Let go of those who are already gone

Let go of those who are already gone. Because-

Loneliness is felt most deeply in absence.

From a depression, or a marking of what used to be.

Comparison of one state to another from another time and space.

What can be more cruel?

Berating oneself for not being the best version of oneself during the worst possible moment.

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What eyes can tell

I’m scared to look into people’s eyes sometimes for what I might discover. I mean really look inside. Sometimes I see nothing, but if I linger too long, I can sense this chilliness, loneliness and misery that is deep inside them. I get sucked in, and it takes me a while to pull myself back. The first time it happened was after my first hospitalization, when I briefly returned to work to hand in my resignation letter. She was one of my coworkers, and had these jet black, sparkling Eastern European eyes. I was talking to her very briefly, and more I listened, I saw what was behind those big eyes- helplessness, desperation and anguish. No amount of smiling could erase this fact. We were only talking about work, but that energy was so strong, I couldn’t help but get sucked in. I obviously cannot know what she was really feeling internally, and why, but being an overly sensitive person, I just picked that up.

This is one of my intrusive thoughts- I have an encyclopedia of them, of course. What I saw that day, during such a brief encounter, still gives me the chills. It’s nothing concrete, but just this feeling of profound sadness. I felt something similar today while I spoke to my model for my figure drawing class. She was very bouncy, happy, and energetic (“hyper” was how she described it)- looked almost manic with her eyes darting at one thing to another, while she chatted with all the students in the room before posing about the dress she prepared for the class (a period piece that someone gifted, that made her feel like Jane Avril) there was a sense of hidden sorrow, behind all the pomp and chatter. It could be from how she acted, her every word seemed planned, and every gesture from something out of a silver screen many decades ago- all the same while looking so anxious. While she modeled, she seemed to bite her lips (which made drawing them difficult) constantly, while she frowned and fretted quite a bit. She tried to shake off the thoughts time to time, but the thoughts just returned (from the look in her eyes), and she was fidgeting again. I would not have had such an in depth look at someone, but I couldn’t help it, as I was drawing her.

Needless to say, my energy was drained by the end of the session, trying to draw this person as an empath. All this could be a projection, but some of it might not be. Who knows.

Wounded inner child

People with Complex PTSD, or those with experience with “mini traumas” don’t often validate the cause of their suffering. It’s easy to dismiss because looking at it chronologically, day by day, nothing really happens, but cumulatively, it’s like little water droplets that crack open a rock over time. A little bit of yelling here, snide remark there, bit of physical violence, bullying, confrontation here and there- this breaks a child’s spirit over time. It also affects her self esteem, confidence, ability to play and enjoy life, interaction with people without anxiety, to name a few.

I used to be one of them. I denied that I was ill from what happened as a child within my family unit. It was seemingly uneventful, my childhood. Not one single event was extremely significant. But overtime, the little things shaped me. It shaped me to be afraid, to be cautious, and not trusting. And because I am so close to my parents now and am dependent on them, I didn’t want to see them as one of the reasons why I’m sick. Even after they have owned and apologized for their behavior (not that their intentions were malicious, and their apologies uncalled for), I didn’t want to connect what happened to me as a child to how I am now as an adult.

Today in therapy, we were exploring this concept of “inner child” that is often spoken about in psychology. I actually laughed out loud when my therapist, C told me to literally “speak to my inner child” when I was alone. So far everything she recommended I do has worked, so I wasn’t going to question it until I’ve tried it at least a few times. I was confused about what kinds of things to say to her (my inner child)- I supposed nice things. C said I was to tell her that she was enough, and she deserve a relaxing break, that she can trust herself and so on. C said this was a way of retraining my mind, becoming nurturing and self compassionate.

The problem is, I kind of suck at being self compassionate. If I took a class on it, I would get an F even if I studied. I did a lot of mindfulness activities in various forms, like meditation, DBT modules etc. but for some reason it felt disingenuous. I don’t mean the concept of mindfulness itself, but just how I personally feel when doing those activities. I feel like I’m being a phony and wasting my time. I also fear that I will get thoroughly lazy if I get too good at it. C says that this stuff will naturally take a while to feel comfortable doing, because I didn’t grow up this way- the little I remember of my childhood, I remember spending hours and hours with tutors and being extremely busy doing something productive every second. I existed to fulfill a purpose, and not be a person- no one treated me any differently either, no relatives or any other adult in my life. Of course relaxing feels uncomfortable!

My next project is to sit still without doing anything (not even meditation) for half an hour and not give into the urge to do something productive, including analyzing my thoughts. This also has to be completely spontaneous.

Workaholism and Anxiety

Workaholics- society reveres them, in the cost of their health. I’ve seen it happen, in my family, in friends, and coworkers, and it’s a lose lose situation for all parties involved in the long run. The tricky part is, once you get sucked into the gratification system, it’s addicting, and when it gets bad, you lose sight of what you were going after in the first place, and work consumes you. Work starts to work you, not the other way around. Your identity becomes work, work becomes your identity and you depend on work as much as your identity. But it’s a fragile thing, what kind of identity work provides- status, recognition, money; when things are good, it feels like you can control all the aspects and the consequences, but when it’s not, you realize you have very little say in it. And fragile identities are not healthy. I’ve worn a few in my life (identities, that is) as we all probably have, and I know which ones will last me a cold winter, and which will help me catch a cold.

Now, what does anxiety have to do with workaholism? Anxiety is the driving force that gets the wheels moving, and in time, with good practice, it becomes second nature- a compulsion, if you will. Anxiety fuels the compulsion to check your work email in the middle of the night, helps you to dream about your projects in your sleep, stops you from being able to stay still in your free moment, makes you to ignore fatigue by drinking loads of coffee… Anxiety fuels it all.

The reason why I’m writing about all this in a blog post is, I feel like my workaholism is catching up to me in my supposedly innocent hobbies like this one, and my art. I’ve been feeling really good (read: probably hypomanic) lately, and while that’s a fantastic thing, but because of my mobility (read: being able to get out of bed), I’m having a hard time stopping myself from overworking- over-writing, over-drawing, signing up for too many things, planning too many opens houses, devising possible opportunity to go back to school in too many fields than I can count, and making too many goals in the goals box in my bullet planner. That’s another thing, mania or hypomania also fuels workaholism.

With all that said, how do we stop this epidemic? We stop, notice the compulsive behavior, and assess. Ask what your body is telling you, and listen to your mind. Do something about the negative anxiety, workaholic cycle- bravely cut back your workload (in my case, hobbyload, ha), and as hard as it is, force yourself to take a break. Turn off your phone, and computer and breathe. Stay still. Your work will still be there after a ten minute break.

Gratitude

Watercolor of my cat, Olivia

Thankful that I didn’t have an episode today when I almost could have at the store. Thankful that I have a roof over my head and food in the fridge. Thankful that I laughed more than once today at something stupid. Thankful that I have family that understands and supports. Thankful that there are people who can differentiate me from the illness. Thankful for modern medicine and drugs. Thankful for my curious and silly cat. Thankful for being healthy enough to be able to help others. Thankful for being able to hope. Thankful for today, despite what yesterday was and tomorrow might be.

Depression poems #40

I’m walking on a thin silver rope

Of consciousness

One misstep away from a huge mistake

I don’t know why I’m on this rope

Or when it began

Or when it will end

I’m shaky at times

When the wind blows.

Managing chronic dissociation

I’ve been gone for a while, in a few different ways. I came off of social media and my blog for a while because of my anxiety and the negative self-talk that comes with depression. I been also feeling like I wasn’t in my body. When it got bad, the thoughts went to wanting to not exist, whatever that took. I’m not sure if “fantasized” is the correct word here, but I would imagine day after day hoping the pain would go away, and how it could go away, how it could just all end. The awful thoughts that hurt me somehow kept persevering- “you’re not worth it,” “you don’t belong anywhere,” “you’re useless,” “you have not future” etc. Mindfulness exercises were not enough to overcome the noise in my head, and distraction was the only way to keep myself safe. I finally came off of the Ativan I was taking it at night for sleep and anxiety, and the anxiety came back like it was always within me. It made me shiver and shake when I was in bed from the physical sensation of anxiety- I couldn’t trace back to what I was anxious about. It was like ants crawling over my body from toe to head on my back.

Through it all, I dissociated. Well, I’m actually dissociating now as I write. I’ve dissociated for a straight month. I should point out, I don’t have Dissociative Identity Disorder or Borderline Personality Disorder, for which dissociation is a common symptom. No one has figured out exactly why I dissociate. My therapist thinks it’s because of the trauma of becoming diagnosed with bipolar and the aftermath of getting used to the condition. My doctors thinks it was the Ativan I was taking or the level of Lithium I was on. My mother thought it was from the big move. It could be because of many things. Whatever the reason was, I kept dissociating.

Being asleep makes the reality more “real” because you’re actually supposed to feel a bit foggy and dream-like while you’re asleep. So it’s not strange to say that reality is more authentic in one’s dreams for someone who dissociates. When I’m awake, everything is so dull, colorless, not reactive. People passing by seem fake, like puppets placed in the fake world you’re supposed to interact in. You don’t feel like you’re in your own body or that you have any agency. You constantly feel confused by where you are and who you are. You feel invisible because you think you’re actually watching a movie instead of what is happening as a reality. Sounds uncomfortable? You bet. This is your whole day, from when you open your eyes, until you fall asleep. There are some things that I’ve done to cope with feeling dissociated all the time. I can’t say they cured it, but it helps with managing it.

  • Fake it: Emotions will not be automatic in this numb and dull state. So when you are prompted to show an emotional response to others, give them what they want. This will be easier than trying to explain what you’re feeling (like the above). Read their facial cues for clues and reiterate what they said, even if you don’t actually have an emotional response. Laugh when jokes are made, empathize when necessary. Be careful to not get worn out, because it takes energy to do this. Take breaks when needed.
  • Get exercise: This might be difficult when the anxiety is high, so in that case, it’s best to do it in a secluded place by yourself. I tried to walk in the park but I would jump every time a stranger passed by. Go wherever you feel safe. It could be a gym machine, or in my case, I walked up and down the emergency stairway in my building multiple times because it was usually empty. All in all, endorphins always help at least just a little bit.
  • Help someone else: This is another distraction skill coupled with opposite action. Focus on someone else’s problem’s for awhile to make yours disappear temporarily. Take care of a pet, do the chores for another family member, volunteer.
  • Get busy: Take up a hobby to keep your mind off of yourself and your situation. I picked up embroidery to feel productive.
  • Pretend that you’re playing a video game from the first person perspective: Accept that the dissociation will be there. Accept that your reality is “fake”. Tell yourself you’re playing “you” in a video game- pretend to play a role of “yourself” when you weren’t dissociating. Ask close friends and family to check if you sound like yourself. So far, it seems like even if you don’t “feel like yourself,” or if you’re having an out of body experience, everyone else won’t notice that you’re dissociating.

That’s all I’ve got. Hope everyone had a good weekend.