Into The Darkness

I would be lying if I said part of the purpose of this blog was not catharsis. I’ve always found that getting the emotions out of myself through inertia, words, and conversations was both helpful and necessary. For the sake of honesty, I began officially working on this blog a few weeks after I sunk into a depression. This is one of the worst depressions I’ve experienced since I was cognizant of what depression was. Definitely top five, if not top three. To write about it is to do everything in my power to try and make it better today.

Most days I wake up and hope it will be different from the next and this is when I’m not in a full-blown depression. I wake up, I look around me, and I get as close as I can to praying I won’t have a crisis. On bad days, I don’t walk around with hope it will feel different, but an inability to even leave the house. If I do venture out, I hope nobody says anything to set me off, because my triggers are both numerous and wide-reaching. Somebody once told me, “There is no safe topic with you except for the weather.” While that hurt immensely to hear somebody felt that about me, I can admit that on a bad day for me, there is some truth to his statement.

There are certainly specific subjects that trigger me more than others and the most common are related to women and treatment of women, especially in a sexual context. Most of my adult life has been cyclical. I dated one man who was emotionally abusive followed by a man who was wonderful. I dated another man who cheated on me much of our relationship followed by somebody I was considering moving with across the country. Each time, the initial relationship stuck in my psyche like an especially rich caramel in your teeth and partly lead to the demise of the healthy relationship. At this point, after dating somebody for seven months who lied by omission about the nature of his feelings for me and refused to commit to a relationship with me, I feel hopeless.

I feel like I walk through a fog and when I’m at home, which I barely leave right now, I feel as if I have a bug inside my brain poking at the neurons that code for motivation, preventing them from completing their synapses. I cannot bring myself to play guitar, to work on my to-do list, to put in effort with most of my friendships. When I do spend time with people, I feel it’s only a matter of time until they say something, a match to my emotional flame, which will send me into reactivity mode. I snap. I become angry and argumentative over comments that are simple expressions of somebody else’s feelings and opinions. Yet, somehow I cannot help but take it personally. Prime example: somebody describes to me how they went on a date with a woman, but just could not be attracted to her because her thighs were big. I immediately jump to, “Oh my gosh. They must think I’m hideous because my thighs are bigger.”  From this initial reaction, I jump to outrage over how women are treated as objects and from there I travel back in time to all of the moments where I felt like my worth was achieved through sex and many men were happy to oblige. Then comes the pain of revisiting past traumas.

It’s at moments like these I feel trapped inside my head. Why does it jump to the conclusion it’s somehow about me? I remember a colleague of mine once told me, “Depression is incredibly selfish.” This is another moment during my disease process that I cannot forget because it was when I was actively trying to go off of my medication and succeeding at it, and I remember feeling like I had failed somehow even though I was trying so hard to make the right decision and be healthy. I felt like I failed because I was attempting to go off of my medication knowing that my state of mind may be worse indefinitely, that I may wax and wane in my depression and anxiety the rest of my life. I made the choice to feel, even if it was to feel dejected, hopeless, lacking in self-esteem, and angry and it hurt to think that trying to be strong in light of my illness still made me selfish in somebody’s eyes.

I alternate between the desire to accept who I am because to deny is to eliminate the possibility of change, but striving to change and refusing to accept that this is how it will always be. This is a tough dichotomy for me to wrap my head around. Some days, I feel I will never change and many days of late, I cannot even imagine a different world for myself. I can only imagine myself lonely, afraid, distrustful, and paranoid. I ponder what I thought I always wanted, which was to be surrounded by friends, in a long-lasting, healthy relationship, living in a house I worked on myself, gardening on the weekends, able to lose the weight I would like to lose, and traveling as much as possible, yet I feel I move further from that ideal with every month I live in Charlotte. To be fair, an easy solution would be to go back on medication, but for me, that’s not an option. Today, I just wanted to wake up and feel that my happiness is not fleeting, to have some intuition I can achieve emotional stability. I certainly have moments where I feel the world makes sense, but I’m always in waking fear of falling off that cliff into the darkness once again and now that I’m in the darkness, I’m afraid I won’t be able to climb my way out.

Advertisements

How I Knew I Was A Bit Off

This is the trip down memory lane. While I have so much I want to write about, it seems only natural to start at the beginning, although, natural progressions often don’t apply with matters of the mind. For the sake of order, it’s worth noting the pieces of my childhood that told me I was different.

Lots of children struggle with sleeping on their own. I was certainly one of them, but it transcended normalcy. I would stand inside my closed bedroom door, barely breathing, listening, and mustering up the courage to act. I recall running across the dark hallway in the middle of the night  as if my speed would prevent the ghoulies from catching me, in order to sneak up to my parents’ bed and implore, “Can I sleep in your bed tonight?” I don’t know the exact frequency with which this occurred, but I remember it went on long after it probably should have.

Another memory I have of my childhood is that I was incredibly sensitive to sensations. I used to cut the tags out of all of my articles of clothing because, to me, the jagged edge of a clothing tag was to my skin as nails on a chalkboard are to the ears. In the same vein, I hated underwear. The extra layers of fabric were suffocating. I felt trapped in my outfit and the unsavory sensation became all I could think about.

A more direct link to my adult mental health issues occurred in spring when I was in fourth grade; there was a tornado warning and while we had been coached, year after year, to duck under our desks and cover our heads with a text book (typically math or science, the heaviest), the book and desk seemed insignificant and almost laughable solutions to a towering tunnel of wind and debris. I believe this is the first time I experienced panic-level anxiety. As my classmates stayed under their desks, I was send with a younger class to the interior of the building into a bathroom. I was the only one.

Following the tornado, my parents set me up with a child psychologist. This is the first instance where I doubted the abilities of so-called professionals. I remember this woman nearly berating me for experiencing high levels of anxiety and essentially telling me, “You need to just get over it.” I’ve come to love watching thunderstorms without fear of a tornado barreling into my residence, but I give no credit to her.

It was near the end of elementary school I started writing regularly and mostly in the form of poetry. I look back at some of the poems I wrote and am astonished at how much pain and sadness they convey, especially considering my age at the time I wrote them. It’s like I was born with a higher capacity and propensity for sadness than most people I know. I used poetry to cope with life experiences that did not make sense to me and mostly these experiences pertained to my interactions with people. A lot of my poetry conveys a sense of isolation, of otherness. I’ve always craved connection and felt as if I need it more than I need food and shelter, even, but it’s always been elusive, like shadows dancing across a cave wall.

It was near the end of high school when a girl I knew convinced my best friend, a boy, to stop talking to me for a week. The fact that somebody I had spent years running around in the woods with, sharing winter hats with, could be so easily convinced to cut me out of his life broke my heart. Soon after I entered middle school and moved from Michigan to Wisconsin. It was in middle school I began to isolate at times. I remember my Sunday ritual for much of 6th and 7th grade was to read fantasy novels literally all day until I became tired and usually fell asleep around 8:00 p.m. Fantasy novels were an escape from the confusion of the real world. I did not know how to deal with the changes that occur in middle school during which everybody is hyper-aware of who they are and who they want to be. There’s competition. There’s pressure to look right and act right. It was often too much for me and at a time when people are pressured to streamline their identities with everybody else, my eccentricities fought back inside my mind.

High school was a mixed bag. I had friends in most of the social groups, but because I did not belong to one group, there were often times when I was not invited to hangout. I was forgotten. Or maybe people did not want to invite me, I’m not sure. I remember freshman year of high school when my brother was a senior, my parents asked or made (I’m not sure what the conversation was) him bring me along to hangout with him and his friends. Conversely, I spent many weekends watching independent and foreign films. The themes of loneliness, unrequited love, self-exploration, otherness, and the nature of reality appealed to my mind, which I was now aware had well-oiled gears constantly running through thoughts and interpretations; I wanted to understand a world that confused me.

These are all events and situations that made me feel like an other, but since I was young, I always felt different in so many ways. I’m left-handed, I’ve never been stereotypically feminine (I was a tomboy growing up and had not worn a dress until 5th grade), I self-identify as bisexual, I philosophize extensively, I seek to understand the world at a depth I find the majority of the population resists, and speak candidly about subject matter many avoid.

Awareness, especially when it comes to the self, is a key part of my coping mechanisms. I often view the world in terms of dichotomies. While it’s important to remember the past since it is who you are, the struggle is to refrain from letting the painful parts define your current life and affect your ability to progress. That’s a concept I continue to work on. After this brief foray into my youth, I’ll leave the readers with a quote that exemplifies how depression feels to in recent times:

“Sometimes I can hear my bones straining under the weight of all the lives I’m not living.”-Jonathan Safran Foer

 

 

 

A Metaphor for Beginnings

After years of writing in the secrecy of my own “Documents” folder, I’ve decided I wanted to go public with some of what goes through my mind. There is a specific reason for this and I will certainly get to it in due time, but it’s worth explaining the key moments of my adult life that led me to this change.

A friend once told me, “Some day you will be a famous poet.”

Back in college, a Very Important Person once told me, “You should really write a book about your experiences.”

In high school, somebody told me, “I like your eyes. They tell me you’ve seen a lot.”

We are the sum of our experiences and while I firmly believe every single person experiences adversity, I believe each person can share unique knowledge with others through their understanding of their own adversity.

I understand my adversity through the lens of my mental health issues; I’ve had depression and anxiety since I can remember, which I realize is a cliche thing to say, but it’s the best point of reference I can come up with. I don’t remember ever feeling like the way my mind worked was normal, even from a young age. I always felt like I was looking at the world through a different window than my peers.

Depression and anxiety are insidious. They wax and wane. The ways in which they manifest change from year to year and with each facet you conquer. Without becoming Preachy McGee in my first entry, I’m going to note briefly that I believe one of the biggest downfalls of our modern healthcare system is the failure to provide adequate care for those with mental health issues. Beyond formal infrastructure, I believe our western understanding of the mind, how it relates to our experience in the world, and how we form relationships with others does all of us a serious disservice.

That being said, the point of blogging publicly about my own perspective and my thoughts about these issues is because I believe the only way for any of this to change is for those of us who are on a first-name basis with Mr. Depression and Ms. Anxiety (truly arbitrary gender assignments) is to speak up and advocate for each other and ourselves. Through our voices and words, hopefully we can inspire understanding and change.

Preemptively, I thank you for listening.

 

Caitlin