Food: A Necessity and Nemesis

foodThe ups and downs of my mental illness have added additional complexity to my relationships with family, friends, work, and…food – my constant nutritional foe.

Recently, a close friend and I were discussing our travails with food and he pointed out the key problem with food addiction. So dig: to break free of addictions to drugs and alcohol, you rid your life of the drugs completely. You might have to change the people you hang out with, the places you go, and any other tempting habits you have formed that may lead you astray. (I in no way am presuming this to be a simple or easy task). The point is to never go back, not even for one sip or hit – you must learn to exist without it. The problem with food addiction is that you can never truly “rid” yourself of the temptations – be it situational, psychological, or physical – because you need food to survive. A true catch-22.

For me, around the age of eight, I became overweight and my relationship with food was soon tarnished with guilt, shame, and anger. Every time I ate something, I blamed myself for perpetuating my looks, even though in retrospect, I’m pretty sure it was just the pre-puberty baby cheeks that had yet to disappear. Every time I ate, I disappointed myself because I was convinced I didn’t earn it. At the same time, I would punish myself for my failure by then purposefully over-eating. I never understood why the majority of my classmates were thin and were able to ate more than me or eat candy without gaining weight. I never understood what I was doing wrong, but nevertheless, blamed myself for it.

We had a family crisis when I was in fourth grade, and I think that’s when I started using food to somehow push down my pain. If I could eat enough, I would feel physically sick – something I could capture, unlike my emotional pain. During high school, when both my family and school life felt amiss, I craved not only the attention of boys, but also a way of feeling in control. I would try to gain this control by not eating. And then when I would eventually fail, I would binge, perpetuating the cycle of my unhealthy relationship with food.

I’ve also never been comfortable eating around people. I have always had an overwhelming fear that people look at me, no matter what I am eating, and think to themselves “Well no wonder she is overweight – she eats!” If anyone is trying to argue rationality for this issue, it’s never going to work. I still can’t eat in a restaurant by myself, and am uncomfortable eating around people I don’t know. But trust me, it pisses me off to be my 30’s and still be ashamed and disgusted to the point where I don’t believe I deserve to eat.

Throughout my twenties, I attempted to develop a positive relationship with food. I had been pescatarian, then vegetarian, which led me to veganism. I really liked being vegan because I felt like my ethics/values were finally matching up with my eating habits. I also tried a variety of exercise routines to try and balance the alcohol and food I ate. Still, I would be lying if I didn’t say they also served as a way to restrict my diet and lose weight.

The first year after I had quit my job and moved home, I was living alone and hardly left the apartment, i.e. barely moved for weeks at a time. Because I was alone it was easier to binge and I gained a lot of weight. After a year, when I decided to do ECT, I moved in with my parents, and started my weight loss through Weight Watchers. It was exciting to feel like I could have a sense of control without necessarily starving myself and it gave me realistic goals I could achieve that were small enough to not be too overwhelming.

Unfortunately, when ECT stopped working (thank you bipolar II,) I started trying new (and old) medications again. Within two months on one medication, the 30 lbs I had lost over the eight months on Weight Watchers was back without a change in diet or exercise. It was so sudden: one day, I wasn’t wearing gym clothes or pajamas, and none of my clothes fit. While weight gain is difficult for any woman, mental illness or not, I think because of my insanely deep self-hate, this hit me especially hard.

Lately, while I have been eating healthy and exercising, I have had a few nights of bingeing. I know this happens to all of us. But when it’s three or four nights in a row, that’s a red flag for me. I know it means I am super-anxious and feeling out of control. But I think it’s less the food (though it does not help the scale) and more the process of bingeing and the shaming that goes along with it that’s so frustrating and upsetting.

After all, I spend each day trying to keep my head up, maintain order, patience, and balance – keys to what I imagine keeping myself in a healthy place will require and therefore must be developed into rote habits. So when I binge at night, I’m falling into old traps of self-hate eating. Without alcohol, men, or cutting, food is the last resort of self-harm. And that is why bingeing is more than just knowing I need another 10 minutes on the treadmill. It means I am not as strong as I want to be. I am not as stable as I wish I could be to move forward in other parts of my life (developing a social life, hobbies, and perhaps a job.)

I have started back on the path to losing the weight I gained on that awful medication, but as usual, everything takes longer (thank you aging). I’ve read so many articles about weight loss and gain; loving your body and yourself; whether women can ever truly accept their body, etc. and have been trying to find a place where I fit. (Those articles can blow me.) I’ve known since I was quite young that having a healthy relationship with food would never happen nor would ever really be the goal. I know that when I look in the mirror I will always see the fat, no matter how thin I am.

Given that my relationship with food is more than just about what the scale says, and also knowing that I won’t ever be fully in control of my addiction because I will always need food in my life, makes it even more difficult. But I guess it’s true – it’s a process I have to deal with day by day, and frankly, for someone that is banking so much on her future, I guess it’s just hard to swallow.

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I’m Mad as Hell and I Don’t Want to Take It Anymore: My Latest Hissy Fit

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This past week I have been angry. Pissed off. “Mad as hell.” The little girl inside my head is lying face down on her bed, arms flailing, kicking her legs and screaming into her pillow: “No! I don’t wanna!”

I’ve found over time there is such a thin line between sadness and anger – at least for me. I’m lying in bed, feeling a profound weight of sadness, and after two days of wallowing in both my depression and pajamas, I realize I’m no longer sad – I’m fucking angry.

I suppose I could be angry at my psychiatrist for still not getting my “concoction” of meds correct. Maybe I could be angry that my friends didn’t sense my depression from 3,000 miles away and call me constantly to see if I was okay. Hell, I could even be angry at my parents for creating me to begin with or for someone in my family tree for passing this disease along into my genetic code.

Unfortunately,
A) I know none of these people are to blame nor should feel my “wrath”
B) I have no “wrath”
and C) I don’t really “get” angry.

I mean, sometimes people anger me and I mutter something under my breath but I don’t/can’t actually yell at someone. Even in the car, if I flick someone off, I do it under the window so they can’t see it. But maybe that’s why my anger and “wrath” is directed to the easiest, most convenient, and easily found target: me.

Since I was bullied in second grade, I have always found a way to turn the anger I felt onto myself. I am angry at myself for letting others abuse me, angry that I allow myself to feel so sad, angry that the medications aren’t working because maybe I’m just not doing something right or trying hard enough. And I do think I am responsible for some of my pain, and I suppose I am angry with myself for that.

But obviously that’s what is so perplexing and futile about this disease, and particularly with my new diagnosis of bilpolar II. It encourages you to get a running start and then out of nowhere puts a wall down in front of you, which you then charge into like a clown, sans hilarity. It’s like your life is like the fucking Hunger Games – a gamekeeper constantly changing the course, hoping for you to fail, give up, and die. And I assure you: I’m no Katniss.

I see all these stories in the news about people who overcame the odds, changing the outcome of their lives. A man who is paraplegic fighting to get feeling back in his arms; a woman who lost her legs in the Boston Marathon bombing but ran in the marathon this year; someone who found themselves homeless and started an organization to help their community and now has a place to live and food to eat. Whatever spark of determination and drive those amazing people have, I lack completely.

I idolize those people but I am so jealous of them, it just makes me angrier with myself for not being more like them. After all, who am I to wallow when others are pushing through their disabilities and misfortunes? Even writing this, I can see the cycle of depression alive and well inside my brain: somehow all of this is my fault and fuck me for being weak; for not deserving the air I still get to breathe.

I was speaking with a friend the other day and I told her that I feel like I have spent the past two and a half years fighting to get better for everyone around me. I have pushed past suicidal ideations and wishes, undergone procedures that have pretty much eradicated the past two years of memories, and taken a variety of pills to help me wake up, get out of bed, leave the house, and then help put me to sleep. Drug after drug – and for what? I am still living at home, unable to keep a job, my creativity all but vanished, weight gained, no boys in sight, let alone to cuddle with. Where a good day is leaving the house or not having a crying fit.

And this pisses me off…again: why am I trying so hard to stay alive to get better so I can have a life “worth living” even though in truth, I never actually get to that worthy life? I spend each day just trying to get somewhere that I may never be? Am I really going to spend my life fighting, agonizing and painfully trying to just be okay but never actually move forward? Am I doing this for myself or for others? What kind of life is worth living when you live it more for others than yourself? When you stop seeing a future and only see time passing, you struggling, feet stuck in the quicksand of depression?

I believe that life, even without this mental illness, is an uphill battle; a series of events that push you to live and thus write the pages of your life. Life isn’t meant to be easy – after all, how can you enjoy pleasure without understanding pain? How can you fully rejoice in happiness if you have never felt true loss? But I feel like I keep aging, days and weeks and months pass by, and I am still on the same chapter. It’s something like:

“Chapter 30; Age 30: Ava struggles with depression and anxiety. Tries new medications. Tries to start working but must quit because she is unable to get out of bed. Tries new drugs. They give her horrible side effects. She feels suicidal. Her family and friends surround her with love but her depression impedes their efficacy. She gets up, hates herself and every imperfection she sees with each breath she takes but doesn’t want to hurt the people she loves. She takes a bunch of pills and finally falls asleep.”

“Chapter 31; Age 31: Ava struggles with depression – see Chapter 30.”

On a more positive note, a few days ago I started a new medication and I’ve felt better the last few days. I’m still anxious and having a hard time sleeping, but I wake up and while I still feel like my actions are pointless, I do them anyway. I’m not going to say I have hope because that’s a bit premature but I can’t help my brain from starting its’ bout of lofty ideas of my “future” self. I’m reticent and sad because I wish I could just enjoy not feeling like shit today. But I can’t help but wonder if tomorrow I will wake up and it will stop working. Oh…hello anger.

And yes, while I am a cynical pessimist it’s more than that – it’s the scars of experience telling me to watch where I’m looking because I don’t want to look up to the beauty of the sky where my hope lives and hit that wall again with the same ignorance I have done so many times before. (See metaphor above of running into walls.) And I’m angry because the truth is it might last and it might not, but if it’s only going to last for a little, I should forget the wall and enjoy the sky but I’m just not built to do that.

The last few days, I can feel my anger slowly turning to sadness – a good sign really. There is a peace that comes with sadness when your anger melts away – maybe that’s the medication working. And I might just have to accept this is where I stand right now. Not blind to the reality of my possible futures that include this same monotonous cycle, but also willing to look up now and again at my “sky of hope” and maybe let myself dream without the fears of walls…at least for just a little bit.

A Liebster Award!?!

liebster awardOn April 20, I received a Liebster Award. I had no idea what it was but was so touched that someone was reading my blog and thought an award was in order. I am attempting to follow the rules, but am new to the blogging world so I’ll endeavor to do my best but apologize in advance if I fuck it up.

A humble thank you to DepressedbutHopeful for nominating me! You are so sweet to acknowledge my attempts at utilizing the blogosphere to break down stigmas, vent my frustrations, and hopefully find a few giggles in the pain of depression and mental illness.

Okay, so here are the Liebster Award rules that I found by cheating off DepressedbutHopeful’s blog post:

1. Link back to the blogger who nominated you.

2. Answer the 11 questions they gave you.

3. Nominate 11 other blogs with less than 200 followers.

4. Let those blogs know that you nominated them by leaving a comment on their blog.

5. Give your nominees 11 questions to answer.

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These are the questions that I was asked to answer:

1) What made you decide to start blogging?

I have been writing “journal entries” on my computer for some time now and bitching about how few people really understand mental illness, the stigma, and what it really means to suffer from this illness. People have mentioned blogging for a few years now, but it was only recently that I figured it might serve as an outlet. It’s amazing how much was already online and I have had the privilege to find some brilliant, honest, and touching insights into mental illness already up and running online! What a community!

2) What is the most interesting place that you have visited?

In high school, I was on a program called “The March of the Living” where you go to Poland and Germany to see the concentration and death camps from the Holocaust. Needless to say, it was life-changing, not to mention fascinating to see cities that are current but only an hour away, camps still laid out to ensure history is never repeated (though sadly genocide continues). This is a downer – I probably should have gone with India…

3) Are you an animal lover?

I freakin’ love dogs. Big ones, little ones. Love them. Their unwavering and constant love amazes me. You can scold them and five seconds later they are in your lap. Ever know of a human that can do that? ;) I’m also ethically against harming all animals and have wavered between being vegetarian, pescatarian, and vegan most of my life.

4) What is your favourite thing to cook?

I recently fell in love with cooking, but one of my favorite vegetables is spaghetti squash so I’m constantly looking for new ways to cook it. I love the idea of having all these things that on their own are so simple but when you put them together, they become something so amazing. I think that’s why I love baking (but always give it away or else I also love eating it all.)

5) What is your favourite band/song at the moment?

I’ve been a little out of the music scene lately, but recently saw Hedwig and the Angry Inch on Broadway with Neil Patrick Harris. I’ve been obsessed with the movie for over a decade, but seeing it live like that brought the obsession to the forefront of my iPod. The song that makes me the happiest is Sugar Daddy but Origin of Love and Midnight Radio make me want to change my life. And sometimes, when I’m having a bad day, I sing Wig in a Box to push myself forward. I’ve also been digging Matt Nathanson’s new album (check out Kinks Shirt – addictive much?) and still listen to the covers of The Muppets (with current artists) to rock out too. (I shit you not – it’s really good!)

6) What is your favourite activity for recharging yourself?

Cleaning is a great way for me to recharge. I am moving, but feeling effective. When I finish a task like reorganizing a file or dusting a table, I feel in control and calm. Wait, is that recharging?

7) What is something you have always wanted to do, but haven’t yet done?

I’ve always wanted to live in England, Scotland, or Ireland – I’ve been an anglophile since I first visited and crave it every time I hear an accent. They seem to be the only people that understand my sarcasm without being offended. Did I mention their accents?

8) What is your favourite television show and why?

Ok, incredibly difficult question for someone who watches a shit ton of television and has been addicted since childhood. Freaks and Geeks, Veronica Mars, Battlestar Galactica, Torchwood, Firefly, Sherlock, Sopranos…I can’t do this – it’s too hard. It’s like trying to thank everyone in 20 seconds at the Academy Awards – it just can’t be done.

9) Where do you see yourself in five years?

Can I skip this one too? I suppose we are talking ideal rather than cynical reality? In a job I enjoy and feel impacts the world in a positive way by helping others; living on my own in a city where I don’t have to drive but can walk everywhere; be financially stable and comfortable; in a healthy disposition in terms of what I eat, and how I feel in my body; I want to be able to look in the mirror and be okay with the person I see; be with a man that cares about me and accepts me for who I am; taking fun classes; doing art; taking walks, and enjoying life. Sorry that’s more of a fantasy than an ideal.

10) What is an interesting talent that you have?

According to others, I seem to have an exhaustive amount of empathy for all people – like feeling bad for both the victims and the perpetrators by seeing the larger ramifications that led them to their positions and mistakes. Is that a talent or a curse? I can make a sarcastic remark pretty much about anything, especially myself. Is that a talent?

11) What is your dream job?

I’ve always thought my dream job was to be a professor, but I think as long as I am teaching people and learning, I could be happy. Fighting for civil rights makes me giddy with passion, especially being able to watch others make a difference. I’ve let go of my childhood fantasies of being a television anchor or actress.

Damn, that was exhausting … and I’m a little mixed about whether that was inspiring or depressing, but moving on…

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Here are my 11 questions.

 

  1. Why do you blog? What do you hope to achieve through your blog (if anything)?
  2. If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be?
  3. If you could choose any profession, what would it be?
  4. What is one quality you insist all of your true friends must have?
  5. What is on your iPod on constant repeat right now?
  6. What is your favorite website to peruse?
  7. What is your favorite sound?
  8. What is your favorite word?
  9. Who is your role model and why?
  10. If you could go back in time, when, where, and why?
  11. What is an interesting talent you have? (I found this question hard, but maybe you can figure it out.)

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And the nominees are…

Ok, I seriously am not online that much and have just started doing this, so I don’t know that many blogs, especially those with under 200, so I did my best and tried to stay under 500. Also, I know you are supposed to do 11 but to be fair, I don’t know if I am following more than that. So here are my top seven. I’m really sorry if I’m doing this wrong!

  1. Finding Beauty in Spite of Myself: I feel really bad, but I can’t figure out how many followers this site has! I’m sure it’s more than 200, so I’m really sorry about that. But I’ve really enjoyed reading these posts. They are insightful, touching and grounded.
  2. Ok, so Inconsistently Yours has about 300 followers, but I’m including her because I honestly have just started looking at other blogs and evidently, everyone here is so popular! I love how honest she is and how you feel when you’re reading like she’s talking to you.
  3. Once again, someone with over 200, but still, young and twenty is a great blog. For someone who is so young, she is incredibly aware and insightful of the challenges life brings us. I don’t think at that age, I had the same grasp on the complexities (I call them bitches) of life.
  4. Staring Over the Edge of the Abyss often makes me laugh but is some seriously real shit. I really enjoy reading his posts. I don’t always have to connect personally to get something out of it – and that’s the sign of a good writer.
  5. Going Sideways – I know Gavin has to have a shit ton of followers, but I can’t find the number anywhere and I really respect what he does on his blog. Few men write poetry, and when I read through his blog, I find a survivor who is fighting and it’s inspiring.
  6. I Am My Own Island – I love how honest this blog is. Whether it’s just talking about a day or a larger issue, she’s bright, articulate, and honest. She also posts a lot of different content whether a video or a picture – and I like that she mixes it up. Keep on keeping on!
  7. DepressedbutHopeful – Is it against the rules to nominate someone who nominated you? I just really like this blog. It’s beautifully written and just overall awesome.

“Role Models” for A Depressive Like Me

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Veronica from “Veronica Mars”

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Hedwig from “Hedwig and the Angry Inch”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’ve been a television and movie fanatic since I was old enough to decide what to watch without my brother trouncing on the remote control. (I understand now that it was his older brother obligation.) For a while there, I thought I would like to go into entertainment or at least be on the sidelines. I was fascinated not only by the stories but by the stars themselves. (This was before UsWeekly ruined any shred of dignity about personal matters.) Obviously, so many speak of entertainment as a means of escape, but for me it was more about hope for the future. I wasn’t necessarily trying to remove myself from my life, but watching the protagonists lose, the heroine break free and find herself, or finally find the right match, it made me think that my life was just the beginning of a long, heartfelt, indie flick.

Storyline: Girl is raised by quirky, loving family. Endures hardship growing up – financial woes, family crises, heartbreak, and bullying. As she grows, she is hit hard by an illness that attempts to break her down. It controls her life and she is at its’ whim. She struggles, finds hope, struggles again, but continues to rise with the hope of a better day. This process continues with no end in sight.

To date, this is pretty much as far as my personal story has gone.

But as a young kid and even today, I am enthralled by stories of those misunderstood; those trying to find themselves through adversity; and in doing so, find a place of acceptance and happiness. Along the way, I’ve become a bit pickier about my role models. I’m not sure why I ever wanted to be Rachel on Friends (this was before I learned about real feminism,) or only wished I could be any of the women in those Hugh Grant films. (I might still like them British, but I do like some depth.) Now I find myself rewatching movies I watched repeatedly/obsessively in my 20’s and don’t feel the connection or understanding to the characters I once held so dear. But there are two characters (and their respective shows) I still hold on to as beacons of my eventual “happy ending.”

The first is the character of Veronica Mars. (Let’s exclude the movie for this analysis.) For those of you who don’t know who this is, the show “Veronica Mars” only lasted three years but has still maintained a strong following. The character of Veronica Mars is a high school girl who has become a social outcast and becomes a private detective to help vindicate others’ injustices, stick it to those who think they can get away with hurting others, and all with a witty, sarcastic punch line in tow. She also has a complicated love life full of incredibly good-looking but complicated men. Ah, what a life. I loved that through it all, she still got up in the morning and faced the world. She still was able to compartmentalize the many facets of her life and push through, even while scathed. And seriously, she got to stick it to people who in my life, I’ve always cowed down to. What’s not to love?

The other character I idolize is from The movie (and current Broadway play,) “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” and is none other than Hedwig, (angry inch and all). I’ve been watching this movie (which was on Broadway and currently is on Broadway again,) for about 10 years and still cry at the same parts. It’s a complicated story to explain and people get stuck on the wrong details and never understand how a depressed, straight, white, middle-class woman like myself relates to a transsexual, Iggy Pop makeup-wearing person who wears blond flamboyant wigs and tiny skirts while hailing from East Berlin. Wait, you really don’t see the correlation? ;)

I love Hedwig because the story is about trying to find and accept all of who you are. Feeling that you are not whole without your other half, struggling to find that other half, and in the end, finding you are whole with or without that other. I see the moral as being that you are often your worst demon – never being able to just be.

As a side note, the Broadway show that I can’t seem to let go of is Avenue Q. I suppose there isn’t one character in this show that I relate to most – I find commonalities with each of them except for the porn-obsessed monster. Ok, yes, they’re stuffed puppets, but once you get over that, all I can say is – preach, puppets, preach. The musical is all about a kid out of college trying to find his purpose and realizing life is a lot fucking harder than that. Life is unfair, complicated, and fucked up, but at the end of the day, the moral is that even if you don’t find your purpose, you get up, live your life as best you can, and try again the next day.

It’s important to note that none of these characters suffer from depression. And this is probably, as I have mentioned in the past, because a movie, book, or show about a depressed person would be incredibly boring and ratings would be awful. But I guess I just love my underdogs – with a spicy hit of sass and wit and even felt. One who refuses to accept her/his place, and the other who comes to find her/his place and accept it or at least keep trying.

I feel like this is a common struggle with depression. There is a thrust towards refusing to accept feeling powerless – fighting the demons that flog your mind daily. But there is also a power in accepting that maybe the fight in and of itself is what is holding you back from finding your peace. In acceptance of your disease you are in a way empowered. And the struggle between this juxtaposition is confusing, annoying, and exhausting.

I know that movies and shows are fantasies – often times, the words the writers wish they could say if they had the chance. Or maybe they are written to inspire others to take a path they failed to find. But either way, these characters give me hope and strength even though I know they are simply adult fairy tales. After all, while life has an ending, there is no soundtrack, no masked hero in disguise, or a trite quote to wrap it all up in a tidy bow.

But I keep watching and dreaming and hoping. Maybe my day will come where I accept what life gives me, tell the depression to go fuck itself, and end with a quirky, witty comment right before the credits role and my prince comes.

Yeah right.

The Power of Words: Finding the Voice of Depression

I’m sad today. Not that anything has really gone wrong. I had a restless night of sleep and am still trying to figure out if it’s the meds, the bed, or just me. I haven’t had a completely pointless day – I actually read more than five pages of a book, took the dog for a “walk”, (she stops so much it feels more like a meander,) did the dishes and laundry, and while I ate too much, I haven’t been too hard on myself about it. I have a few overwhelming life decisions on my plate, but I know today’s not the day to attempt to break them down. (I’m waiting for a bout of hypomania to deal with those.)

But I’m still sad. “Sad.” It’s funny how certain words become so trite and insufficient when you deal with them so often. Words like: depressed, sad, pain, helpless, hurt, or exhausted. They are used so often in so many contexts, when speaking of depression, the specificity of their depth and thus their significance is lost.

Example: When someone dies and you feel sad, it’s a different sad then when you feel this deep pain pounding through your body that extinguishes the luster of color, taste, or smell for weeks. Or the sadness that deflates the excitement of friends calling, stories told, or help provided. I’m not trying to say the sadness of death and grief are any less valid or don’t have similarities to the sadness of depression; I’m saying they are not the same, and yet in both situations the same word is used.

I’ve always loved words; their power and subtlety, their vast ability to make you feel and see and understand. And as much as I love our current lexicon, it never does this disease justice. Without appropriate language, how can a person describe what they feel, especially to someone who might not have ever felt that way? And therefore, how can one make someone understand the frightening reality and serious implications of this disease – how it can devastate a future, crush ones’ dreams, and lead people to a place where they find themselves pleading for death?

I have come to believe a large, painful component of this disease lies in the constant struggle to make others understand and the constant aggravation and helplessness of being misunderstood. (Often times, neither party at fault.) Perhaps that is why so many of us suffer in silence or act out in “crazy” ways in an attempt to be “heard.”

I have had the opportunity to read other blogs of people suffering through depressive diseases and sometimes their descriptions or metaphors are able to capture the daily veil of this demonic disease. But I still wonder – would someone who does not suffer really understand? Will the stigma behind mental illness ever really diminish if people cannot relate?

I’m not arguing that we create a new lexicon for mental illness. If only it was that simple. I guess I just feel sad and wish there was more I could do or say to take the pain away. As for today, I’m going to try and stay busy, push the pain away by ignoring it, and do my best to make it through until tomorrow.

Enough said.

I Just Don’t Know: Unanswerable Questions Constantly On My Mind

I recently returned from my three-week east coast “friend” tour with a few new tidbits I’ve been mulling over for the past week:

  • My ECT affected my memory more than I realized.
  • My depression affected my memory more than I realized.
  • I’m pretty sure I also just have a shitty memory.
  • Depression follows you even if you go 3,000 miles away.
  • I have amazing friends whom I love so much it hurts (in a good way).
  • I love urban living, especially public transportation. (This is not sarcasm.)
  • Airplanes are disgusting breeding grounds for colds no matter how much Airborne or Purell you use.

There is no doubt I had a lovely time being around my friends, but it was also fucking hard. All of the people I visited know of my disease and the consequences. They all love me anyway – even when I’ve been a shitty friend (like missing a wedding, not calling back when they needed to talk, or not remembering life-changing moments that I shared.) I laughed a lot and felt at times like I was the person I enjoy being – the one without depression.

But my medication wasn’t working and even if you love people, it can still be difficult to watch them checking the boxes of life while you still are unemployed, living with your parents, and single. I am so happy for them but can’t help but wonder why I can’t/don’t have the same. (Side note: Comparison is a key component to a good depressive, self-hate episode. In the past, I’ve compared myself to children, tv show characters, and even animals. Don’t try wrapping your mind around that last one, but trust me, it can be done.)

As the trip grew to a close, I missed home for sure: my bed, my routines, my mom, all of my other toiletries – but what was I really coming home to? Without all of the distractions of travel and friends, I knew my depression that I had been attempting to avoid while I felt it festering each day, now awaited me with open arms. I had to make a decision about a part-time job that was not working out, wait to see if I got into a master’s program and if I should do it if I got in, and still try to figure out the answer to the insistent, nagging question of whether my life was worth living.

I got home, impulsively quit my job, (though in retrospect know it’s for the best,) got rejected from the masters program with two letters (because one rejection letter evidently isn’t enough,) and proceeded to develop a nasty cold. At least the cold was a great way to hide how hard the transition back was hurting. I could sit in bed, exhausted from my self-hatred and lack of hope, but at least have a “valid” excuse.

It’s been a week since I got home. Today, I resolved to go to the gym (a daily routine that always helps me get out of my head for the hour I’m there,) that I have been unable to get to this past week. It’s hard to explain to people how badly you want to do something and yet how you can’t. Earlier this week, I would tell my mom that I wanted to go the gym, and she would get ready, and I would say I wasn’t going. “But you wanted to” – and yes, I still wanted to, but I couldn’t. I couldn’t do anything that would make me feel better. I couldn’t cook, clean, go to the gym, walk the dog, write or call a friend. I was chained to the bed, only able to hate myself for failing and falling further into my depression.

Anyway, I actually did go to the gym today and ran into a friend of my father who is one of those super happy people that I try to avoid as much as possible. Eventually, as the conversation was dying a slow, painful death, the inevitable question was raised about what I was doing with my life. While I normally tell people that I’m home caring for my parents, both of them were at the gym, so I didn’t have that lie to go with. Even though I could have lied about grad school, I don’t know, I suck at lying and it was only a week ago I got rejected so it just felt wrong. I should have said I was in a transition period deciding what to do with my life, you know, the middle-class mid-20’s answer, but it came out as “Yeah, I don’t know, I…I’m just trying to figure … I don’t know.” That was a proud moment of awkward failure.

But the truth is, I don’t know. I keep thinking it’s okay to wait until my medication gets figured out, but wonder if the fact that I have nothing in my life is getting in the way of the medication working. I keep going through hobbies, attempting to find one. I used to do puzzles, read, and do art. But I haven’t felt creative and worry about the money it takes to buy art supplies. Puzzles have become too frustrating, and I can’t sit for more than 15 minutes with a book. I thought I could find a cooking class, but those suckers cost money. I thought about applying for full-time disability or a part-time job, but funnily enough, have been too depressed to actually do either.

I guess the transition home has left me feeling lost in a sea of questions. I don’t know what to do and I don’t know if I did know what to do, if I could actually do it. (Got that?) And while I’m tired of feeling like a failure, I don’t know if I’m actually able to take any steps forward at this time. If I try and it doesn’t work, won’t I feel like more of a failure and that will set me back even more than before? And I can’t stop but think: how was I able to have this disease through college and three jobs, before that moment where I quit my job and moved back home. Did something change in my disease? Did it reach a new level? Or did I finally just break? Was I finally just too tired to try?  Did I create my own spiral into a deep darkness I can’t seem to pull myself out of? Am I not strong enough anymore, or am I just too afraid? Should I blame myself, or the disease? Where does the buck actually stop?

And while I know I’ll probably spend the rest of my days repeating these questions to myself ad nauseam, the only answer I ever seem to come up with is: I just don’t know.