone, but I managed not to break down in sobs until the phone call was over. Everyone and their uncle is getting vaccinated, I’d wanted to shout at her, young people, healthy people, with no anxiety-ridden children, people who don’t wish they didn’t exist – but thank God I didn’t, because what good would it have done? Who the fuck cares? Who ever cared? Who cares about me? Things like this are exactly the reason people like me feel they shouldn’t be here. The burdens we carry are seen as trivial. But if – say – I died, everyone would say, “she had two young children!” And it would be a tragedy – because of the children, of course. And while you’re alive, most people are content to let you flounder.

Most people, that is, except some beautiful, glorious women.

My friend didn’t have to call or fill in my data on the vaccination website. Amidst a flood of tears, I did it myself. The kindness she showed me gave me the strength to continue. “We’ll call the vaccination center next week,” she said, “if you haven’t got an appointment yet.” This use of we made me cry again. I’m not alone here. I’m not alone here! Someone cares. Someone is helping. It wasn’t a light, thoughtless we: it was the real thing. She fully intends to help, not with mere words, but with actions.

After that, I called Dimitra, crying. Why did it have to come to this? I asked. Why didn’t they tell me I was eligible? All this time, I’ve been struggling to even exist. I can’t fathom the cruelty of the world, sometimes.

“I’m so happy!” Dimitra said. “You might get vaccinated!”

Well, that’s a friend.

PS. Just now, my son came to complain about a disagreement with his dad, who’s sitting on the couch, not talking things out with his child. Blog post idea: how I deteriorated into hysterical sobs in front of my 8-year-old, because apparently everything is my responsibility, and now my son thinks it’s all his fault and he shouldn’t express his frustration lest he make mommy sad and she starts bawling.

I’m doing well, right? I need to get on the fuckin SSRI again.

This shit’s hard.

I’ll just say it: this getting off the antidepressants thing is going less than well.

This weekend, Urban did all the housework. I cooked a little bit, but that was about it. Other than that, I kept shouting at the kids for no apparent reason (why do they have to talk when they’re in the same room as me?) and burst to tears for pretty much every reason imaginable. Just an example: on Saturday, I got up hungry. Of course, Urban – who sleeps more hours than I do – wasn’t awake yet, so I made the considerable – for a mentally and emotionally exhausted person – effort of getting dressed and going to the bakery to get breakfast rolls (that’s how Germans roll – pun intended). When I came back, Urban had picked some dandelions and clover from the garden for the guinea pigs.

I burst into tears. I’m talking inconsolable bawling here, not just your garden-variety crying. “You care more about the piggies than you care about me! I’m so hungry, but the first thing you do is go out to the garden and pick weeds for the piggies!”

What could the poor man do? On Sunday, he made me pancakes.

Today, the motivation (and my physical well-being) fell to a low: even though I slept reasonably well (okay, that means “well for my standards” – I did cry in bed, as is often the case) and longer than usual, by three in the afternoon I was exhausted. I took a nap and had to force myself to get up three hours later. I sat and read. The thought of tomorrow – when Urban has to work and I’ll be here with two kids who have questions and fight all the time and ask for things – almost makes me want to cry.

Then again, I do cry a lot. It never really stopped.

I think I have to be realistic here. I didn’t think I had depression last year, before I started taking the meds, but I was in a state of constant hyper-arousal, a frantic mental flailing for survival, complete with chronic stress. Now, things have calmed down. I’m in therapy. I’ve figured out what’s wrong with me, with my husband, with my children. I’m tackling a lot of these issues, hard and overwhelming though the whole process is. And I’m sliding into a full-blown depression.

If you know me (and chances are, you don’t, so let me rephrase) – if you knew me, you’d know my number one skill is solving problems. This is just a new puzzle I have to solve. What to do?

The first thing I did today was to take half a SSRI pill. It’s double the dose I was taking two weeks ago, but still half of what I took for most of 2020. I’ll see how tomorrow goes and decide if I’ll continue, how often, and for how long. By this point, I know how to ease in and out of this.

The second step: get vaccinated. Of course it’s been hard for me to get vaccinated, because what has ever not been hard? It would almost be a shame if life gave me something without a considerable fight, be it bodily health, mental health, children, friends, or a sense of self-value. The feeling continues to be: I exist solely to make things easy for others.

(Of course, this is partly the depression speaking. Some things do come easy for me. Writing comes easy. Let’s see when I’ll be in the mental state to continue writing my books. I just finished a 60-thousand-word memoir, but that’s not getting published. It’s just for me.)

Third step: binge eating. Yes, I’m relapsing, after a full year of doing great on that front. To be honest, I’m not too worried about that – it has been proven that this, to me at least, is a purely emotional and mental health issue. Once I get this latest bout of depression under control, I think the binge eating will recede again into the background, where it belongs.

And there are some other issues that need to be taken care of; issues of the emotional persuasion that have been dragging on for way too long. Those are the hard ones. They’ll take months, if I’m lucky. The hope is, the moment in time is not far away when, after the tribulations of the past twenty-one years, I’ll be able to live again.

Fingers crossed.

Should I have died?

Disclaimer: I am upset as I write this. There’s a certain disillusionment and cynicism. If you’re a close friend of mine or married to me, you might not want to read this. It might be disturbing.


Today was supposed to be a good day. It marks one year from by breakdown, which caused me to admit I suffered from burnout, which ushered in an era of anti-anxiety medication, therapy, discoveries about my husband’s autism, and of taking better care of my kids, one of whom is suffering from sometimes debilitating anxiety and needs a lot of attention and care. The number of doctors, therapists, psychologists, and social workers that have been involved in this clusterfuck that poses as my life is noteworthy.

And, nearly two weeks ago, I took my last SSRI pill. I said I’d give myself some time to adjust to the life after burnout, depression, self-hatred, and drugs. I told myself I’d just sit down and relax (didn’t I rest after I had burnout, you’ll ask? Well, no. I’m dumb, and I didn’t.)

But today is not a day for celebration. The thing is – and Dimitra has been saying it lately – I’m a punching bag. I exist only at the convenience and for the convenience of others. This would be okay if I was talking about my children, but, unfortunately, the problem is way bigger than that.

First of all, I exist for my parents. My mother couldn’t have kids because of some hormonal imbalance that presented itself during pregnancy. She lost a baby in advanced pregnancy – she had to give birth to a dead baby, absolutely horrible – but then she got the treatment she needed, so my brother was born. Fully gestated, a healthy child.

Me? Not so much. She went into labour in the thirty-first week of pregnancy. They managed to delay my birth until week thirty-two, and there I was, a tiny baby who had to go into the incubator for four whole weeks. Cue early separation trauma. Still an issue to this day. Probably. What the fuck do I know.

But science saved me, and I survived. At the times of my life when I started to have suicidal tendencies, the hardships my mother endured to bring me to this world kept me from letting suicidal thoughts get too strong.

Science saved me eighteen months later, when I got whooping cough. I was hospitalised for a long-ish period. My mom was so scared she’d lose me, but, well, evidently she didn’t. Yay! Science won the second round, too.

Then nothing much happened, nothing much, that is, except mental health disasters, phobias, hemiplegic migraines – little reversible strokes, basically, during which a person loses their ability to talk and recognise writing because of parts of the brain shutting off due to elevated blood pressure; awesome, right? – shortly, the inability to live like a normal human in a human world. And then, just to fill the void of an unsuccessful and futile existence, I decided to have kids.

There’s no way I would have survived having a baby in the wild. First of all, my babies were huge for my 158cm/5’2. I saw women in the hospital, big German women, who had without an exception smaller babies than mine, and you didn’t much see the difference in their bodies before and after birth. That’s not the biggest problem – although of course I literally couldn’t walk after the sixth pregnancy month; my back pain was so debilitating that sleep (standing) was impossible for more than a couple hours (minutes), the belly supporting belt the doctor prescribed (the best in the market!) just burst open because it couldn’t support my belly (always a freak!), and after the C-sections, especially the first, I was for all intents and purposes an invalid who had large diastasis recti (gap in the abdominal muscles), which caused her innards to hang through the gap (yes, that happens – thank heavens for soft corsets) suffered from excruciating back pain, and was left to take care of a baby while she couldn’t use her thumbs (inflammations at the wrists – another sad story). All of that while my husband, who, in the case of the first child, took a month off to “help,” sat in front of the computer while I bawled my eyes out on the couch, unable to take care of household and baby because of the pain and the other pain and the inflammations, and feeling like an all-around failure, even at this thing that all women seemed to handle sufficiently, or with some difficulty, but surely not with the level of fail that I physically experienced.

But I digress. Not the biggest problem. The problem was the bicornuate uterus in combination with the huge babies. Both of them were breech. We even turned the second baby externally, but his head didn’t fit the pelvis, so he turned back head-up.

The verdict of the midwives was, neither he nor I would have survived an attempted natural birth without hospitals and surgeons. If it had come as far as a birth of a term baby, that is. With my first, I had to remain in the hospital on a contraction-suppressing IV drip for six weeks until gestation was advanced enough for the baby to not be in substantial risk.

Science saved me a third time. This time it saved my kids, too.

The question in my head now is: Should I have survived this past year?

If you’ve been following my blog, you know I collapsed one year ago. I had to be given tranquilisers to keep my blood pressure down. For weeks before that, my body hurt, my muscles wouldn’t cooperate, at times I couldn’t even walk, and I thought I was basically dying of some weird disease. Then, they gave me the SSRI (magical thing!) and the chronic stress, gathered through a lifetime of that shit you read about and much more, started getting bearable. The pains receded, the overly contracted muscles (yes, stress does that) unclenched, and I could walk, sometimes sleep, exist.

You might think that the stress wouldn’t have killed me, but high blood pressure in combination with the hemiplegic migraines – which I described above – is not very encouraging. I would still probably have survived for some years before getting debilitating strokes, like both my grandmas did. I don’t know if they had hemiplegic migraines, too. It’s a very rare condition. And, if they had, how would anyone have known? Illiterate housewives, slaves to society and their husbands, if they didn’t get visibly sick, they wouldn’t tell anybody.

Let’s call this last part a half-win for science. Science probably didn’t exactly save my life, except maybe by delaying all the strokes I’ll surely get later in life and by helping me take fewer risks. For example, at about this time last year, I had a strong urge to take the car and start driving on the Autobahn as fast as I could. I wasn’t exactly suicidal, but I didn’t think there would be something wrong with me hitting a truck and dematerialising. I’m not adding much to the universe, after all. Except, I take care of others. That seems to be my only role.

Of course, my parents would be devastated. My kids would have no mom–huge trauma, that one. Couldn’t do that to them. My husband – the man whose failure to give emotional care, and whose emotional gaslighting (“it’s not that bad,” or the you’re too needy implication, never uttered, always felt) needs me, too. Do I need me? Do I absolutely have to exist, just because others want me to?

After the breakdown, I said I’d take care of myself, so I started going on excursions. I recruited a friend for that purpose, a post-doc at the institute I used to work for, who loves excursions and trips and adventures, and who was excellent company for all the things I planned to do without kids and without a grumpy husband who gets and causes stress whenever he puts his foot out of the door.

But my friend (who still had six months on his contract and would leave Germany at the beginning of 2021), had a hard time adjusting to COVID Germany. This pandemic has been hard on all of us, after all. I felt for him, stranger in a strange land, as Heinlein wrote and Iron Maiden sang. I tried to help.

Actually, I didn’t just try to help. I went in full-on saviour-syndrome mode and tired myself out in the process. Why the fuck do I always do that? I think it’s because it’s the only way I feel even remotely useful. My friend didn’t really ask for much. I just overexerted myself all on my fuckin’ own. Because, that’s what I’ve learned: I exist for others. The universe refuses to give me reasons to exist for myself.

A couple months ago I tried to get off the SSRI for the first time, but I found I couldn’t cope. I asked my doctor, who said, “you’re the one holding this family together” – daughter in therapy, husband trying to adjust to being around us, the usual. This struck me as true, but also weird. Why doesn’t somebody else have to take the measures I do? Others don’t have to lift a finger. I have to be stuffed with drugs for the sole purpose of being able to take care of everyone else. That’s the main objective. Because, newsflash: I don’t matter. My only function is to be a nanny, a cook, a manager, a therapist (I’m constantly acting as the therapist in my family, because even after all of this, I’m still the most psychologically capable adult around here. Which says a whole fuckin’ lot.)

January to March was a hard time. The friend mentioned above – who was my only company last year, other than my overwhelmed and overwhelming family – had left for his home country. We were in full lockdown, and my daughter’s stress was through the roof. She wouldn’t sleep, she would cry all the time, she was pale, and school and homework were given zero attention, but they did exist in the background and caused more stress. Of course, like every problem in the family, this was my problem to solve, and I desperately tried to find help for her (thankfully, I did, with the assistance of one of the therapists and social workers who’re on our case).

In that state, I tried to reach out to the aforementioned friend, telling him I was kinda sad he didn’t keep in touch. The answer was that he’d been overwhelmed because his employment situation hadn’t gone as expected – totally understandable, of course – and – I remember the next part word for word because of the sheer unfairness of it – “I can’t fulfil your expectations, friendship-wise.”

The thing is, I could tell you the exact date and time when I told him I had no expectations. I know where we were (at a parking lot, southwest of some lakes about 50km south of where I live) and what we were doing (parking the car, and forgetting to pay for the spot, because my brain barely functioned for a full year) and what the weather was like (low temperatures but sunny enough to make you sweat) when I, disappointed by a life of lacking emotional support and now-you-see-me-now-you-don’t friendships, told him that, although I’d miss him, and I’d like for him to be in touch, my experience has been that people move away after their PhDs and post-docs, and they don’t keep in touch, and I’d just wait and see what would happen, because he’s not big on, well, keeping in touch. I was the one consistently keeping the relationship going, as I do with most relationships (I am not important, remember? I don’t really matter enough for someone to exert any effort for me). I knew, without a shadow of a doubt, that it was up to me. I’m many things, but I’m surely not stupid enough to think people can change their ways from one day to the next.

But still, overwhelmed by the year I’d had, I craved for someone to make an effort for me, too, for a change.

And it appeared he did: on that cold and sunny day, he tried to convince me, with many eloquent words and lengthy explanations (he’s exceptionally good at words and explanations) that indeed, I matter, and indeed, I shouldn’t think I don’t, and that he’d do everything in his power to ease my mind. I remember that vividly, too, because nobody had ever promised before to do whatever they can to ease my mind. They mostly didn’t bother to ease my mind at all. I didn’t even think my mind was worth easing. My husband can’t use words, so he never even attempted to ease my mind, even in my worst years of bawling into my pillow and not wanting to exist.

See? Someone was kind to me for a while. And then he accused me of having expectations.

Crash. Burn.

So, here I am. I have no expectations. Not of my kids, not of my husband, not of said friend, not of Dimitra, not of my brother, not of the state who’s failed to vaccinate me even as I am teetering on that precarious edge of the “second breakdown” gorge. I don’t even think I can believe anyone’s promises anymore – except maybe Dimitra’s, but she doesn’t promise me stuff, and I’m sure she’s wise not to do so. See, I take promises seriously, and she knows and understands that. I still love my family and friends, of course – I just have to adjust for what they can give. I shouldn’t judge others by the measures of my ability for self-sacrifice. My therapist says that, to them, what they give is a lot. I am the one who has to understand that.

There have been so many other ways I’ve been a punching bag throughout the years. My sister-in-law who bashed me in front of husband’s family, while I sat there and nobody – nobody – came to my defence, not even husband himself. The girls at elementary school who shunned me for taking an ice cream from the tennis club fridge at a party (It was a rich fucks’ school. I wasn’t rich, just a teacher’s kid). Even the parents joined in the assault towards a nine-year-old. The culmination came yesterday, when I was bashed and insulted – for the umpteenth time – by a close friend whom I’d gotten to trust, and whose behaviour I’d always been excusing because he has serious mental health issues. After being shocked by the excessive brutality and vindictiveness of this latest assault, and while still trying to get my bearings after quitting the antidepressants (let’s see how long that’s gonna last) I was shaken enough to shift my perspective entirely. Suddenly Dimitra’s (and Sasha’s, and Kate’s) words, which they’d been trying to get through to me for the past year, blazed in front of me:

It’s not your job to save everybody. Not even if you feel for them. Not even if you understand them and where they’re coming from and you don’t want them to be in the situation they’re in. Your mental resources are not infinite.

You have to protect yourself. Just because you can handle something that hurts you doesn’t mean you have to stay down and keep being beaten. You don’t have to accept the hurt. You can also walk away from it and avoid the bruises.

Your mental health matters, too. Just because you’re strong doesn’t mean you have to take on additional emotional injury. Others understand that and protect themselves. You should do the same.

And, Dimitra’s favourite motto: The only person you should be investing in right now is yourself. I don’t do that at all, she accuses me. “You take too little care of yourself and too much of others,” says my husband. “Even the kids. Even me. Take better care of yourself!”

Here I am. After nearly forty years, finally breaking free of saviour syndrome. I should fuckin save myself.

It’s been a year since my breakdown. Maybe I should have died many times over, but I’m alive, and it looks like I’m going to be functional, even without the antidepressants. The universe wanted me dead, but here I am, mother fuckers. I’m still alive.


If Jane Austen wrote erotica, this is how she would have written.”

John and Stella have lived, loved, and been hurt. But now they’ve found each other: a middle-aged couple who know what they want, they start exploring kink after decades of self-repression. But their relationship is tried by strong external forces – and by John’s tendency to always, always have his way.

Going off the meds

It’s finally time.

Burnout, breakdowns, a year of crying and therapy. Three fourths of my family is in therapy right now. My husband is in the process of (possibly) getting an autism diagnosis. My daughter is learning to cope with stress – and with mentally ill parents. And, last but not least, the person who holds this whole thing together: my humble self. I’m in the process of accepting myself as a valid human being (the jury’s still out on that).

That’s no small feat. I’m not going to go into the details now, but feeling like an alien has been my norm. I haven’t had a “normal” childhood or a “normal” youth (what is that, anyway?), I haven’t had “normal” relationships with friends and family (again, what’s normal in that case?), I haven’t had a “normal” career path, and I haven’t had a “normal” – or sane – relationship with myself.

One year minus two weeks ago, I started taking a Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor, an antidepressant whose purpose was (in my case) to treat chronic stress. It worked like a charm. I was able to go to therapy and solve the problems that had been plaguing me for twenty years – or a lifetime, depending on how you look at it. I was never at peace, after all. Nine-year-old me wasn’t at peace. Even four-year-old me was starting to feel something was off.

This year, thirty-nine-year-old me has a chance to be at peace. Therapy, drugs, the help of a loving family and wonderful friends and encouraging readers, and things are slowly getting where they should be. I can’t break free of the idea that I’ve just lost so much, but there’s nothing to it now but to make the best out of the second half of my life. At least I won’t have a mid-life crisis – one of the consequences of doing things “the wrong way round.”

This time, I’m taking things one at a time. Okay, I’m not an independent adult, and I’ve never been. I can’t solve that right now. I still have a phobia or two. I can’t solve that either. But I’ve solved so much, so I can focus on one thing at a time. And that thing is now: be off the meds without suffering from debilitating anxiety. This means I’m going to take some weeks “off” – i.e. I’m going to treat myself as well as I can while doing the basics to take care of my family. I’m going to do my best not to feel guilty that Urban is working and has to do laundry and other housework. I’m going to sit and colour with my favourite felt-tip markers because this is something that soothes me. I’m going to read fiction and non-fiction. I’m going to give myself all the time in the world. I’m going to do yoga and learn a language while training myself not to feel guilty when I’m not progressing with my hobbies as much as I’d like to. I’m going to write, maybe. I’m going to market my book, but only when I feel like it. I’m going to make stress dissolve but tackling that overwhelming guilt that has been accompanying whatever I do or not do for as far as I can remember.

Some months ago, I halved the SSRI dose. Then I halved that. When I took the last quarter-pill, last Sunday, I was only taking that every second day. A single subtle sign of anxiety has returned during the past week or so – the persistent tinnitus in my left ear – but this time I’m determined to be as calm as possible. Let’s hope I can make this work.


If Jane Austen wrote erotica, this is how she would have written.”

John and Stella have lived, loved, and been hurt. But now they’ve found each other: a middle-aged couple who know what they want, they start exploring kink after decades of self-repression. But their relationship is tried by strong external forces – and by John’s tendency to always, always have his way.

And if I can’t, I have my doctors and my therapist, and science happily has given me a way to deal with all this.


No, you’re not needy

“You’ve been emotionally abused,” Dimitra said to me yesterday.

I’ve been in therapy for a year. I’ve solved most of it–binge eating, body dysmorphia, trichotillomania, lack of object constancy; even my Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria has diminished greatly. But this took me by surprise. It hit me like a brick on the face. I asked her to explain.

Like victims of abuse, you have a warped view of what affection and care is like, so you’re repeating the same motives in new relationships because they are familiar to you. Your norm is to be around people like”– and here she mentioned some names of people close to me. “But you’ve come farther than that,” she concluded. She’s said it in the past: You need to be with people who value you. You’ve invested enough in others, it’s time for them to invest in you. You need people who are capable of showing love and care and affection.

If you’re a normal human, you’ll think all of this is self-evident. But for years, it wasn’t self-evident to me. I’ve learned to live with scraps of affection. I’m constantly picking people who don’t show love, at least not in the conventional way. I’ve had to learn to decipher clues. This, combined with the convictions my sick brain held for decades (“I don’t deserve it anyway,” “I’m disgusting”) is what brought me to today’s state. I’ve been emotionally starved, not only by those individuals in my live who couldn’t show love, but also by my own disorders. By my own self-hating mind.

When I broke down, nearly a year ago, Dimitra was worried sick. She and Christina–my friend who lives close to my home in Athens–coordinated to keep my mom in the loop and reassure her that I was okay, and to support Urban. This was a level of care I didn’t think I’d ever have. It took me by surprise.

“I love you,” Dimitra said to me that night, after the paramedics had given me Lorazepam and made sure my blood pressure wasn’t too high before they left. This killed me. Except my parents, nobody had told me they loved me in over a decade. Even my husband never told me he loved me–although, I suppose even I, in my RSD-addled brain, knew he did.

Someone loves you, I told myself. Your friend loves you. I held on to it for dear life. This healed me more than you know.

A few weeks ago, I was discussing with my best friend about feelings and the such, which invariably means I was throwing sentences at him and he was using the keyboard to grunt, assent, make sarcastic and witty comments, and be all-around delightful, or delightfully grumpy, in the way I know and love about him.

“See, I always thought I was too needy,” I told him. “But I’m not. You always reply to talk about feelings with sarcastic comments, and it’s perfectly fine. It wouldn’t be fine for a needy person.”

It’s true. For my best friend, any talk about my emotional world is like a metaphorical hot potato. Through years of being with those two–I’m including husband–I’ve learned to live with little to no acknowledgement of emotional needs, and even less satisfaction of said needs. Scraps. Bits and pieces. I love them to death, and they give me a lot of the things I need–a feeling of safety, intellectual stimulation, loyalty. They’re the smartest people I’ve ever met. They give good advice. I trust both of them with my life.

And I’m most certainly not needy. I don’t know if these two perceive me as such–and it’s okay if they do; their standards are their standards, and it’s fine–but the mere fact that I’m able to decipher their subtle hints that give a glimpse into their emotions and be there for them for nearly two decades proves once and for all that I. Am. Not. Needy. I’m the opposite of needy, even if I occasionally break down and shout at them. I’m human, after all, and I’ve had my own disorders to deal with. But at the end of the day, I make the effort: I take the time to decipher the hints, I perceive their affection, and I stay. And yes, I’m rewarded for it. These individuals are the uniquest of unique.

But what about affection?

This past year has surprised me in many ways. I’ve come to find there are people–actually, they might be the majority of people–who show affection, not only in that hyper-oblique way you have to think about and decipher (which is what I’ve learned to accept, and which would fly over most people’s head anyway), but in the real, showing emotion, telling you they love you way, hugging you when you cry way. I’d been stuck with the first way for years. This is what Dimitra means: I’ve had to work hard to perceive affection. I’ve had to invest a lot, my brain had to constantly work overtime to convince my subconscious that my husband or my friend actually love me.

Urban would say it’s probably my handicap–the Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria, you see. He’d say I see things as more negative than they are. That I’m exaggerating. Yes, that has very often been the case. But it’s not entirely true, either. I’d even argue that the RSD, combined with the low feeling of self-worth has had the opposite effect. It made me fail to demand what I–and every human, really–deserve: affection, love, and their expression.

Dimitra says I should stick with Urban, now that the nearly two-decades-long struggle has paid off. He’s a case study, she says. The progress he’s made is astounding, developing empathy, acknowledging his shortcomings and working hard to be there in an emotional way his brain doesn’t understand. And he’s the father of my children. We’re a family. This is worth the astounding effort I’ve put into this relationship. But when it comes to others? Her opinion is clear: “It’s not worth the effort if you haven’t developed emotional shields.” You’ve invested enough.

You must have figured out by now that I don’t raise emotional shields. This has a lot of disadvantages, I grant you, but it has one great advantage: I learn. I learn about different types of humans, those who are misunderstood by their peers. I learn to recognise the subtle hints. I learn to love the atypical, the awkward, the weird. Humanity has so much to offer.

And, what’s more, I break. You might think that’s a disadvantage. It surely makes my family’s life hard. But every time I put myself back together again, there’s a breakthrough. My subconscious opens wide and is restructured. Most people’s deeper brain structure is fixed; their core beliefs, and with them the misconceptions and the sources of hurt will remain, undetected, unaltered, for ever. Not me: I open myself up to new misconceptions, new hurt, new trauma, but new discoveries, too.

Still, Dimitra is right: I need to learn how to protect myself a little more.


Available on Kindle Unlimited!

“That, my friends, is a great book.”Rebecca Hefner, author

Rejection

Have you been rejected? Do you know how it feels?

How about feeling rejected all the time, day and night, during every interaction? How would your life be if your brain interpreted every question, every hint, and the body language of everyone around you as a statement of their dissatisfaction, criticism, and, yes, rejection?

This has been my life for the past thirty years. “I wouldn’t want to inconvenience you,” a friend would say, and my brain would interpret this as, “I don’t want to spend another minute with you.” This can make communication with people rather cumbersome. You pull away, you try not to get hurt. Or you get angry or sad, bewildering your loved ones, who can’t see a reason for your overly emotional reactions.

Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria resembles Borderline Personality Disorder, and sometimes the two coexist, although RSD, I’d think, is more widespread in some way or form. Most people can understand to some degree the symptoms of RSD, and they can relate to the insecurities that produce it and stem from it. This is not what happens with BPD: in my experience, BPD is so exotic that most people just don’t get it. They keep bringing logic into the mix, not getting that reason is simply not accessible to the person having a borderline episode and that the faulty wiring in their brains can’t be circumvented by sheer willpower, calming down, and logical thinking.

My own experience with RSD is that I consistently skew the world around me to fit the self-negating convictions that got cemented in my brain early on. I don’t know what caused this: I do exhibit some borderline traits, but they’re mild, all things considered, even if they look rather intense to the layman. My mother, loving though she was, was also critical and concerned with appearances. I was a very emotional child, and this was discouraged. Don’t react like that! People see you! she’d say. In short, heed others, don’t heed your own needs. I learned to be ashamed of myself early on.

The perception of others’ rejection fuelled by one’s own bad self-image is hard to beat. If you feel unworthy, then pretty much everything others say or do can be warped to mean something negative. Even if someone says, “You’re nice and I like you,” as soon as you say something you perceive as dumb ten minutes later, you think, “Ah, that’s over. They’ll hate me now.” It’s a very unhealthy way to be in your brain. And I lived like that for ever.

This was compounded by my academic life. The PhD and then post-doc life is a string of people finding themselves in new environments, quickly building support systems, then going on their way to their next academic appointment. I never partook in all of this because I was literally unable to live on my own. Due to mental health problems, I’ve never been truly independent. I had my husband, who was there to provide a safety net. He still is, now that I’m officially taking care of my and my family’s mental health. My occupation right now is, strictly speaking, ‘housewife’. So I didn’t really enter the student communities I found myself in to the degree others did. I did, however make friends, some of whom stayed in my life in some form or other even when they moved away, and some of whom just didn’t. My default way of thinking was: people don’t keep in touch. People abandon me. When I made friends with other post-docs, I was careful to have low expectations: people just aren’t like me. They don’t devote a lot of their time or mental and emotional energy to the friends in their life. I’m just not as important to them as they are to me. Which, if you think about it, is another form of rejection.

Let us not dwell right now on how devoting too much mental and emotional effort to friends can break you in unique ways. The point is: was my assumption true? Does everybody leave me?

I had a long hard look at my relationships these past couple weeks. What I found when I approached the matter with as much objectivity as possible is the following:

I have three good friends in Greece. There were more with whom I tried to keep contact through the years, but they weren’t responsive. I don’t know why. Life? We’re all busy, I suppose. If you asked them, they might tell you they love me and truly want to catch up when I’m in Athens. But I don’t see any effort on their part. The way I think about it, you can’t claim to love someone and not send them a text in ten years. But: there are three people who I consider close friends. That’s a lot. There are also some with whom I reconnected after years, and I daresay some of those I might end up meeting again. Also nice. All in all, not as negative as I pictured it to be. Those three friends I trust completely, and I’m not exaggerating.

There are some from my Germany and France years, not all of them close, but nevertheless keeping sporadic contact. And then, there are some I’ve met through social media, and who are now important in my life. Of those, I talk with three pretty much every day, although two of them are in the States and I’ve never met them in person, and there are a couple more I’m fond of. The most important among those people is Dimitra, who’s been in my life for eight years and was the one that guided me through the long, drawn-out process of healing after my breakdown, mental-health-wise. I’m talking almost a decade of care here. What does this say about my claim I’m always being rejected or abandoned? Most people don’t have a free personal life coach on call, someone who loves and cares for them this much.

And then, there are the people I lost touch with. If I see this objectively, it wasn’t really always their fault. I’ve told you before: I’m a difficult person. Often, I’ve outgrown people (maybe they’ve outgrown me, it’s all relative). I don’t care to connect with them anymore. This happens. It happens to others, too. Just because I have a knack for perceiving lack of communication as rejection, it’s not necessarily true. Just because I always give (too much!) energy to many people outside my family, it doesn’t mean that it’s right. I did crash badly last year, after all. The burnout was definitely exacerbated by my tendency to help everyone with everything, even offer help when I was already too busy.

Well, I’m not doing that anymore.

In short: Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria makes you see the world in a warped way that doesn’t really correspond to the objective reality–or what could pass as objective reality in a world where everything is relative. Humans also have the tendency to gloss off wins but focus on losses. Minimising loss is the main focus of our brains (I recently read “Thinking, Fast and Slow” by Kahneman, which explains, among other things, how our brains perceive loss–wonderful book!) and it’s also the mother of several fallacies.

I don’t know if this helps you in any way. This was a personal account of what happened in my life. I’ve only been able to recognize the truth after serious help from loved ones and therapists. I don’t have a recipe to treat RSD. The only thing I can say for sure is that it needs time. After three decades of this, I’m still learning.


Available on Kindle Unlimited!

“That, my friends, is a great book.”Rebecca Hefner, author

When self-hatred is elevated to a way of life

Coming out of twenty years of self-hatred culminating in a nervous breakdown and burnout is quite the experience. Exhilarating. Uplifting. Sure, there’s some sadness there–all that lost time! I could have been happy instead of losing two decades in misery! But how can you not revel in the new realisations?

Can life really be like this? you ask yourself. Is it really, really possible I can exist without putting myself down every single second of my existence? Can I just discuss with people without second-guessing my every word; without thinking I’m offensive and everyone will hate me because no matter what I say, I always put my foot in my mouth, I blabber too much, I’m annoying or uninteresting? Can I eat at a restaurant without being ashamed, without obsessing about ruining the other guests’ meal–they’ll be seeing little disgusting, flabby me biting into that burger and thinking, “Why is that unattractive fat woman eating? How does she dare show herself here?”

And how about romantic attraction, friendship, sexual desire? Can I exist without thinking anyone who’s close to me is doing me a favor? Can I be in my relationship without thinking my husband’s here out of laziness, and the reason he still sleeps with me is that he’s an extreme introvert, and it’s too much of a bother to find someone who’s not flabby, disgusting, fat? Can I have sexual fantasies without feeling guilty–not guilty because of religion, repression, or any sort of ethical reasons, but because, honestly, how do I even dare think anyone would desire this utterly unworthy, unfuckable creature that’s me?

When I started writing A Natural, I only told my best friend and my husband. I was convinced the world would ridicule me in the way described above. Where does she get off writing erotic stuff, people would say. The book still turned out to be pretty good as a novel, so I thought, to hell with it! Why not publish–under a pen name, of course. Maybe people would actually see the plot and won’t dwell on the fact that an utterly unbangable disgusting woman has the audacity to write sexy stuff.

Strangely, and to my utter surprise, putting sexual content on the page, and furthermore giving my female protagonist many of my own traits, didn’t put readers off. One male reader told me he imagined me in the place of my heroine, whom he fantasized about. This brought the spontaneous thought to my head: he doesn’t know me or what my body looks like! He’d surely change his mind if he saw me.

Are you marvelling yet at the level of self-hatred I was steeped in for two decades? It gets worse.

What about falling in love? Romantic attraction has always been hard for me. The same thoughts as above dominated the narrative in my head: how dare I feel anything towards a smart/attractive/desirable man? Surely, I’m not just under his league, I’m practically non-existent in his world. And non-existent would still be okay, but my brain went into high-school-movie mentality: I was the awkward nerd in the corner, ogling the attractive, popular football player. The whole school (the metaphorical school, in my mind) would point fingers at me and mock me: Look at that disgusting being! She even thinks she counts as a woman! She even wants love! How dare she? Doesn’t she know she’s a worm at the bottom of a pile of shit, unworthy of serious consideration?

Surely, all I deserved was scorn and ridicule. Now, if I could be thinner, if I could cure my trichotillomania so my face would look okay-ish instead of a ravaged eyebrow-less landscape, if I could stop binge eating, if I looked different…or if I wasn’t abrasive, aggressive, brash! Maybe then I’d be a proper human, worthy of others’ admirartion instead of scorn and rejection. I mean, sure, I’d never really be attractive, but I wouldn’t be disgusting anymore.

Yet still somewhere inside, my strong and assertive inner self was striving to free me from all those misconceptions.

After publishing my book, something changed. Not only had I found my calling–writing, as you might imagine, and dramatic, psychology-laden writing at that–but I’d also dared to put myself out there. And as a result I received not ridicule and contempt, but applause and admiration. People were asking for my opinion on their writing. I had to start refusing beta reading and editing, which I did for free for a time, because I just didn’t have the time to help everybody.

Moreover, strangers on social media thought I was pretty. Not disgusting, but actually attractive. Not random creeps looking for a victim, either; people whom I developed relationships and became friends with.

I pushed further. I took full-body images of myself in my ballet clothing and posted them with the hashtags “mombod” and “bodypositivity.” Surely, I have flaws–many, many of them! Most of the pictures showed a slightly chubby woman, which made me cringe, but by that point I had began to understand that much of it is in my mind. The reactions of strangers told me nobody thought I shouldn’t be happy, or I shouldn’t enjoy life, love, sex. I pushed further, posting a photo of the most horrific part of my body–my stretch-mark ravaged belly. Now, people call them “tiger stripes,” but I have no stripes anymore; the whole skin is a tangle of plastic deformation (sorry, once a physicist, always a physicist!). Even that photo elicited one single negative response: “Ugh, why would I wanna see something so disgusting?” the young man said, echoing my own thoughts of mere days prior. By that point, though, I was rapidly getting over it. It was obvious that most of my beliefs up to that point had been mere misconceptions, and I had, moreover, misunderstood how others see me. It was time to free myself of all that self-deprecation and hatred.

I won’t go into the other factors that helped me heal. Suffice it to say, there are certain people, who, knowingly or not, made me challenge my beliefs and realise just how ridiculous I was being. Just as an example, once, while we discussed all of this, my best friend asked me, “Surely, you don’t think your partner of sixteen years stays with you because of laziness and inertia?”

I mean, yes, that’s exactly what I thought. A borderline borderline brain is expert at making everything look like rejection.

How do I feel now? I feel I am allowed to have emotions. You might think it’s a small thing, but it truly isn’t. Walking to my therapist today, I contemplated how inconceivable it was only a year ago for me to admit openly I am attracted to someone. Or, how Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria made it nearly impossible for me to say, “I can’t help you right now because I’m busy.” Or how hard it was to change in my ballet school locker room without feeling mortified about my body among the other students, women my age or older, but thin and flat-bellied and looking wonderful in underwear (Mothers all! How do they do it?).

Once, at ballet, we were discussing our bodies, as women sometimes do in such environments. I pushed my leggings down and showed my teacher the horror of my belly. She gasped and said, “Do you want to have it fixed?”

Well, I don’t really care anymore. Even if I had the money for plastic surgery, I’d rather give it for an awesome trip, or something I’ll enjoy more than a flat belly. Also, it doesn’t matter. I’m the best in my ballet class, though chubby and booby and all things contrary to the traditional picture of a ballerina. I’d rather be that than have a flawless body.

Flawless is boring, after all.

After the decades of struggling, the best one can hope for is the realisation that none of it matters. At all. Nobody will love you for your outside. And if they do, that’s not a person you want to be with anyway.


Available on Kindle Unlimited!

“That, my friends, is a great book.”Rebecca Hefner, author

19. Discovering you matter

<< 18. When he cries

It’s been eight months since my last post, and as you might imagine, a lot has changed in that time.

Where do I start? There have been so many discoveries about my husband, myself, my children, my feelings and their feelings and even other peoples’ feelings, about perceptions and misconceptions–some of them truly astonishing–that I find it hard to focus on one.

But let’s try. The biggest thing is something both my therapist and our family therapist suggested after observing us for a while: my husband might be on the autism spectrum.

Now, this was a shock, but maybe not for the reasons one would expect. To me, it was mindblowing for the simple reason that I finally realized I matter. You might not be able to understand how someone in a long-term, devoted relationship might be horribly lonely and think they don’t matter, but this is exactly how my life came to be after years (and years!) of being lonely while being with someone.

The times I screamed at my husband, “If you don’t want to be with me, just leave!” are too many to count. Nearly every evening of our life as a couple I spent practically alone–he had his computer, his programming books, his podcasts, the videos about fountain pens. Excursions were hell. Okay, we had small kids, which does complicate trips a lot, and it turned out I had high levels of chronic anxiety, so excursions were bound to be a strain, but still: my husband got squirmy, he resisted, he shouted, everyone got stressed whenever I tried to get us out of the house. Not a nice way to spend days that were supposed to be relaxing. But staying home all the time wasn’t an option either. Kids need fresh air and movement. They go crazy if they’re home all the time–something that has become obvious to many parents during this long, torturous lockdown.

So, here I was eight months ago: I’d never traveled as I wanted, because Urban never wanted to move from his favourite place–which is a chair in front of his computer. Stressed, juggling the emotional health of the family, dealing with a sensitive daughter who suffered from anxiety issues herself, and trying to keep dad on an even keel because his outbreaks were seriously damaging the peace in our family. And on top on all that, I realized I didn’t even want to spend time with my husband. I didn’t even feel remotely inclined to have a meal with him at a restaurant anymore, because there was nothing to talk about. I was bored. I knew there were things that interested him, but he sure as hell didn’t talk about them with me. So, I’d have meals alone, with a book, with a friend.

When I told my therapist all of this (and a bunch more), she frowned and asked, “Is he autistic?”

Welp, turns out the family therapist had the same suspicion, which is why he was insisting on Urban starting therapy ASAP. We found some online tests (on serious websites!) in which he scored highly, which means that there’s a high probability he’s on the spectrum. My husband was shocked. It couldn’t be. Could it?

Then we started thinking about what we knew to be his quirks. Never tolerating help at tasks like repairing things (trying to help him is a surefire way to cause a serious meltdown). Not being able to cope when days don’t follow their usual pattern (this is why Saturdays have been hell for the past 8 years). Not understanding what others feel. And, most of all, not being able to connect emotionally with me, although–it turns out–he actually has feelings. Strong feelings. Feelings he thought were clear.

Now, as you might expect, getting a diagnosis of adult autism during a lockdown is, to put it mildly, nearly impossible. There are precious few experts on the matter of adult autism, and stats show that high-functioning adult autism is often hard to detect because individuals learn to adjust and mask so well when questioned by others. The reason we came to the conclusion was that I knew Urban so well. In a conversation with someone who doesn’t know him, he appears perfectly neurotypical. This is why his therapist, I think, isn’t convinced. She doesn’t see the meltdowns. She doesn’t know about the fidgeting.

Anyway, next week Urban has a first appointment–with volunteers, not a therapist or psychiatrist, sadly–for a first assessment. We don’t know if they’ll find anything, or what they’ll find, but I surely think the suspicion of ASD has helped us already, if only by making me understand things aren’t always what they seem to be. Hostile reactions can have reasons other than mistrust or dislike. Being overwhelmed by tiny things as an adult is perfectly possible. And, most importantly, just because you don’t feel love from your partner, it doesn’t mean it’s not there. It might just mean his way of making connections is underdeveloped.

Anyway, that’s it from me for now. I’m writing, editing, trying to fix my family’s mental health, and as you might imagine, I’m exhausted. Still, I decided to not postpone publishing my books anymore. My writing is what brought this change about, and I’m going to keep writing and publishing for as long as life and our mental health journey can perplex and inspire.


Available on Kindle Unlimited!

“That, my friends, is a great book.”Rebecca Hefner, author