Coming Back from a Loss

November 4, 2016

I’ve been neglecting my blog for a while now. First I was neglecting it because I was doing ok and I didn’t want to write about depression. Then I was neglecting it because I was going through losses and transitions, and I just couldn’t do one more thing.

In March, I had my tonsils out and the recovery was really rough (if you’re thinking about having your tonsils out, do it young. Turns out 41 is not young). In April, my boyfriend of three years, who was my favorite person, best friend, and love of my life freaked out and left. The week before, he had said in counseling that he was sad that he had waited so long to open himself up to love and that he really wanted to make this work and that if he left, it would be out of fear. He left the next week.

In June, I left my job for a number of reasons, and it was the right decision, but it was a hard one. I went back to being self-employed. I got a new housemate. Changes are hard. An old friend died, and it’s still unclear if it was an accidental overdose or suicide, as he OD’d the night before he was going to go into rehab. I hadn’t seen him in 20 years but it felt like quite a blow. My dog had to have major surgery and caretaking in the middle of all this was tough. Oh, and I published a book.

I’m kind of reeling. Almost everything in my life looks good right now. But I miss my ex more than I can say – I miss both the role (having a partner in life, having someone to bounce things off of and who is a priority and considers me a priority) and him himself. He is a wonderful person, but not so good with opening up and being in relationship.

So, I’m back, and I’m trying to be honest. It’s been hard, and the weather change, impending time change, and political mess are not helping anything. I need to process.


Crying

July 16, 2016

I hate crying in front of people. Absolutely hate it. It feels far too vunerable and personal. Also, I used to be punished for crying. When I was very young, I was hit when I cried. I don’t remember this – I found out from getting my childhood therapy records. When I was a little older but still in elementary school, I was sent to the garage when I cried so no one had to hear it, with the threat of having to sleep in the garage. So you can see why I have some baggage about crying in front of others.

I have been crying a lot in the last couple of weeks. World events, personal events, and maybe just exhaustion from feeling too much. I cry while I’m driving sometimes, before going to sleep, while grocery shopping, and during yoga.

This isn’t constant – sometimes I’m totally fine But when I’m in it, it’s totally consuming. I just can’t stop crying.

I’m wondering how many years of sadness and trauma I’m letting out. And I wonder how many more years of this type of intense crying I still have in me.

And even with all the horrible things going on in the world, selfishly, the biggest sadness is the break-up. It came in April and as far as I can see, it came from him being scared of someone really knowing him. Our counselor agrees with my theory, although my ex said no, no, it had nothing to do with fear.

That is the biggest source of the unending tears for me. Current events have been horrible. An old friend either killed himself or OD’d this month and that was tragic. Racism is in full swing and people are dying. But somehow, the loss of this relationships is what feels like it is going to do me in. We were a good team, I love him, he loved me, and he got scared. And the loss feels too big to accept.


Solstice

June 17, 2016

Note: I have joined a writing group recently and I read in a story slam where each person got five minutes to read something they had written about “solstice.” I immediately thought, “Oh no, I have to write about depression.” I tried and tried to make it about something else but I couldn’t. So here it is and yes, I read this ALOUD IN PUBLIC and thought I was going to die but I didn’t. Didn’t even throw up.

——

The summer solstice is undoubtedly my favorite day of the year. The magic of the long, light day and the much shorter period of darkness is much more powerful for me than you’d think, especially because I live an area that doesn’t have the extremes of much further north or south. However, I have clinical depression.

That may not seem to relate, but for me, light and darkness are not just metaphorical parts of my depression. I learned early on that the world looks darker–sort of twilight–when I am depressed, and that I’m much more likely to be depressed when it is dark.

My depression did not come on after a breakup or a death, although those have both been triggering factors for me as an adult. I was depressed as a very young child–the kind of depressed that children have no business being. I also learned to talk, read, and write very early, so it was even more jarring for people around me to see how sad I was, because I could communicate it so clearly.

As early as kindergarten, I routinely wished to not wake up in the morning. I didn’t have a plan to die, but most mornings the thought process was something like, “I wish I had died, but since I didn’t, I guess I should get up.” That continued well into my 30s.

In college, my roommates started having candlelight dinners because it made them feel fancy, and I panicked. I felt like I was losing my mind because I didn’t know why candlelight dinners were making me feel so bad; I just knew that I didn’t mind the candles as long as all the lights were on. That was the year I went on Prozac because my whole world had gone gray. This wasn’t just an expression; I actually couldn’t see in color as well as I used to. I became a psychology major that year and learned that major depression can, in fact, decrease your ability to see in color, which was one of the most validating facts I have ever experienced.

I love colors and light. I love to paint and knit, and my favorite part of both is choosing the colors I use. The walls of my house are covered with paintings, mosaics, photographs, posters, and textiles, mostly in bright colors. I am the kind of person who turns all the lights on even though I know it’s bad for the environment (and I love the environment). I wait eagerly for the longest day of the year and I treasure the days leading up to it.

The summer solstice is my favorite day of the year, but the day after is another story. There’s no noticeable difference from the previous day, of course, but I know that the days are starting to shrink, and that each day I’ll get less and less light. By the end of the summer, people are talking about how nice it will be to feel the crisp fall air, and I’m fighting panic at an earlier dusk.

I can’t explain what it feels like to start slipping into depression–not being in the deep dark hole yet, but losing my balance on the edge, and knowing there’s no chance I won’t fall in. The all-encompassing grayness that starts in my peripheral vision and slowly takes over everything is terrifying and always ends in hopelessness.

When I’m not in the middle of it, I get so angry, but I don’t know what or who I’m angry at. Depression feels so evil and malignant that it’s hard not to believe it’s a personal attack. Many diseases make people want to fight for their lives. Depression makes you want to end it.

After years of therapy, medication, and misery, I was lucky. I found a medication that didn’t just take the edge off my depression like all the others had, but lifted me above it, at least most of the time. But the old triggers are still there at times.

I’m trying to look at things a little differently this year. I don’t know if I can avoid the slow panic that ramps up beginning at the end of June and colors the beautiful sunlit days with gray. If I’m lucky, it won’t be more than a couple of rough patches. If I’m not lucky, it will be excruciating, almost paralyzing, but I’ve learned by now that I will make it.

I’m working on making the day after the winter solstice my second favorite day of the year. It’s dark, it’s cold, and the days are short. But it’s the beginning of an upswing.

 

 

 


Transitions

June 10, 2016

Too much to explain, but just bullet point updates. In the last three months, I’ve:

  • had surgery (tonsillectomy)
  • gone through a break-up (not by choice; he freaked out about getting close to someone)
  • had major conflict at my church
  • gotten a new housemate
  • quit my job
  • taken writing my book very seriously
  • gone to a continuation high school graduation of a beloved former student
  • found out another former student is in prison for life
  • joined a writers’ group
  • agreed to share my writing in public

I’m exhausted and back to randomly crying in public.


Residue

April 12, 2016

I’ve been doing better for so long – years now! – that I forget sometimes what depression feels like. It feels great to have forgotten – I feel happy and contented and resilient even when something does go wrong.

Then I had surgery – just a tonsillectomy, so pretty routine but extremely painful. I couldn’t talk for a week and 18 days after the surgery, I’m still exhausted and recovering, although back at work as of today.

And I’ve been feeling like I’m just on the verge of depresion. It’s not too bad. You know when you’re getting a cold and you just barely have a scratchy throat but you know the cold is coming? It feels like that. I don’t know if the depression IS coming, but that is what it feels like.

I know all the reasons why I feel like this. I was in a lot of pain for over a week. I’m still exhausted. Also I wasn’t able to eat real food for a while, so I was constantly hungry. So clearly, anyone could predict that I’d feel self-pitying and sad but I didn’t remember how it really felt.

It doesn’t feel good. I think if I hadn’t had such paralyzing depression for so long, I could take it more as an individual occurance and not catastrophize. But it feels like I’m losing my footing and it’s getting dangerous.

It doesn’t help that a bunch more friends are having babies (I’m 40 years old! When is this going to stop?), moving, or getting married. So people are busy and understandably so. But I don’t want to get there again. Ever. And I’m so frustrated that I don’t have the luxury of taking this for granted and knowing that I’ll be ok because I never know if I’ll be OK.


Helping

January 28, 2016

As I’ve been doing so much better for so long now, it’s gotten easier and easier to not think about what depression is like and how it affected me for so long. But then I remember, or today, I find out that someone I care about is suffering.

Today it was a teenager I work with. She comes from a very strict religious immigrant family, has no siblings her age (she is the youngest by 15 years or so), she goes to a lousy school with little support, and she’s super smart. This is not a great combination. She is also pretty socially awkward, probably in large part because she’s not being challenged.

I see the signs and I wonder why no one saw them in me when I was 14 or 15. She’s tired ALL THE TIME. I remember that feeling – when you don’t know how you got so tired or how you will ever stop being tired or if it’s even possible, but that sleep is all you want, all the time, but it’s never enough.

She’s cynical about everything. Nothing is going to work, nothing is good enough, nobody likes her, and nothing is worthwhile. Which, of course, becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy pretty quickly.

She gets irritable and angry really quickly. Any kind of slight or perceived slight is enough to make her threaten to quit or leave, even when it was something completely innocent.

There’s more, but those are the ones that really jumped out at me. Especially the fatigue. Oh, the fatigue. My whole life feels like it was gray and tired until very recently, and I have a hard time sometimes forgetting that I’m NOT tired all the time, and that everything around me isn’t gray.

So I’m trying to process that and at the same time figure out how to help her. It’s not made any easier by the fact that I’m not sure how someone could have helped me. I needed medication LONG before I got it, and it took me 15 years of trying medication to find the one that lifted me out of the gray clouds. I don’t know how to help someone who has parents who are ignoring this and who might not know how to talk about it culturally.


Gratitude Never Worked

July 21, 2015

I’ve been working on practicing gratitude lately – I write out things I am grateful for or sometimes my boyfriend and I do it together. Sometimes it feels like a pointless exercise and sometimes it feels like a wonderful reminder of the blessings in my life.

When I think about being depressed though, I would get so angry when anyone would suggest gratitude. I had friends and counselors suggest it, as if just changing my attitude a little could lift me out of the huge black void that I was drowning in. I often had a lot to be grateful for – I had great friends, good food, often a job that I loved, basic necessities met, a beautiful area to live in… didn’t matter.  Depression trumps everything.  There can be all the air in the world, but you’re still suffocating.  A huge banquet and you’re starving.  In retrospect, I can see how very chemical my depression was because good things, people or circumstances didn’t make a dent in it for me.

So I guess I’m grateful for the right medication. I try to focus on that and not being bitter that it took 15 years of trying medications (and years before that of not knowing I needed it).