The Raw Truth: Sometimes There is No Room for Hope

When I first started this blog, I invited all of my family and friends to follow me. After all, in the last few years I have been fairly open with everyone about my illness and I thought this would be a good way of articulating some parts of the illness that I have had a difficult time explaining in person. I also was afraid no one else would read my blog so I at least wanted a few “followers.” (Ah, vanity.)

But I have realized in reading other blogs, the change in the power of voice when those you know don’t read your words. I started to look back on posts and realize I was hesitating to write the whole truth – to always have a positive ending, to prove I was still going to try because I couldn’t face the reality of those I love thinking I was anywhere but there – in that place of hope. And I know that after everything I have gone through, suicide is not on the table. It’s just not a reality I can make because as much as I hate myself, I love certain people more. Even if I do not see the value but only the pain, frustration, and energy I worthlessly devour, they disagree. So that is my concession.

But that doesn’t mean I don’t have days where I fantasize about leaving this place. It doesn’t mean I don’t have days where I try to see my future and see only darkness. Days where I can’t shower because I am so drawn to my razor, I know I will make a decision and others will be disappointed in me – others who have given me so much room to tread. Because that’s what I’m doing right now. Funny enough, I can’t literally tread water, but I feel like my life is this process of metaphorically treading. I’m not moving forward, maybe a little backwards. I can’t see hope for any successful future. When I lay down to sleep, the reason why I have insomnia is because I can’t think of what I want to dream about. I run through ideas: boys, jobs, friends – and it all comes up empty. My dreams have left me. And with them my hope.

I know that everything in life is a risk. I know there are no definites, there are no answers, and there certainly are no distinct wrongs and rights/blacks and whites. But four years ago, I was a depressed, self-harming, self-hating girl with a job, friends, and a path. I gave that up because one day I just decided I couldn’t do it anymore. And I’m starting to think that day was the last day of the potential for the rest of my life. In these last four years, every step forward has brought me three steps back, to the point where I no longer want to walk at all.

I hope my family respects my wishes and doesn’t read this. And not because they can’t know. I’m sure in a few days time, whether I break down and cry, or they just sense my avoidance, they’ll know. But I wanted to be able to write that I’m scared without repercussions. As much as I value the closeness that honesty has brought with my family, I miss my secrets. I miss the reality of my feelings without precursors or necessary add-ons like “but I know it will get better” or “but I’m fine and will figure it out.” I miss the days where I could just say to myself “I’m so scared, I’m so empty and I don’t know if I can handle a tomorrow.” There is something unique about the raw truth of my depression. I have no excuse. I have no quick fix. I have no idea what will happen next.

I am in the now. And I am scared, sad, lonely, hateful, and bored. And it’s not ok. And I’m not fine. And I’m not sure how I’m going to figure it out.

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Empathy for Other Depressives

I always assumed that given my mental disorder, I would have more empathy for those that suffer with similar problems. And when reading others’ blog posts, I certainly do. As I read, I am reminded of the pain I have felt and still feel today. My heart aches, wishing I could be there to hurt with them, to unite together and fight our battles. After all, isn’t two always better than one when attempting to defeat the bad guy?

Sometimes, it’s almost too close to my own truth and I find it difficult to read. The pain is so vivid, and sometimes so fresh, I find myself being tempted back to the pain and I have to take a break from reading, and from feeling too much.

But in real life situations, being around a person who is fighting depression is something else entirely. Instead of empathizing the way I do with my friends and family who deal with problems big and small, I find myself frustrated, angry, and sometimes disgusted. If I’m trying so hard, what’s their excuse? I know where they are, I know what they want, but why can’t they try harder? It’s not like I’m thrilled to take all my pills; to accept the limits to my reality; to never feel secure when I feel healthy – but I can’t give them pity. And I feel absolutely horrible about it.

My family member who is currently ill, is not only suffering from cognitive thinking lapses, but it’s clear she is also depressed. The signs are almost textbook to the tee: she pushes others away; spends her days watching television and sleeping, only leaving her chair to use the restroom. She doesn’t take care of her personal hygiene and if we weren’t here she would eat horribly – ordering pizza and cheese sticks. She’s rude, curt, and spiteful. She hurts others to push them away, and given she’s in her seventies, she’s had years to perfect it. She has been this way since I was five: childlike in her defiance, a misanthrope, and horribly miserable to herself and others to boot.

A part of me feels I should be able to work with her more because I know what’s she doing. I also feel I should be more empathetic to her choices given I have been in the same position before and still have days and weeks when I fall apart. But like I said, I’m angry and find sympathy, let alone empathy hard to find. I’ve spent the last two weeks trying to figure out why.

Maybe it’s because like blog posts, I need time away from the disease sometimes. Maybe it’s because while I have said and done things to push people away, I always apologize for my behavior and feel a terrible guilt for hurting those I am lucky to have trying to help. Maybe it’s because she, similar to me, is blessed to have those that care, take the insults and indifference, and still continue to help, to smile, and to love.

Why do you think this is so hard for me? Have you ever dealt with someone with a similar disease or behavior and found it to be frustrating? And if so, how have you dealt with it? I am in no way perfect, nor am I unaware that I will continue in my future to exhibit these similar behaviors. But why can’t I push past what feels like judgement and join her team? Fight through her behavior and believe in the power of two. I want to help … so why can’t I?

Run Like the Wind: Failed Attempts to Sprint Past My Illness

Sometimes it happens when I’m sitting alone. Or sometimes it happens at a restaurant or inside a home with friends or family. I suddenly have this intense, aching desire to get up and start running. My chest aches, my forehead breaks into an unnoticeable sweat, and my legs begin to shake.

I imagine myself running fast and free, my heels almost touching the back of my thighs, my chest heaving, my throat burning, my sweat drying from a cool breeze. Unlike real life, while I have pain in my thighs, I don’t stop. Instead, the pain frees me from it all – I can keep running for as long as I need to.

Maybe I’ll run to the cemetery and slowly pass the plots with names, dates, and rotting flowers. Or maybe I’ll find a dead street and see the left out tricycles, garbage, and lawn chairs. Or maybe, I’ll run to my car, get in, and drive far away from wherever I currently sit.

Sometimes, there is even a soundtrack as I run, pushing me farther, faster. I have run so far, I have shattered the disorder from my heart, my lungs – it disintegrates, dissipating slowly from my blood stream, ripped off in one large piece from my dermal layer of skin – it now lays in a heap far, far behind me.

And this quest I have now begun, with only the clothes on my back, and the sweat lathered upon my head, neck, and back, has lead me to a new place of hope. A place where no one knows who I am or what I’ve done. There is no pressure to smile, to captivate, or to be proper or interesting. I can reinvent myself to be a loner in a small town. Maybe I’d go to the same restaurant every day and they would already know what I wanted because it’s what I order every time. Or maybe I’d be that quirky girl who doesn’t talk much but dresses in 50’s clothes, and buys vinyl records and wears distinctively eye-catching makeup.

I build a life there. One where my past does not haunt me. Where my future is open for business, for discussion, full of choice and random coincidences. Where there is no place for my disorder and therefore I choose what to be and that is now who I am. I am no longer defined within the limits of my disorder. No pills, no doctors, no concerned faces, no worries of failure. My skin is fresh, my heart is full – I am finally the real me – whoever that may be, for however long I choose.

And then I am snapped from my daydream – my feet firmly on the ground. The sound of others in the restaurant too loud, the conversation uninteresting. In my plain, non-descriptive clothes, I sit and attempt to listen, knowing those around me are worried I’m not speaking. Where have I gone in my thoughts? Will I come back? Will they have to deal yet again with a depressive episode? Should they try to make me laugh? Should they leave me alone? Do I just need a good cry before I come back to them?

It’s nighttime now and here I sit. My disorder masking my screams, my desires to run from the life I have inevitably created. I am not who I want to be; I am not where I want to be. And yet, this is the consequence of my disorder and therefore my decisions and choices.

It’s not until I’m in bed at night, feeling my belly heave up and down as I wait for my medications to knock me out into a world of dreams and nightmares, that my thoughts turn to running away. And slowly I fall into sleep and awake the next morning disappointed to find myself in the same place.

Life’s a Bitch and Then You Die: The Struggle for Hope

I have really enjoyed writing this blog. I’m not going to lie, it’s been a complicated experience. Over the past few months, I’ve had to take breaks from both writing and reading. As much as I learn about myself and others as I read and write, it can get pretty intense and pull me down.

What I wasn’t expecting is that I’d miss it. Not only reading all of the intelligent, thoughtful, and real posts from all of you, but writing my own posts. I’ve had a rough couple of weeks and haven’t had time to sit down and think, let alone write. My meds have not been cooperating  so I’ve had some issues with kinesthesia, then we had to put my dog to sleep, and we had a family emergency and I was pulled from my daily routine to come and help out.

But interestingly enough, I’ve learned a lot from all this chaotic shit.

  • My family is amazing and I am so fortunate to have their support. Without their love, I’d have had a complete meltdown weeks ago.
  • Helping others can overwhelm my empathetic emotions and wear me down.
  • Helping others gives me strength, energy, and purpose, and helps keep the blues away. (Yes, I see the irony of those two statements).
  • If you love someone, set them free. (Ugh, I fucking hate cheesy analogies.)
  • Schedule, sleep, stress, change, and chaos can really mess with your illness.

In the past few weeks, my dog had slowly been getting sick: unable to keep food down; walk very well or far; and I was giving her pills and subcutaneous liquid injections daily while she vomited and shook. You could tell she was miserable though there were moments where I saw her personality pop up. I wanted her to get better, but each week, her test results would come back and she was getting worse, and honestly, you could tell she felt shitty.

I struggled to make the decision of when her life should end, but the doctor and my family (I was alone at the time so it was mostly by phone) was kind and helped let me know it was the right decision. This dog was my personal anti-depressant who helped me leave the house to run errands or take a walk when I was terrified to leave my bed. This horrible process made me realize that sometimes true love means letting go. I recognized that I was being selfish because I didn’t want to lose her even if it was the right thing to do. I also will be forever grateful that a family member agreed to take her and others listened as I sobbed on the phone for about two days straight before she was put to sleep.

At the same time, a family member down state became ill and I flew down to help out. Being here this past week has got me thinking – when I help others I feel a purpose to my life, while sometimes at home, I feel so lost, like I’m just taking up space. At the same time, it’s been difficult being here. There is obviously a lot of stress as we don’t know how ill my family member has become. We do know that she is suffering from memory loss.

You would think as someone who has been through ECT and major depressive episodes that have led me to lose two years of memories would make me more sympathetic and patient, but it can be frustrating to have the same conversation three times in a row. It’s also hard to help someone whose pride holds them back from accepting real help. And then I think of the similarities: I’ve had a difficult time letting people help me; I’ve been a bitch to them in an attempt to push them away; I was defiant in my unhealthy lifestyle that was slowly killing me; and I’m sure I asked the same question more than once in a 15 minute period.

As an empathetic person, I find myself feeling such sadness for her and also frustration because she’s not willing to fight or push herself to get better. And yet, it hits me that this is part of the disease. While no one has diagnosed her with depression (like she would ever admit it anyway,) when you turn society and people who love you away, when you live alone and spend days at a time without human interaction, you lose hope and social skills.

I don’t know what’s going to happen. We are taking things day by day and I try to be as helpful as possible from cleaning and cooking to filing papers and cutting her hair. And I wish I could do more. And yet I know that every day it’s also weighing on my own personal health. And I go back and forth between feeling selfish and knowing I can’t be as helpful unless I’m taking care of myself.

She keeps telling me “life’s a bitch and then you die” as if that’s a philosophy of life. And it’s tempting to agree but I know that I’ve worked too hard to accept that. It may be true that “it is what it is” but I can’t believe I am working this hard to keep my head above water, struggling to survive, for naught. Having my dog die has made me realize that many I love will leave me, no matter how much I need them. And I get it: life is a bitch, and I will die. But I have to believe that the love of others and the fight to put that bitch in a corner from time to time, makes it all worth it.