Avoidance. It’s a huge anxiety provoking choice we make. I’ve avoided blogging here for over a year now. I also happen to be in an outpatient program for anxiety and depression. I’m using a skill called opposite action right now to blog even though I don’t want to and I’m nervous what people will think especially since this post is less than perfect (challenging my perfectionism here too). So this could be exposure therapy in a way. So next post, that’ll be the one where we get back into the swing of things. This is it. I’m doing it. We’ll touch base on DBT skills next post. I just need to put this up. Stop avoiding. We’re back, ladies and gentlemen.
The waters of life have set storms in my direction I haven’t until now experienced the past couple months and I ought to sing how grateful I am that I’ve stayed afloat and haven’t drowned by now, my initial ship is now a bit of a flat raft with a worn bed sheet as a sail, and so if you were to ask how I’m doing I’d say that I’m managing the heat stroke and paddling in the right direction. Managing my functionality is the name of the game.
From the ashes of some of my wrecked ship pieces has come the idea for a website which is currently under construction. I’m tremendously proud that I brought the idea to life and have finished one full page about Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. Aside from mental health it will also address Lyme Disease which I have over a decade of experience with. I will be having a blog for both topics on the site. Right now, it’s still a baby, but it’s what I’ve been up to (aside from working all the time and an increased rage associated with the companies professionalism).
Breathing and meditation are just not for me. It’s like coffee. Coffee ‘doesn’t work for me’. I can drink an iced coffee with 4 espresso shots and feel only a bit more energized for a short period of time. Breathing is good for grounding but not very soothing to me. Same with meditation. I’d rather talk aloud or hum to hear my voice and inner monologue what it feels like to be driving. I’ve been using an app called “VitalTones” and using their app for decreasing anxiety, I’ve done it daily for a couple weeks and haven’t seen a difference. I’m logging my moods on an app called “Mood Log” and making a note with every entry about what’s happening at the time I’m logging my number mood 1-10 (1 being worst mood 10 the best) and then transferring all the daily data to my journal, averaging mood and anxiety and then graphing it, and will bring to my doctor. Here’s a page from my journal:
As you can see, I haven’t been feeling too great. As far as anxiety goes, 1 is lowest anxiety, 10 is highest. At the moment I’m writing this I’m about a 6.5. In an ideal world I’d log my mood every 10 minutes, but I don’t have the drive for that on a day off nor do I have the luxury on a work day. That would give the most accurate depiction. I feel like a lot of the time my 7-9 anxiety doesn’t get logged because I’m busy and then my averages look more like a 4 or 5 rather than what is more likely a 6 or 7. Logging my mood has made me feel as if I have more control in managing my functionality. I recommend it. I also recommend the whole breathing and meditation thing, but I also have to say do what works for you. What gets you through the day? The hour? The minute?
I want my family, friends, colleagues, strangers on the street who I pass by and say “excuse me” to, doctors, bosses, government officials, indigenous tribes and golden retrievers to know what living with mental illness is like, is because you can’t see it. But I do, it’s like a filter, distorting the picture in a different way than how the next fella may see the world. Go ahead, it looks way better in Valencia than it does #nofilter.
I can’t just, “get over it” Mr. Porter. I’m nearly 30 years old now. It’s a familiar recommendation, but the reality is, I’m likely going to be hard on myself over a mistake the size of a speck of sand on a beach off the coast.
Here are my 13 reasons why my behavior is so shy, and awkward and shaky. Why I’m great at writing and terrible at talking. These are the reasons why I skip showers sometimes and avoid phone calls always. Why I doubt on a daily basis the people that love me really care. These are my 13 reasons why I need your empathy when I’m at my lowest points. Because it’s not something you can take on by yourself.
1 – Just as we discussed, mental illness often takes the form of an invisible disability. I’m not in a wheelchair nor do I have a cast on my skull or stitches on my chest to heal up the everyday heartbreaks. Take note the power of invisibility is real.
2 – My feelings affect my decisions. And in turn, some of my shittiest decisions sparked and reflected my feelings. Guilt hunts me with a sharper eye than death. Oh how there are moments I greatly regret the past. Including today, and likely tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow.
3 – I do CBT, I see a therapist, a psychiatrist, I journal and cheer people on in online support groups. And no, it’s not a cure all cocktail. Pay your dues, work with all your heart, proactively adjust your thinking strategies. But it’s still alive inside of me. It never leaves.
4 – Stigma is real. Even self stigma. I spent two years doing empirical research on stigma about mental illness in a university environment. All of us affected think, “change needs to be made” but Paul Revere is out for the season and we’ve run out of tea bags filled with Prozac to toss into the water.
5 – It’s not JUST bipolar disorder, or OCD or ADD. I’ve had Lyme Disease for 13 years, I never went into remission. I don’t take antibiotics anymore. I don’t remember what it feels like to be pain or irritation free, to not have a double dose of brain fog. I don’t talk about it, so no one knows or remembers. I’m no longer a vegetable shipped between hospitals with a PICC line. So who cares? There is no support for me here, about this, anymore. And I swallow the bitter taste of it.
6 – I dropped out of business school and joined the field to help people. Not just people with invisible disabilities, but people with visible ones as well. And strangers. And animals. Not Zombie’s though, I’m on the first responder team for a Zombie outbreak. I get bit and kicked by autistic children on a daily basis. I’ve been spit on by an older woman with an IQ of 6 while changing her diaper. I can tell you how stressful it is to take 4 women with moderate to high degrees of mental retardation to the supermarket to find food for the home I used to run before I became a RBT. I can tell you how great it is to hear a little austistic girl you’ve been working with for a year say, “yay!” as a replacement behavior for a shrill squeal stimm. I’m glad with all my heart I became a therapist.
7 – And as a therapist, who’s been promoted and recognized for my quality direct work, I in particular now than ever take feedback poorly. I’m told to take it and swallow, no speaking up for things I did or didn’t do no matter how minor, just move on, don’t take it personally. We all make mistakes to grow my boss tells me. Make sure you do more yoga with your aggressive client. The fact I didn’t during that overlap cut me with knives made of cursed bones for months. Self hatred flourishes when feedback is given and anticipatory anxiety spins fierce uncuttable webs through my chest and stomach where my anxiety manifests.
8 – I ache missing the people I’ve lost in the storm cloud of knicked and cut up relationships I couldn’t save. I miss a girl I haven’t spoken to now for 10 years, she’s like a sad picture in my mind I can’t manage to set fire to as opposed to store in the attic. I miss a boy who was a breath of fresh air just a few months ago, just to turn around and suck the air from my chest without explanation. I fear a falling out before I’ve finished parking in the top lot.
9 – I am chronically fatigued.
10 – I have difficulty concentrating.
11 – I’m angry I can’t control what you think about me. And how you act toward me. All of you, silent readers, neighbors and best friends alike.
12 – I am a living rock. Every experience good or bad on my daily adventures chips away at the marble. You may be a sculptor and not know it, the way you chip harshly or buff smoothly at my curves. God only knows how deeply I wish the artists who made the boldest dents in the softest parts would look back to see I was not the same hunk of rock they left me as. My carved eyes long to have another chance at those few.
13 – And lastly, I thirst. It’s a deep thirst that wants someone I look up to, to tell me I need to be writing. A woman I admired planted seeds in me 12 years ago. As the Lyme pains became bearable and the manic pre-diagnosed bipolar full fledged obsessive compulsive disorder rose to power I lost track of something that had always been important to me, and that woman and I also parted as life goes between teachers and students. Complications in invisibility have laid bed for a dust storm that has dried the land. I lap up puddles for blog posts. I walk endlessly toward the ocean.
I am more than my faults. It’s just that my faults, are more or less very visible, they’re easy to interact with, and thick enough to mask the marble. Easy enough to walk away from.
Those are my 13 reasons why. What are yours?
Life is going pretty well if I put it on paper (or, internet paper…). However, I am still not happy.
I’ve been coloring this big picture for my brand new pen pal who I’ve been friends with for a couple years now online and I notice some water droplets touched the paper…if anything it gives it a bit of a watercolor flushed look and it’s tried and the damage is done but…THE DAMAGE…IS DONE!!! Oh god it’s ruined. I’ve spent like 3 hours on this thing trying to make all the colors work together and I’m nearly done and then…drop drop drop. Honestly I don’t even think it’s a big deal but it makes me feel SLOPPY and no one wants to feel sloppy when they present themselves to another person…I want to still send it though. Honestly it shouldn’t be a big deal. But right now it’s the BIGGEST deal.
I have a mood tracker app on my phone which I recommend, it’s called, “Mood Log” and it’s brilliant. Gives you a little graph and you can log your mood at your fancy any time of the day or night very quickly and easily. Since I started Celexa about a week and a half ago now I’ve noticed instead of solid 2-3’s (out of 10) I’m more generally in a 4-6 range. Right now in this moment I’m about a 3 though, with tightness in my tummy.
I’ve been trying really hard to work through the kinks of life and I’m obviously alive to write that all out but my fingers have been having major anxiety attacks. Seriously. That’s why I go missing from blogging, I feel guilty I haven’t a set schedule and pumped out new material for people to skim and nod at. I feel guilty when I don’t get back to e-mails…oh lord do I feel guilty…PANIC ATTACKS. Just this paralysis, or this gap in my brain that disconnects, “I should reply but my reply won’t be brilliant and witty and long so it’s not quality and I can’t just send a SLOPPY e-mail” and then the days go by and the weeks and I have a couple e-mails I’ve been meaning to reply to that I keep putting off because of finger fears. Same thing in my facebook inbox, though for whatever reason it seems to be a lot harder in my gmail one.
See, all the words in the English language are at my disposal (I haven’t worked on my second language skills in months, should get back on that, I think- though by the way from a cognitive behavioral therapy standpoint using ‘should’ statements is a no-no), and I can ‘share’ a meme on facebook or throw a few ‘like’s on my feed as I’m laying in bed sorting out all the things I’ve done and have to do and contemplating getting up to drink water because that’s good for me but I’m depressed and don’t want to get up and also water sometimes leaves droplets on your coloring pages. It’s problematic.
Woe is me, my job is great and when I’m at work I do a great job though in-between sessions I have with clients I get MAJOR anxiety about how it’ll go, even though I’m wonderful at what I do and get a lot of positive feedback from higher ups. Woe is me. I have a pen pal now!!!!! How cool is that?! Woe is me. I have friends who want to share stories with me and hear mine too. WOE IS ME. I’m starting side projects like picking up knitting again (I WILL finish this blanket before I die, I swear!!) and zine making and taking care of my skin and hair. But you know, I’m miserable. So, as guilt so often does it will give me enough fight or flight anxiety now that it’s built up like gunk inside my arteries to empty ALL of my inboxes tonight which will feel wonderful. Until they fill back up again and I’ll have to rewire my brain with self talk so that I can fight against the finger panic attacks. Though I know, they’ll still come and as they do I’ll have to face them.
For all of you out there reading this, I hope very much that you’re having a fantastic day and be sure to feed your fingers with fabulous thoughts so they work well for you. Time to catch up on some blogs!
Sometimes it’s comforting that someone else has found the words to describe the things you wish you could, but the things you wish you could are busy stealing your life away.
Here are some very perfect quotes on depression I found this evening. I’m not crying, you’re crying…
“Every man has his secret sorrows which the world knows not; and often times we call a man cold when he is only sad.”
― Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
“I didn’t want to wake up. I was having a much better time asleep. And that’s really sad. It was almost like a reverse nightmare, like when you wake up from a nightmare you’re so relieved. I woke up into a nightmare.”
― Ned Vizzini
“There are wounds that never show on the body that are deeper and more hurtful than anything that bleeds.”
― Laurell K. Hamilton
“The so-called ‘psychotically depressed’ person who tries to kill herself doesn’t do so out of quote ‘hopelessness’ or any abstract conviction that life’s assets and debits do not square. And surely not because death seems suddenly appealing. The person in whom Its invisible agony reaches a certain unendurable level will kill herself the same way a trapped person will eventually jump from the window of a burning high-rise. Make no mistake about people who leap from burning windows. Their terror of falling from a great height is still just as great as it would be for you or me standing speculatively at the same window just checking out the view; i.e. the fear of falling remains a constant. The variable here is the other terror, the fire’s flames: when the flames get close enough, falling to death becomes the slightly less terrible of two terrors. It’s not desiring the fall; it’s terror of the flames. And yet nobody down on the sidewalk, looking up and yelling ‘Don’t!’ and ‘Hang on!’, can understand the jump. Not really. You’d have to have personally been trapped and felt flames to really understand a terror way beyond falling.”
― David Foster Wallace
“That’s the thing about depression: A human being can survive almost anything, as long as she sees the end in sight. But depression is so insidious, and it compounds daily, that it’s impossible to ever see the end.”
― Elizabeth Wurtzel
“If you know someone who’s depressed, please resolve never to ask them why. Depression isn’t a straightforward response to a bad situation; depression just is, like the weather.
Try to understand the blackness, lethargy, hopelessness, and loneliness they’re going through. Be there for them when they come through the other side. It’s hard to be a friend to someone who’s depressed, but it is one of the kindest, noblest, and best things you will ever do.”
― Stephen Fry
“Some friends don’t understand this. They don’t understand how desperate I am to have someone say, I love you and I support you just the way you are because you’re wonderful just the way you are. They don’t understand that I can’t remember anyone ever saying that to me. I am so demanding and difficult for my friends because I want to crumble and fall apart before them so that they will love me even though I am no fun, lying in bed, crying all the time, not moving. Depression is all about If you loved me you would.”
― Elizabeth Wurtzel
“The worst type of crying wasn’t the kind everyone could see–the wailing on street corners, the tearing at clothes. No, the worst kind happened when your soul wept and no matter what you did, there was no way to comfort it. A section withered and became a scar on the part of your soul that survived. For people like me and Echo, our souls contained more scar tissue than life.”
― Katie McGarry
“Mental pain is less dramatic than physical pain, but it is more common and also more hard to bear. The frequent attempt to conceal mental pain increases the burden: it is easier to say “My tooth is aching” than to say “My heart is broken.”
― C.S. Lewis
“When you’re lost in those woods, it sometimes takes you a while to realize that you are lost. For the longest time, you can convince yourself that you’ve just wandered off the path, that you’ll find your way back to the trailhead any moment now. Then night falls again and again, and you still have no idea where you are, and it’s time to admit that you have bewildered yourself so far off the path that you don’t even know from which direction the sun rises anymore.”
― Elizabeth Gilbert
Now, I’m in trouble. But I’m getting help. The months long battle of baseline depression had at first dipped then slid then plummeted me into my own grave which I’ve wanted to cover myself in this past week. Last night I politely nodded to myself while the rivers ran blood down my cheeks that I ought to check myself into a hospital, I was ready to kill myself. But all the methods seem so very painful for one’s last moments and hospitals are very expensive so instead I told my boss (who is like a friend as well) that I needed to get help and was wondering if I could get time off, just for a bit, to do so.