That alone would be sufficient, but this letter is not for me or for you. This letter is for the others that read it to help them understand the war you wage and the extreme measures I must consider to keep you managed.
To be fair, doctors fail to have a consensus if the symptoms I experience are the PTSD, the saucier version CPTSD, MDD, or any of the others listed in my medical chart. You hide in the darkness of all those letters and let your symptoms do the work. You use the self-inflicted injuries to muddy the waters for my care and create distance between myself and everyone else. I have come to wonder regularly if the violence is not simply maladaptive coping, but an attack on this malicious darkness that infects my reality. I contend that the violence is actually a successful coping tool against you, but we will save that argument for another venue… Who are you – really – and would it make any real difference to know you by a single name?
You created an environment of toxic thought; focused almost exclusively on suicide. The lines between ideation and intention blurred to the point most doctors close to your darkness inside me agree that it is all intention at this point. In the beginning, a day or two here and there you attacked my mind with the “need” to die. Decades later we dance for 8-12 hours a day, waging a relentless trench war for every cell and protein string in my mind.
In less than a month, your attempt to end the war 10 years ago will have failed. Many at the time called it an act of god, part of a divine plan that you failed to end my life. The cocktail of drugs, so accurate I rarely share it outside of a conversation with professionals. My rage and the adrenaline it offers, more likely for my salvation. For more than 24 hours after that battle, your plan left me helpless, alone, battered and alive on the floor. Help moved me to a couch that next day and for the better part of a week I laid helplessly unaware of anything, as my body cleared out your attack.
Five years later you attacked on two fronts. The first attack that year, another overdose. The battle winning you 3 days for me in ICU that have your allies, the nurses, an opportunity to express this painful emotions that blamed me for your attack. The second, a less eloquent and far more successful attack with a tourniquet around my neck. Your second attack left me “black” and “cyanotic” on the psych hospital bathroom floor. An innocent found me and was able to bring me back. You had failed to win this battle, but the war was forever turned in your favor by publicly defeating me. Nurses even angrier, doctors scared, all joined your assault on me. Leaving me in isolation for a week, in that pink paper gown, in that empty room - I sat as a prisoner of war, held by your new allies; my so-called ‘saviors’.
5 years later we return to the present and the cycle of war is escalated to unimaginable heights. I have new allies, doctors with a better understanding of how you work. While you are defeating the new weapons (ketamine, marijuana, etcetera) that they have been using, you still struggle to bring this war to an end. My team agrees you have an edge as we enter our heightened season of battle. You had a secret ally in COVID that decimated most of my support structures. While I survived last season, you successfully utilized COVID to maintain a foothold that successfully prevented my season of recovery.
As we approach the anniversary that your sadistic, rapist began his season of torture to break me down, remember not the torture he inflicted, the repeated violations of my body, the deep wounds that still bleed from those battles long ago... Remember the rage that defeated him in the spring. That same rage beat you 10 years ago as you tried to end your war on me. That rage that has drawn a line so deep that for 5 long years has held the line against you.
Could this current push I have been experiencing be your last gasp? A desperate attempt to end a war you may have already lost? Most of me wants you to win, most of me betrays me to assist you in completing suicide. Yet, that rage of an 8 year old little boy who stood up to your accomplice stands in your way again as it always has since awakened by your ally. That rage that draws a line so deep in my flesh that the scarred walls keep you helplessly out of control of ending the war.
I acknowledge you have kicked my ass three times since this current war started on January 21, 2008. I also realize that 99.9352051835853% of the time your battles FAIL to convince me in taking serious action to ending my life. Most important you have failed 100% of the time in being able to do it – I’m still alive, aren’t I?? (Insert middle finger emoji and big smiley face here!)
You and your allies have relentlessly attacked me for more than 3 decades. Your armies vastly outnumber my allies. You even manipulate me into helping you on a regular basis. I have the mental and physical scars that show the damage you have done in decades of war. On a day that started where I thought you might finally be on the verge of winning this war - in what has felt like our final battle - I stand victorious in holding off this epic battle. A battle that only occurred in my mind…
I may not win this war. Hell, I believe I want you to win this war at times. Most of my doctors will concede when pushed that you will win this war, but for tonight I stand up to you bloody and bruised from battle to say one thing. FUCK YOU!
Male, 43 Years Old
CPTSD, MDD, Agoraphobia, Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
Just some rogue cells
Drinking from the Fountain of Youth,
Trying to survive
In a hostile world,
Lashing out at all around
In anger and confusion.
You're not like the others;
Following the rules.
You live in the margins,
Inflicting damage because
That's all you know
How to do.
Like all errant,
We will fight you
And we will win.
Bobi Leutschaft Poitras
Daughter & Sibling
NOTE (from the Author): I wrote & published this on my Instagram account because I lost my brother & step-mom to cancer - my sister successfully battled it.
NOTE (from the Project Director): As Michael Schreiner points out in his own blog, "Perfectionism is difficult to treat... while most people are poignantly aware that the attitude causes them undue suffering & distress, they’re also secretly proud of their life orientation & deeply afraid that if they were to let go of the compulsion to do everything perfectly, their performance would suffer & their lives would fall apart... This makes narrative therapy an excellent treatment option, since by separating the person from the problem it’s possible to view the situation more objectively." By way of the letter that follows, the Dear Diagnosis project takes on a new leaf. Conversations hosted with any sort of externalized problem, are now welcomed here.
Let me just start by saying postpartum is rough, let alone when you creep in. Hormones and lack of sleep aside, my body is fighting and still healing from an infection. I want to say it doesn’t matter how my baby entered the world, but I would be lying. Although, you know that. You’re the one that told me it does matter, and it has to be a certain way! Look, I pass no judgment on how anybody else's baby entered the world... but I find myself ashamed and frustrated by how my baby entered the world. Thanks a lot, Perfectionism. Everyone told me to prepare for my birth plan to go out the window, but you convinced me our plan was perfect. The plan really only consisted of ‘get baby out of my vagina’ and, instead, what I got was a C-section.
OK, rewind, I should give you a little gratitude here. Thanks to you, I was really good at being pregnant. Sure I missed the soft cheeses, turkey sandwiches and wine, but I genuinely enjoyed my growing bump and the feeling of having this ever-present sidekick. You were in control of our schedule and we knew all of the Do’s and Don’ts—that gave me confidence in being pregnant. I was terrified of giving birth but felt this weird sense of pride that I would get to experience labor & delivery. I was surprised when I went into labor a few days shy of my due date but, because I had you at my side and my birth plan in place, I was ready for our plan to take flight. Thing is, I was only prepared for our plan. The contractions started around 5 AM and got progressively stronger throughout the morning. I got things ready around the house, checked and re-checked my hospital bag and pulled out all of my postpartum care, which we had carefully prepped. You were proud that morning, Perfection, really proud of all the work I’d done on your behalf. Upon arrival in triage, the nurse told us “baby is breach and we'll have to perform an emergency C-section.”
Fuck you, Perfectionism.
The C-section video was optional at the end of our labor & delivery class. Optional! As in, if you’re planning on a vaginal birth - you don’t have to stay to watch it. We stayed, but I still don’t know what the hell happened when they opened me up and yanked out my baby! Perfectionism, why did you have me focusing on just vaginal birth? Why didn’t you ask the questions and allow me do the research? I’d have known that a woman is more likely to deliver your baby C-section if your mother did. You make me feel jealousy every time I read someone else’s “amazing birth story.” You make me feel robbed of an experience to be otherwise proud of.
Cue the arrival of baby boy. You’ve continued to tell me our story was wrong. You’ve made me second-guess everything I do as a new mother. You even made me ask my husband if I would love him more if our birth plan had gone as expected. How did I let you influence me like that? You may forever be a part of me and this birth story of mine, but I won’t let you question my love for my son ever again. Do you know how amazing he is? Do you see how my body is finally healing? Do you get that I nourish him, bathe him, clothe him and cuddle him? I bet if we asked him how I was doing, he would say something along the lines of, “Fucking awesome, Mom!”
Female, Age 31
5 Months Postpartum
NOTA (Scritto da Francesca Fontanella): Valorizziamo qui l'autenticità di questa lettrice che parla apertamente delle sue esperienze come vittima di abuso sessuale e rispetto al tema del suicidio. Se sei o sei stato/a anche tu vittima di abuso e questa lettera ti ha colpito/a, cerca aiuto senza attendere. Puoi contattare 02 2327 2327 o mail@mica TAI. Ci auguriamo che i contributi di persone coraggiose che scrivono le loro storie possano, tra le altre cose, costruire la strada per la salute di tutti.
Oggi ti parlo Depresione. Sono un poco scomoda perche ti devo parlare in una lingua che non domino propio e mi sara difficile raccontarti tante cose.
La prima volta che mi hanno parlato di te avevo dicianove anni. Ho voluto finire con la mia vita dopo di vivere una tristezza che non finiva mai. Il psichiatra ha detto che ero depressa e che mi sono fatta male perche avevo bisogno di piu attenzione. Ricordo che pensavo che il dottore era insoportabile, che era pieno di se stesso e che non aveva nessuna conessione con me o con quello che vorrei aver detto. Ma non potevo dire che sonó stata stuprata per anni per mio fratello e I suoi amici.
La prima volta avevo 8 anni, non ho capito niente, soltanto sapevo di aver sentito tanto dolore che mi sono fatta adosso e cuando arrivai a casa mi hanno sgridato perche ero una sporca che non era neanche capace di andare al bagno. L’ironia piu grande e che tutto e sucesso nel pavimento di un bagno cosí piccolo che appena se potevo muovermi. Non ho capito il stupro cuando avevo 8 anni, neanche dopo cuando continuo per due o tre anni piu, incominciai a capire cuando avevo 12 o 13 anni. Cuando sono arrivata a 19 e ho avuto il primo fidanzato e stato cuando ho capito veramente quello che mi e sucesso e mi sentivo sporca e mi odiavo a me stessa, non volevo uscire del letto, sentivo che tutti potevano guardarmi con schifo, non volevo incontrarmi con mio fratello perche l’odiavo cosi tanto che avrei potuto anche svelare il segreto.
Ma cosa sei deppresione? Credo che non esisti veramente, non sei idee nella mía testa, non sei paura di vivere, non sei neanche la tristezza, non sei il vuoto che sei stata cualche volta. Non sei. Non so nemmeno cosa sei, sei questa fatica di vivere? sei questa difficolta di lavorare, di alzarmi del letto, di parlare? sei questa solitudine? sei questa colpa perche sono nella mía stanza invece di stare con le mie maravigliose figlie, invece di alzarmi a lavorare per procuraré I soldi? Al meno prima avevo la scusa di avere troppo lavoro, ma, da cuando incominciai la cuarentina non ho ancora potuto lavorare neanche un giorno.
I farmaci non mi hanno fatto mai niente, l’efetto e ancora peggio perche perdo anche quella piccola parte di me che e ancora lucida e sa ridere, parlare, piangere, incazzarsi, amare. I farmaci mi levano tutto e divento una cosa che cammina senza sentire niente. Ho provate tutti I farmaci e anche me li hanno levato tutti in tanti anni di raccontare lo stesso a psicoanalisti, humanisti, condottisti e cualche altra terapia in gruppo.
Veramente mi ha fatto been la terapia, stavo molto molto meglio, ma non so cosa e accaduto in cuarentina che sono arrivata di nuevo in fondo.
Anche ce qualcosa che voglio ringraziarti deppresione, per te ho conosciuto la morte, ho tentato di arrivare li 3 volte, fino che sono arrivata all’ospedale senza polso, avevo 23 anni. Non mi e piaciuta la morte, ero ancora viva e sentivo tutto anche se il mío cuore non sbatteva piu, mi hanno fatto male per poter ritornare e li ringrazio. Non mi e piaciuta la morte e non sono andata mai piu. Qualche giorno dovro ritornare e ho la speranza che questa sia una morte diversa di quella che ho vissuto prima. Tante volte ci ho pensato sopra e credo che non si puo morire apposta, devi morire cuando devi morire, non prima, non dopo. Forse cosi la morte sia diversa. Anche Devi vivere, la vita e la morte sono una stessa cosa che sono io, qualche volta morta in vita, qualche volta vita nella morte.
Ho molto da fare e voglio alzarmi dal letto.
Fémina, Età 54
I had no idea as to the impact you would have at this transition point in my life. Prior to your arrival, I had already sold my house and private practice, making a conscious decision to leave my home of 41 years and to retire to a new city and state. I had done this only one other time in my life - when I moved away from my family of origin at the age of 26 to settle in an unknown city in Florida. At that time, though, I was young, newly graduated and in search of change and new beginnings.
I had been thinking about retirement for years; so when the opportunity to help care for my first grandchild was offered, I jumped at the chance. I had waited a long time to be “Nonna” and felt certain that I would have opportunities to meet people with volunteer and recreational activities available in the large, exciting city where my son had elected to grow a family. Although I recognized that the transition would be a difficult one, I knew that I could manage. After all, I would have the support of my son and his wife, a new life that I could help to develop, and the blessings of my other two adult children. Not to mention, my new home was only five hours from my old one; so the option to return to familiarity wasn’t off of the table entirely.
Then you came along, CO-VID, and imposed a whole new reality for me to navigate. Initially, you created conflict over when and how I was going to get from point A to point B. I worried whether my house would close in sale, as all businesses were slowing down or being shuttered all together. I worried whether I would be able to mobilize a truck to move me across state lines, as state officials issued orders to shelter in place. I went about packing my home - alone -as “social distancing” was emphasized and with this reality coming into play, I worried about bringing together friends to help me load the truck. Saying goodbye to my community happened virtually, because of you, as most did not want to leave their homes for fear of coming into contact with you directly. My youngest son drove to and from to move me, but I worried throughout about his safety. How best to get him back to his home, after the mission was made.
It has been a month, now, since I arrived in this new city and to a reality very different from the one that I had envisioned. Under your rule, my son is expected to work 15-hour days, 6-7 days a week. My daughter-in-law will not be going back to work in the foreseeable future, and therefore has limited need for my assistance. The opportunity to meet new people has seemingly disappeared due to the closure of all spaces that allowed for gatherings and the harsh judgments surrounding the sharing space for social interactions. Although I am healthy, I am now also considered ‘high risk’ given my age alone. The opportunity to go shopping for essentials brings with it increased risk, so even a quick trip to the store has been taken from my table…
So, there you have it, CO-VID. I am now in a new state and city with very limited supports, a lack of opportunity to interact in real time with people, and very little meaningful work (e.g. being a caregiver to my granddaughter or a volunteer to youth and animals). All of this when only one month ago, I was a valued community professional helping children and families; I had an extensive support system of friends; and a vast knowledge of local resources. I have none of that now, thanks to you!
I cannot lie. While I have always been an optimist and fiercely independent, I find myself crying whenever I allow myself to think too long of what had been my past reality and what is to be my new reality. For you see, CO-VID, there is no return to what had been for the anticipated future. Experts now tell us that reopening society will be a long process, as your nature is to linger - to stick around, while continuing to make some of us sick if we fail to maintain some form of social distance. The opportunity for new, meaningful live-interaction and for my life’s work will continue to be limited.
With all of this in mind, I am trying to open-up to new opportunities in the virtual world, but it’s particularly difficult for someone like me, who likes to connect with others in real time and in the context of community. But, I will continue to try. I take joy in visiting with my granddaughter each day. I am cultivating my health and wellness by walking daily, eating healthier, and celebrating unexpected weight-loss, which had eluded me in my past. I am engaging in positive self-talk whenever I think to, which includes thinking gratefully about all I have compared to countless others. All of this is purposeful, but hard.
CO-VID, I will not let you defeat me, but I have to admit your arrival has been one of the biggest challenges in my life to date. I can only hope, now, that for me, for those I care about, and for the sake of our collective culture, your interruption results in positive growth. But then again, I’m just a single senior-lady trying to adjust to a new and very different reality…
Female, Age 66
‘High Risk’ per ‘Old Age’, but otherwise ‘Healthy’ pending Quarantine