When you’re battling and surviving but not living

Back in knee deep depression- isolating myself, feeling hopeless and numbed out, dissociating. I feel like I’m sitting in the backseat and someone whom I trust is a reliable replica of me takes charge. She’s doing well, playing the part. I’m trying (she’s trying), still- going to classes, finishing chores, eating what I’m supposed to eat. But there is this strong feeling that the world will still be fine without me. The recurring memories of pain seem pointless but ceaseless. Remembering days of hypomania, I feel so much lower in comparison, as always. At this point, reading about other success stories of recovery that I got so much strength from a week ago doesn’t help me because they don’t have exactly what I have and we’re different people in different environments. No hope. But wait, didn’t I say that there is always hope? Nope, no hope. I wonder if it will be worth it. No, I already know the answer, but I’m feeling too bitter, resentful and hopeless to change that. I’ve just been fighting for so long, in the dark, and my tiredness is tired. Trying hard to not listen to the thought that “I’d accomplish more dead than living the rest of my life.” Trying hard to not trust thoughts and feelings because they almost always lie. Feeling barely alive. My dad says my skin looks great, over the video call from the other side of the world where it is daytime, and not night. Oh, how brutal invisibleness of invisible illness can be.

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I have a problem with anger

You might be conjuring up a Christian Bale video where he flies off the handle during a shoot, but no- I have the opposite issue, according to my therapist, C.

I can’t express anger- expressing anger makes me uncomfortable, and I avoid expressing anger at all costs. I also don’t really talk about my feelings until the tank is overflowing. Today we talked about why this might be- being a good therapist, C kept digger for more, then of course, we got to the bottom of my childhood issues. The root of the issue was, that I got put down by for being an “overly” sensitive person a lot of times. Not that I could help it. I feel more than the average person, and I notice more, naturally. To others, I was always analyzing too much, and seeing things in interactions that one might not have even given a second of thought. The invalidation came mostly from my mother. Bless her heart, she wasn’t trying to make me feel worse- in fact, she was trying to make me feel normal, when in reality it was doing the opposite. Most of our conversations would go like this. Me: Mom, I feel xyz about this, Mom: Amy, that’s totally normal, everyone feels that way; you just have to be better at ignoring this/not take it personally etc. This wishy washy, generalized response from her always made me feel weak and felt like I had an inappropriate response to something that shouldn’t have even bothered me in the first place. It would have been much better to have received acknowledgement or better yet, validation for the feelings that came up. Since I didn’t get that, said C, was why I couldn’t express some of these scarier emotions in a healthy way. This also possibly explains why I dissociate-  I “learned” at an early age that feeling, especially feeling too much, was bad.

Another was what I witnessed during the time my (now separated) parents lived together under the same roof, when I was very young. All I remember are these nights when they just screamed at each other and threw things. I don’t recall this, but apparently my mother and I(as a baby) fled to her friend’s house because things got so bad. Usually during these nights (which was most of the nights) I went into my room and shut the door but was too scared to plug my ears in case something happened to my mother. That’s one of the first things I learned about anger. Anger is bad. Anger is scary. Must avoid anger and confrontation.

What my mind ended up doing to cope with these values, was to get rid of preferences. A simple example is, choosing a meal. A pizza or a burger? My response- don’t care, everything is fine, I don’t dislike or like anything when it comes to food. If I really dug deeper, I probably do have a preference (it’s pizza, by the way), but since the difference is minimal, I don’t pay attention to that voice. No arguing about which food is better, no confrontation, no anger. Another crisis averted.

I still have an automatic response to situations involving anger and confrontation: fear. When I sense fear, I run out of there as fast as I possibly can. It definitely hasn’t served me well, because I can link this back to the reason for one of my more recent relationships ending (“we never fight,” said he.)

So now, I have been given the assignment of expressing my feelings outwardly (writing blogs and journaling doesn’t count. It has to be directly at someone, face-to-face). It already makes me cringe!

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.

Depression paradox

I’m not supposed to trust my depressive thoughts and feelings, especially the ones that start with an ‘s,’ that says death is freedom from all this. I’m not supposed to trust my manic thoughts and feelings either, especially the ones that tell me that I can change the world in a fortnight, that I am special and gifted, like a chosen one. I’m told I should listen to my feelings more, and let that guide me- but I can see that two out of the three instances, that would lead to disastrous results. This of course, isn’t the first time I’ve felt this way- confusion about my judgement. It happens every single time when I’m in a depressive episode. All this leaves me without confidence in my thoughts and my direction, like walking across a bridge over a pool of alligators, blind folded with ear muffs on. It is without a doubt a very scary thing to be doing for days, weeks and months. There is very little intuition left in me- and the ones that are left get doubted to be depressive or manic ones that don’t reflect my values. Wait, which values? My values change just like the weather.

I get too tired from thinking this circular, fruitless, thought, so I escape, I exit- more mindless distraction.

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.

Enough

It took me a long time, but I think I might know now.

(Though, knowing isn’t the same as doing.)

Before, I didn’t feel enough for this world. But the truth was, the world just wasn’t enough to take me in.

Me, with the jagged edges. Me, who couldn’t fit into a cookie cutter shape.

I lived merely to fit into something instead of:

Creating, finding joy, appreciating, feeling good about how things were when they were, being happy, going with my gut, taking risks…

Living.

My blank canvas. So many things I could have painted instead of painting over my flaws.

Anxiety from my day off

Today was spent dealing with the anxiety and fatigue I inherited from the day before. It was from a short shopping trip in SoHo, Something that had to be done at some point. My wardrobe was lacking, since I only had clothes I wore to work like button ups, and nothing that I could casually wear to art class or the museum to. I don’t know why that distinction is so clear for me, but I felt unnatural wearing my work clothes to other places, even though it was pretty casual dress code, where I used to work. Here I should mention that I absolutely hate shopping- more so now because I am easily overwhelmed by crowds and loud music. Clothing stores usually have both. I made a note of bringing headphones for the next time. SoHo is another problem area for me: I have this irrational fear of running into people I know from before, because I know that a quite a lot of them live in the city. I’m afraid that I’ll see them, and not really know how to explain my situation. (Note to self: make a cope ahead plan for meeting friends from pre-mentally ill period.)

Dealing with my cumulative anxiety from the last few days usually means I stay in and don’t do anything that is potentially triggering. No music with lyrics, lots of tea, cat cuddles, knitting/crocheting, painting, taking care of my indoor garden, and feeling bad about being a lazy piece of sh*#.

I don’t really think that taking time for myself is bad. But I believe and feel it in my heart that it is. This is one of my OCPD tendencies of over scheduling my time. I’ve mentioned this before, but when I don’t have things lined up, and I’m spontaneously spending my time doing my hobbies, the panic creeps in. Is there something I should be doing? This habit goes back to my early childhood days when I carried a planner for all the after school activities I had to do because there were so damn many of them. There was never a free time for me to just play (I even had an art tutor to help me with my paining), and nothing was ever just for fun- it was always towards some goal in the distant future, or I wouldn’t be spending time over it. Even after I moved away from my parents, That panicky feeling persisted throughout college, then post-college. That critical voice, I know now was that of my helicopter parents,- who at the time, didn’t know this was going to be detrimental for me in the long run- persisted to this day, and I haven’t been able to completely heal from it.

I don’t want to be this way anymore. I want these critical voices to stop telling me to work 24/7. These tendencies of overworking myself ironically destroyed everything that I have worked for. Still, I feel extremely guilty for taking the day off. It’s an inappropriate feeling, but it’s like mildew that has lived deep inside me that I just can’t scrap away easily. Old habits die hard.