Inside a Depressive Episode

It’s something like being a zombie, if zombies have any inner life.

(And if there were such things as zombies.)

I couldn’t write this post in the deepest part of it. It was like trying to write trying to walk through tar, through mud, through wet cement.

I couldn’t feel joy. There was no way of holding interest in anything. Everything took too much anything to do. There was no focus.

Everything that I recognized as positive about myself was gone. Even most of my negative traits faded to nothing, leading me to wondering Where am I?

It brought back my desire to self harm, the classic desire to feel something, anything.

(It makes me angry when people mock those with self harm scars. Really, they don’t understand, so they should keep silent. Good piece of life advice, really.)

Now I can write, which is something of a relief. The worst is over. But now I’m afraid. I know that it’s there. It’s always there. It can claim me again.

(Wow. That was a little dramatic.)

But that’s how it feels. It’s something inside my own head, an illness that can trap me with little or no warning. That makes me feel like a successful or happy life might be impossible-plenty of people succumb to this illness, people who have ‘made it’, and I sure as hell haven’t.

I don’t have any plans on giving in.

Of course there are intrusive thoughts. It’s part of the package. That doesn’t mean I have to listen to them. I might have to pull a Russell Crowe in A Beautiful Mind-

-(I refer to the movie and not to Robert Nash because I don’t know how Nash dealt with his illness in his life. I assume the movie took some liberties, not the least of which being that Nash’s hallucination’s were (if I recall correctly) auditory, not visual.)-

-and just ignore them forever though sheer force of will.

Well, along with a combination of drugs and support from competent providers, because I am now convinced that my brain is too complex and heavy for me to deal with on my own, and anyone who thinks that I am weak willed and need to buck up and go for a walk in nature to heal can…hmm. Go crack a tooth on a pebble.

Something that helps me, and may help you: Do something physical. Just a little. Eat a square of good chocolate. Rub on scented lotion. Yoga. Go for a walk. Get a massage. Do some push ups. If you can, masturbate. (No, I’m not joking.) Clean something. Play music from junior high high and bob your head along to it. Heck, sit outside and get some air, if nothing else.

And if you’re like how I was on Monday,  and you’re just totally stuck, eyes staring at nothing, reach out.

Say to someone you trust, help me. If you don’t have anyone, try a crisis chat or telephone line. Just don’t sink into it more. Breathe. Remember that it ends.

And allow yourself recovery time-it’s exhausting!

J.

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Chipping

I am highly detail orientated; mostly due to the fact that looking the big picture for too long tends to trigger my anxiety and shuts down productivity, making things that are achievable seem insurmountable.

So I chip away at the goals, making them smaller. More manageable. My brain recognizes them as tasks that are easy to accomplish, that are easy to repeat, and rewards itself for accomplishing them, therefore escaping (at least temporarily) self doubt.

Exhibit A: I want to/have to lose at least forty pounds. I rarely think about this, because it seems completely impossible, and I curl up in despair wailing about what a fat useless lump I am.

But ten pounds? I can lose ten pounds four times. I can stumble over losing them, and it can be hard, and frustrating, but ten pounds isn’t so much. That’s something you try to do in time for a wedding! I can do that!

(Slowly. I can do it slowly.)

It works on skills too.

Duolingo works that way, a language learned through as many minutes a day you can squeeze in, and rewards you for consistency.

I’m practicing sketching, and for someone who was never naturally gifted at the visual arts, it’s a little like a penguin learning to tango. But twenty minutes a day, at least a few times a week, and I’m starting to improve, chipping away at my lack of skill to reveal new abilities. I will also occasionally proclaim ‘THE THING LOOKS LIKE THE THING’, and beam with pride.

Chipping also allows for me to have some sort of standards for myself, while keeping my standards reasonable.

I am the queen of unreasonable standards for myself.

Any failure, however insignificant, leads to a crash and self doubt.

I get a pseudo-sexual thrill from a completed to-do list.

So by using chipping, I can achieve small goals and keep up self esteem, while working towards bigger goals and don’t blame myself for not knowing six languages, developing a cancer cure, writing a well written and best selling novel, and looking like a bikini model. In six months.

If you also don’t give yourself enough credit, or suffer from depression, I recommend chipping.

I had to chip away at this post!

J

Today: Twice-Exceptional and Self-Esteem

Hey, look everyone, this is me!

It might be you too!

Twice-exceptional, in a lump, is an educational term used to refer to children who are deemed to be of above average intelligence, but also neuroatypical in some way.

I was so excited to learn about this-

-I ran across the term on Tumblr-

-because I didn’t know this existed as a concept.

‘Bright but not trying hard enough.’ It was often on my report cards, and I would be looked at with disappointment, because I was so ‘gifted and talented’.

And I’ve carried that with me as an adult, except now it’s ammunition for my doubts and self loathing. How could I ever have been considered bright or to have had any potential and be where I am in life? That’s just some joke! It’s a mistake!

But combine ‘twice exceptional’ with imposter syndrome and we have a recipe for someone believing that they never were any good, and never could be any good, and they tricked anyone who believed that they were any good.

And it’s just another reminder that so much of what I think is bad about me is inside my own head.

Today, I was late for my volunteer gig.

My brain’s interpretation: OMG YOU HORRIBLE IRRESPONSIBLE PERSON HOW DARE YOU BE LATE.

My supervisor: Oh, you’re fitting right in, and you stayed late, don’t even worry about it, it happens. 😀

I’m just going to assume anything that I think is horrible of me is actually not a big deal until told otherwise, because I cut myself no slack. I need to cut myself slack, or I’ll break. 

Other than that, today, I felt pretty good about myself.

Gee, thanks, mood stabilizing drugs!

Ending thought of the day:

Deep inhale. Think of the ocean at night. Remember that somewhere inside is the possibility of clarity and glory.

J.

 

The Exhaustion of Self Loathing

I will be the first to admit that I am a negative person.

No. That’s incorrect.

I can be a regular Susie Sunshine, positive energy glittering out of every orifice and pore-

Except when it comes to myself.

I am so self loathing that I could probably find fault with myself if I somehow brokered world peace, cured HIV, ended world hunger, and put the entire planet on clean sustainable energy, all while looking like I was ready for the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue cover. A month postpartum.

And it’s exhausting.

I’m already exhausted because I had to ride the subway, and I am a mentally ill neuroatypical who doesn’t like crowds, loud noises, people touching me, and who especially doesn’t like men leaning on me while they blast really terrible Jamaican dance club music with homophobic slurs and metallic screeches from their phone.

But then I get home, too tired to go to the gym and be exposed to more people, to more music that I can only cover up, not silence. Too tired to physically exert myself, to push, to Eye of the Tiger over my tired body and my brain struggling to rest.

And I start in on myself. Fat. Lazy. Pathetic. Other people get up at 5:30 and go and work out, and go to work for a whole day, or go after. Other people have children. Other people make their entire lives work, and you-

And then I have nothing, because I have convinced myself I have nothing, that I am nothing. That I might as well not even bother trying.

Then I try to push the self-loathing away. It’s a lot of work. It’s a bit like foam rolling, or self administered deep tissue massage. It’s hard to hear, and work through. Then, I’m a little more awake, still a little tired, but there’s a lot more clarity.

I remember I am mentally ill, working with difficulties that others don’t have. I am going to fail, have setbacks. It’s something that humans will do as a matter of course, and expecting absolute perfection is not only ridiculous, it’s setting myself up for constant disappointment, which is a straight shot to more self loathing, and exhaustion.

So, no gym today. That’s fine. Smaller goal. I can give myself that.

As soon as I process breaking my Duolingo streak and losing my bet.

J

Making Gym Time

I’m trying to lose weight.

I have already lost some-go me!

I’m going old school traditional about it; less/healthier food, and exercise.

Anxiety (and depression) makes doing this a hell of a lot harder than it already is.

Eating is an easy coping mechanism, but at least I can cope with that with low calorie snacks (hello blueberry season), or drinking seltzer. (I like lemon lime the best.)

A cup is about 83 calories.

Like so!

But exercise is the double whammy of occupying my time-

-Which means I don’t graze, eat out of boredom, or find excuses to go eat something-

-and burning calories off, which keeps some of the calories I do eat from sticking.

Anxiety and depression make doing this a hell of a lot harder than it already is.

In Disney’s Mulan, Captain Shang chooses a recruit, Yao, to retrieve an arrow Shang has shot into a tall pole. Yao prepares to retrieve the arrow and prove himself in front of everyone, when Shang then says he seems to be missing something.

screen_shot_2012_11_20_at_3_39_27_pm

Oh. Right.

Now we see the problem. The weights are meant to represent discipline and strength; both required to reach the arrow. Yao attempts to reach the arrow, even tries to hold on to the pole with his teeth-but the weights are too much and he lands back on the ground anyway.

Thus is the reality of trying to go somewhere you might not actually want to go, when you have anxiety and depression, on top of being just plain old tired, bored, not in the mood. Maybe you have your period. Maybe you want to watch TV. Maybe you just don’t feel like going to the gym.

Then anxiety coils around your neck and leans in and whispers you could hurt yourself. It’s so far. It’s hot. What if you have a panic attack and someone sees? It’s better to say home. People will laugh at you.

Depression weighs on your chest and back and sighs you’re so tired. It’s so far away. You’ll never do any better anyway. Go to sleep. Just get back in bed and watch TV. Have a bowl of cereal. You’re so tired. Feel how heavy your body is. Doesn’t it hurt?

And it is so easy just to give up. Go to sleep. Wander around in your pajamas and eat ice cream and not try, because trying is really really really hard! And you should just be able to eat ice cream and relax because you’ve been working hard!

But that will just bring you back to where you started. To heavier and more sadness.

So instead you prepare. You pack your bag for the gym the night before, so you don’t have to use up energy finding it. You fill your water bottle and chill it.

You find your keys, know what you’re having for breakfast.

So that all you have to do when it’s time is walk out the door, so that all your energy is focused on opening the door, down the street, don’t think about reasons to stop.

Because you’re pretty sure if you can get there, you can do it.

And even if you don’t make it through, you tried. That’s not a failure. You pushed through your reasons. And if you can do it once, that means you can probably do it again. And again.

And it might be a habit, one day, like showering, and showering is almost impossible to not do.

So, I’ll try for 3 times a week. Let’s see how I do.

Later.

J

The Lost Point of Body Positivity

I was going to write about difficulties of losing weight while neuroatypical. I have an unfinished blog post about the topic.

But-

There is something that is bothering me.

I remember, eons ago-

(In internet time, so really maybe a few years? There is some wiggle room, the internet is odd with time like that.)

That body positivity seemed to be about accepting imperfections in the human body; accepting the fact that no one looks like a model in a magazine because even the model doesn’t look that way. They are wearing make up. They have been Photoshopped and angled and blurred to a perfection that doesn’t exist, except in the photograph.

And body positivity said, ‘That’s fine. We all have scars and stretch marks and wrinkles and cellulite and weird tattoos and and dark spots and acne. Some of us have worse scarring. Some of us have body hair we can’t get rid of! Some of us have marks from picking at our skin and cutting ourselves and bruises from banging ourselves on walls. It’s just a body thing. Take that body you have and live in it and care of it, marks and all.”

As someone who has dark spots and scars from picking and a few scars and bumps and stretch marks, I took heart in this message, because it meant that however banged up my body was, it was still mine, and it meant it could still take a hit, and heal, and come back, and work, and still be mine. 

But then, it feels like, suddenly body positivity had less to do with the realities of living in a fleshy body and how it grew and healed and did what it did, and was more about…

Well, more about fat people.

Suddenly body positivity was really only for fat people, and mostly for _really_ fat people.

I’ve been losing some weight, and I’ve been thinking about my body, and its changes, and how I feel in it. Are my breasts changing? Am I more noticeable now? Can you see scars more now that there’s less fat?

But I feel like I would be what would be called a ‘small-fat’,*-

*The exact meaning of the term seems to vary, but it seems to be someone who is ‘plus sized, but might still be stocked in a ‘regular’ store.

In women’s sizes I assume this is from a size 14 on up to maybe an 18-20, but there is little logic to women’s sizes. I do not know what the male equivalent is, as I have never set foot in a man’s ‘big and tall’ store.*

 

-if I was seemed fat at all, and if I were to lose more weight, that I would be told body positivity isn’t for me anymore, because I’m not/would not be fat.

As far as I can tell, the running theory is ‘since we as a society generally don’t approve of fat people’, thin people can’t possibly insecure or uncomfortable in their bodies in any way.

Even though when I was much thinner, I was depressed, and didn’t like my body so much, and was told I was too skinny, and banged into things on purpose, tripped, cut-to see the damage on the body I didn’t like, and then remind myself how ugly the marks were.

Body positivity as it was helped with those feelings. Body positivity as it is now makes me feel as if I have no right to them, and I mourn the original movement, and I hope it makes a return, so that everyone can feel comfortable admitting their lack of comfort with their imperfections.

Next time, Trying to Get to the Gym When You’re Depressed/Anxious/Just Don’t Want To!

J

 

Whoops, Wrong Drug: Part 2

A downside to ‘your brain doesn’t work in the same vein as the majority’ is that things that affect the majority one way just might not be the same for you!

Some over the counter drugs, like DayQuil or Sudafed, will make your anxiety worse. I personally can’t take DayQuil at all; it worsened my anxiety on a bad day to the point where I was almost hospitalized. I was unaware of the possibility of such a severe reaction; my therapist at the time asked about any medications taken on the day, and mentioned it. So now I suffer through it with home remedies and the occasional nasal spray.

Speaking of home remedies, I always lacked belief that herbal supplements did much. My mother insisted I try St. John’s Wort for my depression. I didn’t think it was going to have much of an effect, if any.

I was wrong. I apparently entered a manic state-my memory is none too clear-babbling like a toddler on speed until I started getting dizzy, and curled up in bed and remained there until the next day, depressed and out of focus.

(My mother then purchased a ‘happy tea’ without checking the ingredients. Luckily, I read them myself, and, of course, St. John’s Wort was among them. I generally avoid my mother’s homeopathic gifts now.)

I’m not knocking therapeutic effects of things that aren’t medications. I do enjoy things like scented candles, bath bombs, scented lotions; when I need to relax, a bath bomb and a podcast can do wonders, or maybe some jazz music. When I feel stiff and uncomfortable in my body, a few yoga poses or a walk outside can help. And sometimes there’s nothing better than cuddling with my furry friend.

(I do recommend a furry friend for depressed or anxious people if you can fit one into your life.)

Baby Axel

Said furry friend as a baby, he’s a big boy now, but he’s harder to get cute photos of!

So, no cold medicine, and I don’t take anything that hasn’t been approved by the FDA that isn’t straight up melatonin.

(Try it if you have a hard time falling and staying asleep, it’s been doctor recommended and non habit forming, our bodies make it, and if you don’t make enough of it, you can have a hard time falling asleep, as I gather.)

And when people insist that I take too many pills and I should just be more natural and drink some form of tea that their cousin makes, I make a non committal noise, take my pills that night, and go to bed content in the knowledge that at least I know what I’m in for in the morning.

Whoops, Wrong Drug, Part 1

With mental illness, prescribing medication to treat the symptoms isn’t like treating an infection. There is a lot of trial and error involved, and I’ve experienced it personally.

11997

There are approximately fifty million* times this many kinds of pills to choose from!

*Random Number, do not cite

For the sake of not influencing anyone towards or away from a certain medication, I won’t name names, but one of my first prescribed drugs made me so agitated and irritable I felt like I was in the early stages of a demonic possession horror movie. The second made my appetite increase while dragging my energy level down, leading me to put on fifty or so pounds-the resulting depression from the weight gain lead to fifteen more pounds.

An acquaintance mentioned a medication that dulled their senses to the point that they found themselves sunk into their couch for days at a time, forgetting to eat and subsisting on crackers and cigarettes. Coming off the medication, they said, was like being reanimated.

That story set off a round of reminiscing and comparing medication experiences (as well as longing for nicotine); everyone had at least one horror story. I was in quiet denial about how fat I was until someone else shared the same issue-apparently their doctor hadn’t warned them about the increased appetite and dragging energy levels either. I had to wonder if our respective doctors thought we would refuse to take the medication if we knew the possible symptoms. I would have preferred an informed refusal; the medication didn’t even work very well.


I currently take four medications for my mental illnesses, the newest addition intended to help deal with my lack of sleep, flashbacks, nightmares, and mood stabilization. It is also meant to help with migraines. I have only been on this exact combination for…

*checks calendar*

A little less than two weeks. I have been fiddling with my other medications for about a year and a half, after not being satisfied but being wary of trading my rocky fishing boat for a sinking dinghy.

These two weeks have been pretty decent, mental health-wise. But I just knocked on wood, because for all I know two weeks from now I may develop some other symptom.

Maybe I’ll grow wings!

 

Burning Out

What might not be appreciated, by the average person, is how much energy an illness can take.

Everything that you do, from getting up in the morning, to going to work, to eating, to engaging with other people, to bathing, to remembering to buy groceries, doing the laundry-all that takes energy, mental and physical.

If anyone is familiar with ‘spoon theory’, it’s a good general starting point.

But another way of thinking of it is akin to the battery on an iPhone.

Now, you start the day fully charged.

Sometimes.

There are days that you can start with less than 100%.

Poor sleep, no sleep, nightmares-all of these can start you lower, so let’s say, 70-85%.

But there’s also a lack of consistency on how much energy a task can take.

Normally, getting up, getting dressed, eating breakfast? It doesn’t drain the battery at all.

But sometimes it’s as if the phone is trying to load an update and you spend twenty minutes staring at a pan because you can’t collect yourself enough to remember how to cook an egg and suddenly you have 20% battery and have to go into power saving mode just so you can eat something, and end up with a bowl of cereal and a blank expression.

Or you can spend fifteen minutes trying to shake off a nightmare, and by the time you’re out the door your battery is at 50-65%.

Then you have to get to wherever you’re going. Let’s assume work.

If you’re driving, you have to use energy to watch the road, the other drivers-keep yourself safe and on time from home to work. If you’re on public transportation, you try to get a seat, but that’s not always possible, so the crowding wears down on you.

So by the time you get to work you have less than 50% battery.

And the work day hasn’t even started.

But you have to work. You have to endure. You have to get home again. Eat dinner. Go to sleep.

But sleep doesn’t fill your battery all the way.

And you get up. Endure another day. Go home. Get up again.

Until the day you wake up, and there’s nothing. You can’t get up, and that realization makes you cry silently with exhaustion, until even that is too much, and all you can do is stare silently at the wall.

And wonder what the hell you are supposed to do.

Peace and Fidget Toys

I am a happy new owner of a fidget spinner and a fidget cube. (I’d post pictures, but I think we all know what they look like at this point, they’re everywhere right now.)

The two sometimes allow me to sit and watch TV or Youtube without incorporating another activity. Coming from me, the Queen of multiple sources of stimulation, this is quite a marvel.

(It really is a problem. I’ll have the TV, music, my laptop, and my cell phone all engaged in different things simultaneously, muting the TV when it gets to commercials and playing music or a Youtube video to cover until the show returns.)

Sometimes they don’t fully distract me, but the quiet whirls of my little green toys are still quite calming. They also seem to have granted me the ability to have long conversations without nerves or boredom sending me off into babbling tangents.

Something that is especially detrimental about living with anxiety (and C-PTSD) is that being comfortable is very difficult.

Humans can go into a state of hyper awareness in the face of danger. Senses sharper, adrenaline pumping, heartbeat always in your ears. but I can be that way almost constantly.

This, to put it mildly, is exhausting. We are not meant to have our senses on high alert at all times. It puts a massive amount of stress on our bodies.

So I am usually hyper aware or restless, which makes even things that are meant to be relaxing difficult to enjoy.

It seems that many neurotypical people find them distracting, or don’t know what to do with them, or think that kids are going to start throwing them at each other, or not paying attention because of them.

First off, if a child is using it to distract themselves, I’d bet that said child was already not paying much attention, it’s just another way.

Second, if they are using it as a focus tool, fidget toys are easily used one handed, and you can keep it in your non-dominant hand and take notes with the other. I’ve done it, it’s not hard. And for listening to, say, a lecture? It’s like magic.

Third, a neurotypical person might have to pay more attention to a fidget toy-I don’t know. For me personally, it’s like bleeding off the constantly flurries of my brain ricocheting around, and giving that something to play with while the rest of me actually gets things done. So I’m hoping that schools don’t ban their use, because I would have benefited immensely from having one in elementary, middle, and high school, as well as college.


And if some neurotypical kids want to play too? Sure, why not?

Let’s normalize them, more fun and relief for everyone! My mother has one so that she doesn’t doodle during meetings, kids fiddle with them as they walk-hey, less cell phone use while crossing the street

They’re great desk toys too!

Let’s have them for use during interviews!

Pay no attention to the fidget cube in my hands, listen to the coherent and clever answers coming from my mouth!