So, I’m Depressed. Now What?

I’ve been in denial about it for months, but it’s true. I’m struggling with a major depressive episode right now and have been for a while. I haven’t wanted to admit it because that means I have an actual PROBLEM instead of it just being a bad day or PMS or lack of sleep or stress. But when there are more bad days than good, the excuses run out and I’m left with the truth.

I’m depressed.

What does my depression look like?

Well, from the outside, I look fine. I’m the kind of person that puts all of my energy into maintaining the basic illusion of functioning. I shower everyday, I eat most of the time, I get dressed, I show up to work when I have a day job, I get my work done. And since I’m an introvert anyway, nobody notices that I’m socializing even less than usual and never leaving my house.

Meanwhile, the chemical imbalance in my brain is ripping me apart. I can’t focus. I can’t problem solve. Everything is overwhelming. I can’t do things as well as I did or I think I should be able to and I’m falling behind and I can’t catch up. More and more things get put off until tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow. I don’t have the energy to do anything because every last bit I have is going into maintaining the most basic level of functioning. I don’t have the brain space to write blogs. I barely have the ability to tweet. It takes me forever to accomplish a writing project that would normally take me no time at all. I’m miserable and I don’t see how to fix it and I kinda wanna be done now.

What’s truly frustrating is that the logical thing to do, the advice everyone gives you, is to ask for help. However, my brain has every single rational argument why I shouldn’t. Nobody cares. Nobody has time for your shit. They’ve got problems of their own. There’s worse things going on in the world. Your bullshit is insignificant in comparison. You had a good day last week, right? You’re fine. You’re not depressed. And even if you are, nobody is going to believe you. They’re going to think you’re faking. They’re going to think you’re just a lazy piece of shit. They’re going to roll their eyes and do a jerk-off motion behind your back because they KNOW you’re just doing this for attention, for sympathy, so you don’t have to work or be a responsible human.

So, why am I admitting it now?

It was the realization that there were more bad days than good and that the fallout from taking advantage of a good day (thinking I was totally fine now, everything back to normal) was so debilitating that it made me admit that my brain was not of the okay. But it still took me several days to say the words out loud to another human because, hey, who cares, right? I’m just being a drama queen, saying I’m depressed. It’s just an excuse for me to be lazy and worthless. What do I have to be depressed about? I’ve got any easy life since I’ve so successfully avoided being a real adult. I don’t even have a real job.

Man, if only my brain chemistry could relate.

It turns out that it was probably my bout of anemia that kicked this all off. One imbalance triggering another. The depression might have gotten better as the anemia was treated except that’s when I was in the middle of the disastrous day job that had me so stressed out that my hair was falling out and my anxiety was so bad I couldn’t sleep. That pretty much sealed my fate. Quitting might have helped my stress levels (though my hair is STILL growing back), but the damage was done to my mental health. I haven’t been back to that store since I turned in my keys because just driving by can give me an anxiety attack. Quitting just affirmed what my depression knew to be true: that I’m a loser who can’t even handle a little stress at a crappy day job.

And I’ve been simultaneously ignoring it and battling it since.

Why put this out in the public sphere?

I don’t know. Because I’m tired of pretending I’m okay. Because I’m tired of maintaining the facade of a functioning human. I’m struggling to function at this point. The idea of getting another day job right now is so overwhelming that it makes me want to panic. Hell, just leaving the house makes me sweat.

Because by saying it out loud, I’m admitting it’s real and by admitting it’s real, then I have to deal with it. Time to drag myself out of the pit. I know how to do it. I’ve done it before (though, thankfully, this time is not nearly as bad as it’s been). I just have to remind myself to be patient while I put myself through the paces. Depression doesn’t go away overnight, which is bullshit.

Because by saying it out loud -I’m depressed- I am showing people what depression can look like. I look perfectly fine right up until the minute that I’m not. And that’s a disastrous minute. It’s the minute that everyone refers to when they say, “We had no idea anything was wrong.” You don’t. Because I can still laugh and crack jokes and have a good time and function well enough to fool an audience. I can have good days. And I can still go to sleep and hope I don’t wake up. I can still wish to fade away so I don’t have deal with all of this anymore. I can still feel miserable and utterly hopeless.

Neat, huh?

So, please be patient with me while I right my ship because laws knows I will not be. Fixing this is always the worst because I have always struggled to be kind to myself. I never feel like I deserve it and the depression just amplifies that. Right now I’m coasting on the kindness of others and I’m going to be needing a lot more of that kind of help. It’s going to take me a little while to get back to what I consider normal, so.

Hang in there.

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Am I Numb or Zen?

peaceIf there’s anything funny about my dealings with depression (and there’s little really ha-ha funny about it), then it’s how paranoid it makes me when I’m feeling okay.

I wrote about how my holiday blues in 2015 started too early and ended up deepening into a nice depression that hung around until April like an in-law in a not-funny sitcom. Because of that experience, I was paranoid about that happening again this past holiday season.

We’re talking extremely vigilant.

How am I feeling? Am I sad? Do I hate everything? Am I operating on the frequency of do-not-want more often than not? Do I want to run away? Do I want to give up? Do I want throat punch people for a legitimate reason or just because?

This sort of interrogation happened on a nearly daily basis starting at the end of October. I thought that not dressing up and passing out candy to trick-or-treaters might be a sign that the holiday blues were settling in early once again. But upon reflection, I realized that I was just burned out and not feeling the spirit and therefore, I didn’t feel like forcing myself to do something my heart wasn’t in.

Okay. That’s cool. Very reasonable.

As the holiday season progressed, I kept waiting for the blues to hit, to come rumbling through, maybe dragging a semi-trailer of depression behind it.

Only I kept asking the questions and I kept responding that I was okay. No, really. I’m okay.

This okayness, in turn, jacked up the paranoia regarding my mental state.

Was I really okay? Or was everything in the world at the moment such shit that it fit my mood and it only felt okay? The latter might have been true to an extent. I didn’t even get a real dose of the holiday blues this past season.

So, here I am, a couple of months into the new year and I’m still feeling okay. Things that should be throwing me into a rage, the little things that I’ve become so used to pissing me off, aren’t having that effect on me. I feel okay. I am maintaining my okayness.

Maybe it’s the shift in thinking that occurred at some point late last year. Maybe it’s my 2017 motto, “Let it be”. Maybe it’s the nightly meditation I’ve been doing since late December, which includes chanting certain mantras designed to calm me and keep me optimistic.

Maybe I’m fucking zen.

Or maybe, as my paranoia has repeatedly suggested, I’m numb.

Maybe I’m existing in some sort of dulled stated that has rendered me non-reactionary to certain stimuli in my daily life. Maybe my depression, which I’m so used to operating in a certain way, has now taken on a new dimension, a dimension of numbness that resembles okayness and therefore tricks me into thinking I’m okay when I’m really depressed.

Boy, that mental health paranoia is a real dick sometimes.

But those mantras I’ve been chanting at night before I go to bed have influenced me to think positively about this. Instead of caving to the ravings of my paranoia (which has a long track record of being wrong), I’ve chosen to view this period of mental calm as something to be embraced. It’s almost like I’ve achieved a kind of clarity here. I’m not numb; I’m just not at the mercy of my emotions and my hellscape brain. For now.

I am okay.

I am zen.

For the Sake of My Sanity

mirroredYesterday was Bell Let’s Talk Day on social media. It happens once a year to raise money for mental health and end the stigma around mental illness. Naturally, I participate on Twitter by using the hashtag. As someone who deals with depression and anxiety, mental health is something I think about probably more than people who don’t suffer from any sort of mental affliction.

I say that I deal rather than struggle because honestly, I deal more than I struggle. Last winter was a struggle with my depression. This winter I’ve been dealing with my depression. I deal with my anxiety far more than I struggle with it. I deal without any sort of meds because that’s my choice. I’m sort of lucky that I have the option to deal without meds because I know that some people don’t have that choice. Meds are necessary for them.

I was first officially diagnosed with depression when I was 20, but there’s no doubt that I’d been suffering from it for several years by then. And here I say suffering because I was truly suffering. I had no concept of how to deal with what I was going through because I had no real grasp that there was anything wrong with me. I thought I was just a shitty, defective human.

Since then, I’ve learned how to deal. It’s been a slow process because I do everything the hard way and I’m a stubborn person. I’ve also had to overcome the fact that I’m prone to self-destruction and a lot of the way I internalize the outer world has led to forming ideals that are harmful. It’s only recently that I began to accept the concept of self-care as something that I deserve.

It seems that in the last year or so I’ve taken a giant step in owning the shit that hinders my mental health. I’ve come into so many situations lately, situations that I would normally subject myself to because reasons and be totally miserable, and instead of doing the normal, I asked myself, “Why the hell am I doing this? It does nothing for me.” And then I’ve excused myself from the situation.

For example, I avoided Facebook for like a month. It was doing nothing for me. My friend’s page looked like a Klan meeting happening at a tent revival while a cryptic Days of Our Lives episode played and the English language was repeatedly mauled. Of course, it wasn’t all bad. There were some good things, some funny things, some accurately spelled things. But I had to wade through such shit to get to them. I was checking Facebook multiple times a day because I didn’t want to miss anything, didn’t want anyone to feel slighted if I didn’t like the sixth profile picture in a week or that album of baby pictures or that status about how their life was so great or whatever. It was a chore to scroll my feed. No, it was a stone drag to scroll my feed.

And one morning I asked myself, “Why are you doing this? What are you getting out of this?”

The answer was that I wasn’t getting much more than aggravation out of it.

So, I didn’t check Facebook that day. Or the next. Or the next. Nor did I play the games on Facebook that I felt a duty to play every day because reasons.

As a result, I had more time. When I wasn’t playing the games or refreshing my feed every thirty minutes, I suddenly had this abundance of time that I never felt like I had before. It was much easier for me to focus on my work when I wasn’t suffering from eye strain from rolling my eyes so much and I wasn’t half-pissed from repeated exposure to the ignorance and hatefulness and inability to work a fucking homonym. My overall mood and peace of mind improved.

I felt better.

Now, I check Facebook once, maybe twice a day. I scroll for a bit, like a few things, play one of my games, maybe wish somebody happy birthday, and then I’m done. Sorry if I miss your stuff, but I’m better off if I don’t hang around too long. I’m sure you understand.

Except I know there are people who don’t, friends and family members who’d gladly tell me what a fucking wuss I am and I need to suck it up and deal with it.

Good news! I am dealing with it. Been dealing with it for years. I’ll be dealing with it for the rest of my life, thanks. I’d apologize for not dealing with it to your satisfaction, but I’m not sorry. You can fuck off.

My mind is a fucking hellscape most of the time. It’s loud and messy and some days it doesn’t work worth a shit and other days it works overtime. This is my normal. For me, being comfortable in my own head is my sanity.

My mental health has, rightly, become one of my top priorities.

If that makes you uncomfortable, perhaps you should check in on your own.

And So It Lingers

mirroredDepression is a fact in my existence. It comes and goes. Sometimes it has a trigger, sometimes it doesn’t. I had a very serious bout of it in my late teens/early twenties. I do not take medication for it. I manage it through lifestyle and I can go very long periods of time without any issues.

Another fact of my existence is that I get a touch of the blues around the Christmas holidays. I dread the period of time between Thanksgiving and my birthday because it’s hectic, it’s stressful, it’s demanding, and it harshes my mellow. Take the family obligations, add a day job in retail, and lingering aches from other holidays in different retail jobs and the stress is enough to trigger some blues. I don’t like to call it outright depression, but I’m definitely down during those couple of months.

As I mentioned in this post, for whatever reason, my holiday blues were worse this past Christmas season. I’m still not sure exactly why. However, the rule of thumb is that around my birthday, I’m typically feeling better. I love my birthday and all the entitlement that it brings too much to feel blue. And I felt better on my birthday. Not tip top since the blues had been so intense, but I was definitely feeling better.

And then I started feeling worse.

And then better.

And then worse.

And now I’m back to better.

And it’s really fucking annoying. Because, if I’m going to be honest, it’s not just the blues anymore. It’s more than that. It’s depression.

There are days when I’m unspeakably sad for no reason. There are bad brain days when there are no good thoughts to be found in my head. There are days when every smile I attempt looks more like a grimace.

I hate those days. Not just because they’re bad days, but because they’re days I’d forgotten. They remind me of the time I broke my brain, when the depression was so bad I began having symptoms of psychosis. I don’t like to be reminded of such things. It takes me to bad places. And the bad places are not where I want to go, kids. I do not like to entertain the bad thoughts that swirl through my head like a tornado.

Some days I don’t have a choice. It’s a tornado! If a tornado is going to hit your house, there’s nothing you can do about it. You hunker down and hope for the best. And that’s kind of what I do. I do what I need to do to get through the bad days, reminding myself that it’s just a day. Give it a day. Do my chanting, do my journaling, do my exercises and my meditating, stick to my routine, and the storm will pass.

Thankfully, there hasn’t been much in the way of damage.

Right now, I’m seeing blue skies for the most part, and I’m working hard to keep it that way. I know that there are some outside triggers that have been exacerbating my issues and I know there’s not much I can do about most of them. But I’m doing what I can do and eventually, this will all just be another incident in my depression history.

That’s the way I want to think about my depression.

Not as weather.

But history.

Venting Explosions Safely

Gas emissie uit de slapende vulkaan op de Fleg...

When I had a bout of major depression about 10 years ago, the therapist explained to me a line that I heard on an episode of M*A*S*H, but didn’t give much thought to. Depression is anger turned inward. And I was really good at holding all of my anger, stress, and frustration inside. The key to my recovery (if I didn’t want to go on medication and I didn’t), was to vent my anger, stress, and frustration in a safe, constructive way.

It was long after this, my mother gave me a journal for the now defunct Aunt Kiki Day. That journal became my outlet and it kept my anger, frustration, and stress from building up inside and poisoning me. It was a life saver really and it’s still my go-to way of relieving that kind of tension.

But there are times when I want to vent to an actual person. Like screaming into the void, sometimes I’d rather hear the words of my frustrations rather than just see them written down. Sometimes I’d rather let people know where I’m at and what my deal is.

Sometimes I would like a little support, even if it’s just someone listening.

The problem with this is that I don’t always have someone to vent to. The people in my life don’t always have time for such bullshit. They don’t care, don’t want to listen, and I don’t blame them. They have productive lives of their own. Why take time out to listen to me?

Not to mention that it’s such an established trope that I’m self-sustaining and I don’t NEED any support (that’s a post for a different day) that they don’t really think about me needing that sort of outlet. I’m the one THEY got to when THEY need to vent.

I used to vent on the Internet. Shouting into the void. The problem with that is now with social networking it’s getting harder and harder to vent without the people I’m venting about reading it and then getting offended.

Why not talk to them directly? In a perfect world, that sort of open communication would be nice. However, the reality is that people get offended by that sort of thing. I know from experience. I get pissed at people and the shit they do. I get annoyed with people and the shit they do. I’ve talked to people about the shit they do. And the reality is…nothing changes. In the end, it’s my fault for getting pissed or getting annoyed, they don’t change a damn thing, and the whole argument isn’t productive.

Venting is what I do because I can’t change them. And sometimes (getting more frequent), I can’t vent the way I want to so I can avoid opening a whole can of worms.

Which just adds to my frustration.

It’s a vicious cycle, one that I’m having a tough time escaping, partially because it’s one that’s partially of my own creation. And making the changes I need to make on my end doesn’t completely stop it.

It’s a bitch for sure.

It’s time for me to be a bigger one if things are going to change.