Changes

Quick life update, folks. Tomorrow is actually kind of exciting because I'm starting volunteering with a local arts group doing murals. It's been months since I felt confident that it might actually be okay to put myself out there. In the real world. There is obviously a chance that a depressive episode will hit out of nowhere, but I'm pretty fucking tired of being docile to it, so what the hell.

I got my meds changed today, again. The lithium is good where it was, Ativan is PRN, but the Prozac is going up to 40 from 20mg because I'm clearly still depressed. Or as my psych puts it, I still have "residual depressive symptoms." She also did remind me that I'm on three psychiatric meds and she's not a pill pusher. So no more new meds, which I appreciate.

Rebuilding yourself is difficult. Forming new habits is the hardest part. Today I realized that I don't like the pop music I used to listen to, which was surprising. It's like my brain flipped a switch. It's not that I dislike the stuff I used to listen to, it's just that I don't really feel anything in my heart when I listen to it. For now I'm going back to classical (I was a classically trained violinist) because I can actually feel something when I listen to it.

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All the shades of depression

In the middle of a depressive episode, nothing you do looks good enough to yourself. Today I’m at the worst of it. Smack down in the middle of the depression/hypomanic cycle, in the depression part. All the things I enjoy on a “good day,” drawing, painting, writing on this blog even… It all becomes so draining, rather than fulfilling.  l used to make art every single day for a few months, mostly of drawings of animals, but now that has gotten harder to start (again, like the last episode). I used to feel so good about making art. I used to blog a lot more frequently, but I haven’t recently since I entered this phase. It’s the feeling of running dry- I’m not quite sure of what. Will to live? Motivation? Willingness? Creativity? Thoughts of death came back to my brain once again, but not the plans. That’s important. Not having plans. Death that is not personal, but general and removed.

I’m in this hamster wheel of recovery that I can’t get out of. I’m trying, I really am. I’m trying everything to sleep right, eat right, do the right things and think the right things. I’m using skills I learned from group. I’m in therapy every single day, Monday through Friday- both individual and group. I don’t miss my meds, ever. I’m going to start volunteering this week, and the week after that, and I’m going to step down from my day hospital soon, which everyone calls “the bubble” because it’s safe and secure from the big and cruel world. But the truth is, my meds are still not working for me during times like these. It isn’t not helping, but it’s not helping enough for me to be functioning normally. Because I’m trying to be more compassionate, so on behalf of myself I will say this: this isn’t laziness. When I’m feeling catatonic, making me to go for a walk in the park is like asking a pig to fly.

Someone in my group suggested this, though: I have to find something pleasurable at whatever level of depression I’m in. On an easier day, I can shoot for finishing a painting. But on a more difficult day, that won’t be possible- especially as a perfectionist- I’ll dread starting the paining because I will feel like a failure if I don’t finish, or paint as well as I would if I were feeling better. So instead, I’ll have to shoot for something easier when the depression gets bad. There are easier things I could do like, color part of a coloring book, instead of doing something that requires more work, more creativity. Read a book. Watch a movie. Crochet. I just have to keep myself moving.

My family and friends (who are still with me, I lost so many during the recovery process) are so encouraging and hopeful when I don’t see the hope. I feel like I’m like a professional patient and a lost cause (listen, it’s month 6 that I’ll be in some kind of a mental health facility), but my mother tells me that I’m going to have my life again soon, and that I will be able to have a normal job and friends, relationship etc… I would be so grateful if any one of those things became real at this point.

It’s been too many months to remember what I used to be, or what I aspired to be, but maybe that is for the better.

 

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How I accept my life (situation)

I’m not really about cults, or organized religion. One of my parents had a lot of traumas based around religion growing up, so my family always lived in a religion-free environment. We had our morals and values and believed in doing good deeds, but because of how I was raised, and some of my distasteful (somewhat traumatic) experiences with the people outside of my family who were trying to proselytize me, I never had a chance to become a spiritual person, unfortunately. In retrospect, I think I would have been a much more peaceful person. Instead, I read a ton of self help books.

But as they say, it’s never too late.

It’s taken me some time to process the writings of Eckhart Tolle, the spiritual guide. He wrote The Power of Now almost two decades ago, and more recently, New Earth. His work falls under therapeutic category of Acceptance and Commitment therapy, and uses mindfulness throughout the book as a grounding mechanism to ward off the unnecessary “egoic” thoughts away. His theory is that as a compulsively thinking society, we’ve become split selves – one based on our mind (egoic-self) which is constantly running, separate from our Self (our true inner self), and that’s problematic. His theory is that once we stop feeding the thought-based self, and start focusing on our real Self through what he calls the portal of Now (aka. mindfulness), then there will be more joy in our lives.

I’m not sure why I was so drawn to his work- for one thing, he is a depression survivor. Another is the fact that he draws wisdom from not just one religion, but most of the predominant world religions, namely Christianity, Hinduism, Judaism and Buddhism, and finds things he sees in common in all of them. This helped me put my guard down a little bit as a skeptic.

All this backstory is to bring up one thing: how it’s helping me. It’s helping me to accept that I’m in a tough place (says my therapist). It’s helped me to see how my over-thinking (negative, not very self-compassionate, and destructive thinking) is sabotaging living, because living doesn’t happen once I get to a better place; once I get the job/promotion; or once I move to a better house; once I have more friends; once I make it. But life is happening right now. And it will always happen right now, not in the future or the past. And more importantly, what is happening in my life isn’t my real Self, or my self worth. Same with what I achieve. My inner real self is timeless, and not defined by a label like a job, or a role. What is happening isn’t my “life”, it’s my “life situation,” which is temporary.

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