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.

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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.

One year later

I’m still alive and kicking.

Everyone heals differently- it takes some months and some years. The severity of the wound is also varied, however similar the cause may be, it’s complicated. It has been a year since my first symptom of manic depression occurred. It was mostly depression at this point. (7 more months and 5 more psychiatrists it would take for me to receive the correct diagnosis.) It was during the winter over the holidays when I was at my dad’s place on the other side of the world, heavily jet lagged. I haven’t slept for days, and my mood was fiercely dropping. We were out for dinner, just the two of us, for Chinese food. Out of nowhere, an immense grief came over and soon enough, tears were streaming down my face and fell into my food. My dad was obviously bewildered by my sudden change in mood. I was confused because I’m not a public crier. Unknowingly, my mom, who knows me better, later told him that I get sad like this sometimes, and it’s not a huge issue. But he still insisted that I see a psychiatrist. I didn’t- not right away. Not until I went to the ER for the first time after my failed attempt at ending the sadness, a month later.

Since then, everything changed. I mean really everything about me, inside and out. The people in my life, relationships, my career trajectory, my physical location, priorities, values, how I spend my time, how I think… I can’t think of a part of my life and my family’s life that hasn’t been touched by my recovery on my path to healing. For a year, my life centered around hospitalizations, psychiatrist visits and therapist sessions. Every month I counted- I felt like I was running out of my allotted time to be sick. Look it’s 6 months already, shouldn’t I be applying for jobs or grad school by now? Shouldn’t I be a real person again by now? Recovery is the opposite of linear- It’s been a year, and honestly, I’m not anywhere near where I thought I’d be in my recovery. But I know now that that’s because I needed this time. I have not been lazy, or uncooperative- rather the opposite. I’ve worked hard to stay alive and to try everything I could including medication and huge lifestyle changes. I’ve given my 100%, and while I’m not where I thought I would be, I feel okay about where I am.

Depression poems #42

To the friends I lost, after turning…

It’s been months since we last spoke, and I miss you.

But I can’t see us together.

I don’t know what to say to you,

And don’t know how to respond to what you tell me.

What sort of a sick Tower have we built?

Me then, and you then- we couldn’t have been happier.

But me now, and you then- pure discordance.

On different planes, in different dimensions,

We no longer can see eye to eye, or each other.

No, you, have lost sight of me-

In the thick of the illness,

And I got lost to you.

I got lost.

I’m still lost.

 

 

 

 

 

Night

A very small part of recovery from mental illness is getting used to the new normal of having certain symptoms, having to take medications, avoiding certain foods or beverages, and managing the side effects from your new medication.

That is already a lot, but there is much more. Internally, we have to heal- from past traumas, while dealing with current ones. We have to unlearn our harmful way of thinking- we have to change who we are fundamentally. Externally, we have to re-evaluate those who can remain in our circle. There is often less energy to go around to socialize, and because of the stigma, a lot of “friends” may disappear. We have to change the amount we can contribute at work, and in society in general. We may also have to change how we contribute to accommodate any disabilities that may arise.

You change so incredibly much during recovery. It’s not really a choice to change, but it’s more of a necessity if you want to be happy- if you want to survive- if you want to be happy despite this thing that makes you feel like a subpar human sometimes.

Lowering expectations, changing values, doing less.

But. I just don’t want to goddamn do it. It makes me feel like I’m giving up on myself, the potential I used to believe I had. But at the same time I feel like I’m willful about something that is already gone.

Feelings!

Having lived devoid of feelings in the past few months (or years, depends on the severity), I’m glad to start to finally have feelings again. It’s like pulling off the latex gloves from my hands and feeling things for the first time without an extra layer. Everything is so raw, and so real – the opposite of dissociation. It’s unnerving at first to feel so much again; it’s quite creepy getting goosebumps for a good song or from an ASMR video, after being numb for so long. I go, “Oh my god, what was that? Oh, it’s just my feelings.”

My first psychiatrist appointment this year is tomorrow, and I’m excited to have some good news for my psych- which should be a first. He told me last time that once I get better, I can just get on with my life and do the things I’ve planned to do before I got hospitalized. Heh. I’m not sure if he just wanted to give me hope, or if he’s naive enough to believe that I could be going after my old sky high goals that were challenging even before my diagnosis with going back to school for my masters, and going back to my stressful job in finance.  I mean, I don’t really want to go back to that anyway. As you can see, I’m not a 100% optimistic about the trajectory of my recovery, and that comes from being sick for so long and things recurring when I least expected them. I continue to hold my breath to see if there is any sign of decline in my mood or if there are any symptoms on either side of the pole. I can never be too vigilant about bipolar.

Otherwise, life is going as usual: uneventfully, quietly and peacefully with a lot of art.

All I want for Christmas

All I want for Christmas is to be stable. If not for long, for just two weeks. Just until the New Year. If not for me, for my dad who is flying across the world to get to our New York home from the Old Country, (because I can’t travel across time zones at the moment- for it triggers my mood swings), despite the ten hour delay because of a stupid fog. If not for me, for my mom who had to deal with my dissociation that decided to come out while buying rotisserie chicken at the crowded grocery store today. If not for me, for those who didn’t walk away when I was at my worst.