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On a Car, a Disability, and Self-Esteem

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Mar. 7th, 2013 | 07:39 am

Life is winding and weird. I never know what will happen and, when it does, what sense I will make of it. But I always do try to make sense of the unexpected and/or unfortunate, one way or another.

I left for Florida on Wednesday in my car Bullet. Bullet is a 2002 PT Cruiser which served me well on my cross country trip to the Grand Canyon, San Antonio, Florida and then back to Connecticut. Before and since that trip, however, Bullet has been an absolute lemon of a car. My parents bought it for me after my last car broke down in Delaware on my way to Florida. I was desperate to escape the Winter, so after Pete so amazingly towed back me and my dead car from Delaware, I borrowed one of my parents' minivans, and they bought Bullet in my absence. I've been paying them back ever since, and would have had it paid off if not for the massive number of repairs that it's needed. In the last year, it has needed to go in for repairs at least 8 times and it has caused me great frustration. I prize my mobility highly, partly for practical but especially for emotional purposes. Traveling, driving, being able to escape a stressful situation are part of what keeps me functional and relatively independent. It matters...a lot. And as Bullet kept breaking down and needing more and more repairs, I felt poorer, less mobile and more reliant on my parents, which I hated.

Why I thought Bullet could take me all the way down to Florida and back safely, I have no idea. Residual optimism, I suppose.

But it didn't. As I-95 and I-678 separate in the Bronx, I was in the wrong lane and sent onto 678. I took the first exit to turn around, and on Bruckner Ave in the Bronx, my front axle dropped and my car stopped dead. It was about 9:30 pm. And I EXPLODED.

I was calm enough to call AAA for a tow. I lost my words for awhile figuring out what to do, as I thought for sure I was beyond my tow limit. But, as fate would happily have it, my tow limit was 100 miles and I was only 90 miles from home. Once I hung up with AAA, I called my mom. Cause, like so many other people with wonderful parents, that's my first instinct. I managed to sputter out that my car had broken down in the Bronx and I had called AAA before I started sobbing, but then, I started SCREAMING. I screamed at the top of my lungs, and let me tell you that is a rare, rare thing for me to do.

I screamed about how the piece of shit car had broken down yet AGAIN. I screamed about how much money I sunk into a car that wouldn't work and how hard I had been trying to save a bit of money to improve my life. I screamed about how the front axle had fallen, and how I'd told my dad and the mechanic months ago that it was a problem, and no one listened to me. I screamed about them taking the car to the same shitty mechanic after I told them he was no good and, hell, I'd pay to have a better mechanic fix it even if I had to charge it. (Bullet belonged to my parents technically, so they made the decisions regarding its care. It had become a bone of contention.) I screamed about being stuck in an unfamiliar city at night that, frankly, scared me. (Though in hindsight, I soon realized I was right next to a Toys R Us, and somehow that made me feel safer.) I screamed about having to ride an hour and a half with a tow truck driver. I screamed that I didn't even care if I was safe anymore.

I made my poor mother cry. She didn't show it over the phone, but I know she did. And I felt horrible about that later.

But I've thought about it, and realized I wasn't really screaming about the car. That was just a catalyst, or the final drop in a very full bucket. I got out of the hospital in October, but my mental health has still been precarious. Even when I'm acting fine, it is acting. Even when I'm functioning well, I feel like I'm dying inside. And usually the more I hide, the more I act, the more I push myself to function without dealing with dysfunction, even if it's necessary for a time, all that pain just builds up. My emotional tank was full (and the fact that I had PMS wasn't helping!) I was hoping to safely relieve the pressure by being in Florida, and instead the pressure was released explosively when my car dropped to a halt on an unfamiliar city street.

I really was bad. I looked over at my backpack, with all my pills in it. I thought about downing a whole bunch and just ending the misery, but I didn't. I thought about jumping into traffic, but I didn't. I thought about abandoning my car, but I didn't. Once I established that no, I was not going to hurt myself because it was just a damn car, I aimed at taking care of my runaway brain.

My PTSD was kicking in. I worked on my breathing to slow down the panic attacks. I did have Xanax available, but I wanted to be coherent when the tow truck driver arrived. Some nice pedestrians and motorists stopped to ask if I needed help, and I managed to communicate that I was ok, though I'm sure I didn't look it! One aggressive tow truck driver stopped and tried to argue that I'd be there all night waiting for AAA, and he should let me tow him instead, but I fended him off with stuttering no's. Another tow truck driver stopped and just gave me his card. Everyone except the aggressive drivers were nice, but I still had PTSD OMG WHAT IF THEY ATTACK ME thoughts going through my brain, because my brain was malfunctioning, and that's the way it is.

And I know all of this was a brimming over of emotion, and not really about the car, because when Aquamouse (my old car) broke down in Delaware a couple years ago, in a much worse situation, I handled it MUCH better. I didn't even cry until two days later when told my engine was cooked.

My therapist and I have discussed that my new medication, which I started at the hospital in October, may not be working well enough. My psychiatrist is on vacation until March 27th, however, so I have to wait until then to ask if I can up it. My obsessive thoughts have been horrible lately, torturous, and as the medication is supposed to work on OCD and depression, it's obviously not working well. I've tried not to let people around me know, because I've become obsessive over something that's a touchy subject anyway.

My frustration, my anger, my venting, is about my mental illnesses. My disability. And the resultant fact that I need more help than most people do, financially and emotionally. I have always resented that, always prized my independence fiercely, and always felt guilty about being a burden on my parents and unreliable to others. When Bullet broke down again, I was reminded of all this, at a time when I was already feeling very emotionally fragile, and all that pain needed to come out.

But, as I said at the beginning of this long entry, I look for purpose and reason behind my misfortunes. As luck would have it, my tow truck arrived earlier than scheduled, in only an hour. And he was the best damn tow truck driver in the entire fucking world. A young man with a Jamaican accent, he smiled, calmly told me I could get in the truck and he'd take care of the rest. As we got on the road, he noticed I'd been crying and I said it was a long story and gave him the short version, sans the mental illness component. He played some Sade, one Poison song, a lot of Johnny Cash and finally some Bob Marley. Most of the songs were about making the best of bad situations...I wondered if he picked those out on purpose. I stayed quiet through most of the ride, after assuring him I was just tired (and god, I was), but we talked again as we neared my exit. He put on a Bob Marley song and dedicated it to me, saying that things happened for a reason and if there weren't any bad days, there'd never be any good days. He didn't preach it either...just tried to encourage me, and I appreciated it immensely. As we got off my exit, he recognized it, 90 miles away from his home. Turns out his tow truck had broken down once on this exit, and as he waited for his company to come get him, he fished in the Mattabassett River, the same river near my house. I felt like he was an angel sent to bring me home. I really did. His name was Roger, and I will never forget the comfort he gave me. I thanked him heartily as he unloaded Bullet, and went inside to pass the comfort onto my mother.

My poor mother was sitting in the kitchen, with a tired, worried face that had evidently been crying. I hugged her and told her I was sorry for screaming and extremely sorry if I hurt her feelings. I didn't mean it. She said she knew I was screaming at life, and not her, and said she was just as frustrated as I was.

She went to bed and I stayed up to watch some Spongebob on Netflix. Spongebob soothes the savage soul. Finally I unpacked my pillow and went to bed.

Only six hours later, my mother woke me to say that she and Dad had decided to probably lease a Toyota Corolla for me, but they wanted me to come along and make sure it would suit my needs. I'd pay them the same that I paid towards the PT Cruiser and they'd pay the rest, if I let them use the car to drive to Florida and occasionally in CT when necessary. I was stunned and exhausted and not much in processing mode, and I'd never really liked the idea of leasing, but they wanted to leave right away to beat the storm and I had the feeling it was now or never.

To make a long day short, we came home with a 2013 Toyota Corolla, black, with some nice bells and whistles on it, on a 3 year lease. I was too exhausted to be as happy as I should have been, and I think I'm still too shocked to fully appreciate it. I have a brand new car to drive - I always wanted to just get a new car, or gently used certified pre-owned car, because that way I wouldn't have to worry so much about breaking down on my long trips, but I never thought I'd be able to afford it. And, frankly, I still can't, but I have amazing parents who decided they didn't want me breaking down on these long trips either. My dad said he couldn't bear the thought of me traveling and not being in a safe car anymore. My father rarely lets his worry show, but I realized yesterday that, in fact, he worries all the time about me, and it wears on him just like it wears on my mother.

As we brought the car home last night, I cried again, feeling horribly guilty at all this money my parents had just spent. I know it actually doesn't represent a significant spending increase for them per month, and they get to use the car and will be saving money on gas when they travel to Florida, but I felt that emotional trigger of being a mentally ill daughter, a disabled burden on my loving parents. Are these charges I would level at any other person with a disability? Never in a million years. I'd tell them their disability/chronic illness is not their fault, their limited financial means are not their fault, and that they deserve every bit of love and support, emotionally and financially, that they get from others. I tell everyone else it's ok to ask for help and to receive it. But I beat the living shit out of myself for being disabled, of limited means, and not self-reliant, and I suck at asking for help. Absolutely, terribly suck at it. And apparently, I'm not all that good at graciously receiving it either.

I feel guilty when my neighbors feed me wonderful dinners just for getting their daughter off the bus, as I feel I'm not giving back nearly as much as I'm receiving. They insist otherwise, that my friendship has meant the world to them, but my poor self-esteem makes it hard to believe. I feel guilty when people pay for my food at a restaurant, even though I let them and frankly want them to, even when I know it represents a lesser hardship on them than me. Why should I deserve free or discounted food? Why should I deserve anything anyone gives to me? Why should I have deserved a boyfriend wonderful enough to drive to Delaware and tow my car back when it broke down two years ago? Why should I deserve parents who let me live with them, who help me afford a new car, who help feed me, all in exchange for helping them with their business and household and just...being their daughter? Am I really worth it? Can anyone as damaged as me possibly be worth it?

And now I'm crying because I realize the crux of it. I don't believe I'm worth it. I yearn to be completely independent partly because of the freedom I think (possibly erroneously) that it provides, but also because I don't think I can contribute enough to any relationship to be worth the help I receive. Not from my parents, not from my friends, not from any of the boards and organizations I belong to, not from anyone, except perhaps my pets. And if there are other persons with disabilities who don't receive as much help as I do, I think I must be receiving too much help, and others must be more worthy than I.

I talked to my mother last night about my feelings of guilt. She did her best to reassure me that I was not a burden, that the car lease was actually going to be helpful to the whole family and not just me, and that I definitely made a big difference in the family business. Of course, she also likes to remind me that I'm lucky and to count my blessings, which isn't the right thing for a person feeling guilty to hear, though I know she means it to make me feel better. (One of her happiness tactics is to realize she's better off than others. Which can work well, except when you're feeling guilty that you're better off than others!) Anyway, realizing the brand new, shiny car in the driveway is a help to the whole family did make me feel less guilty.

But the crux remains...how do I convince myself that I'm worth the help I receive, that I'm not damaged goods who should be relegated to poverty if I can't provide for myself? It's this internalized anti-disability sentiment. And because I have an obsessive brain that is not being well-controlled at the moment, I am obsessing over the sentiment. And because I'm bipolar, I'm getting depressed over it.

Bipolar disorder, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and Sensory Processing Disorder. Those are the big 4 that my mental health professionals have narrowed all my symptoms down to, from a list of ten diagnoses that I qualified for. I should be grateful I haven't offed myself! I should be grateful for the help! I should feel grateful and not guilty. But I guess I only feel grateful when I feel I'm giving something back to those who give to me. Maybe I should concentrate on what I give to others, or better yet, realize I don't have to give to others all the time to be 'worth it'.  I'm 'worth it' just because I exist, right? It's such a hard sell.

Sorry this is so long. If you read all the way through, you're a fucking champion and I love you. And you get to know the name of my new, shiny car.

Her name is Zuzu. Partly because the letters are in the license plate, but also because it reminds of the movie It's a Wonderful Life. That movie reminds me that beautiful things can result from adversity, beautiful things that are often possible due to the generosity of others. George Bailey apparently never felt he did anything truly worthy in his life, but he did, and the audience doesn't question whether George deserved the money everyone gives him at the end. So, I'm trying to take a lesson from that movie. Maybe I deserve my shiny Zuzu, even if I only get her for three years, because I really have had a positive effect on others' lives.

And maybe this whole mini-breakdown happened because I need to learn how to feel worthy of what I receive, for as independent-minded as I am, I will always rely on others, as do most of us. I think this situation is also a reminder to ask for help. I suspect I don't ask for help because I don't feel worthy of it, because I don't want to BOTHER anyone, because I'm afraid of revealing myself to be even more damaged and worthless than before.

Anyway, this is a lot to think about. It'll take some time. 

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Comments {12}

orange crush

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from: orangecrush5
date: Mar. 7th, 2013 01:20 pm (UTC)
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*squeezes*
love you.

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Lisa

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from: bunnygoth
date: Mar. 13th, 2013 02:25 am (UTC)
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thank you dear.

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cypherindigo

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from: cypherindigo
date: Mar. 7th, 2013 02:53 pm (UTC)
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You are worth it. Being you is your gift to the people who love you.

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Lisa

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from: bunnygoth
date: Mar. 13th, 2013 02:20 am (UTC)
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Thank you dear. And ditto to you.

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(Deleted comment)

Lisa

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from: bunnygoth
date: Mar. 13th, 2013 02:21 am (UTC)
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Duly noted :) And thank you.

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nixtoatl

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from: nex0s
date: Mar. 7th, 2013 04:36 pm (UTC)
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I love the name Zuzu. I'm so happy you will be safe.

I beat myself up because I have been given so much in life, and feel like I don't give back enough. I try, but is it enough? Is it REALLY enough? And my depressed brain says "No", but my family says "Yes".

I wish I could be more of a comfort, but hopefully, knowing you are not alone with these thoughts, will help.

N.

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Lisa

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from: bunnygoth
date: Mar. 13th, 2013 02:22 am (UTC)
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Thank you n. I've been reading your posts and thinking of how they remind me of myself as well. I personally find your life amazing - but we're always hardest on ourselves. *hugs*

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Rikibeth

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from: rikibeth
date: Mar. 10th, 2013 08:33 pm (UTC)
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Not much to say (except enjoy the new car!) but wanted you to know I'm listening.

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Lisa

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from: bunnygoth
date: Mar. 13th, 2013 02:23 am (UTC)
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Thank you Riki :) Sometimes just knowing people are listening makes all the difference. Was glad to read you enjoyed your trip!

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Christine

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from: kisekileia
date: Mar. 12th, 2013 01:02 am (UTC)
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I read it all, and I can relate to the feelings of unworthiness. It's especially hard when I think of how my boyfriend has to go without things he likes, and is stressed about money, because he's supporting me.

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Lisa

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from: bunnygoth
date: Mar. 13th, 2013 02:24 am (UTC)
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Well, your boyfriend wouldn't be supporting you if he didn't think you were awesomesauce, which is what I'm trying to remember for myself. *hugs* and thanks for reading and commenting.

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