Decisions: Jumping Into An Ocean of Unknown Outcomes and Consequences

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I’m getting tired of all these life decisions. I don’t know what’s more irritating: knowing I have to make them and not knowing what to do; or watching myself avoid them like the plague. Both make me feel like shit. I’m ashamed because for so long I was embarrassed that I didn’t have a life and now I technically have the power to create one, and I’m too lost and scared to make one. I also feel like everyone is waiting to see what happens. After all, I have never actually been this way before – so if I do go out in the world, will I be strong enough? Will it have been too soon to leave the cocoon? Will I survive or come home nine months later like I did after the ECT treatment three years ago?

I know everyone has to make life decisions. I guess I’ve always been a fan of letting them be made for me – either by others or by fate. Sometimes if you just wait long enough, you are automatically put into a situation based on timing and don’t really have to decide anything. I guess that was how I felt with London. If I just kept doing the bare minimum but not overthinking it, September would come and I would be on the plane and that would be settled.

I am suspicious of this new possibility of not going to London, but seeking a different path, because I thought of it when I was depressed. So I suppose there’s a part of me that questions if it was made of sound mind or if this is some elaborate attempt to sabotage myself. I have written out pro and con lists and thought through the goals and outcomes for each situation. Obviously, both have their share of good and bad possibilities. Some say the good news is that neither would be a mistake since they are both incredible opportunities, but clearly they have never dealt with depression and anxiety.

I haven’t worked since 2012. Since then, my memory has decreased, my cognitive skills have slowed, and I live a simple (sometimes empty,) life. While I have grown stronger without clinical depression, I almost feel more fragile – not knowing if the strength I have built to help me go to the gym and make appointments will be enough in the real world of jobs, people, men, and life.

I suppose since I made the decision to accept defeat and come home, I have doubted my ability to handle myself. Perhaps that is why I stayed in California for my job after ECT – so that if I fell, I would be close to home. And I did, so I suppose that was convenient. But perhaps having that “safety net” actually made it worse because it allowed me to stay closer to the possibility and comfort of depression, knowing home was just two hours away.

It’s odd given that when I was younger and incredibly depressed, I handled all of this. Not well mind you, but I knew it was something I had to do, so I did it. Part of what I think kept me going when I was in NY and DC when I was younger, before the breakdown, was that I was on my own (without my family,) and independent. I was scared of everything in life, but I didn’t have anyone to hold my hand, so I either did it or didn’t. I was forced to make decisions, good and bad, throughout my illness. And while some of those decisions were ineffective and harmful, they were still decisions. And I suppose I know how to make decisions from a depressed state of mind. I’ve been doing it since I was a child. I developed a system for life within my depression to make myself function – at least at work and in public. But I am not that person anymore and while I am grateful for that, I am really scared. I don’t know how strong this person is. I know, like all new things, you really don’t know until you try. But I also guess there is a part of me that knows deep down that if I fall, I don’t know if I will be able to get up or want to.

When I became depressed a few weeks ago, it became clear to me that I couldn’t go back to feeling that way. I couldn’t go back to a life where I was unable to leave the house, answer the phone, shower, or clean, with a constant desire to hurt and ruin myself in whatever way possible. I told myself when I was 33 that I wouldn’t live a life like that past 35. And now I am turning 35 in August and I feel like I’m teetering.

I’m pretty sure the medication regimen I’m on is working, at least for now. I know the majority of the issues that I believe are causing me anxiety and depression, are big, and anyone, depressed or not, would be having a difficult time facing them.I am aware that there is no reality where I will not carry my bipolar II with me. There will be no decision I can make with complete confidence that I will make it. And I know that no one faces life’s challenges with a blank slate. We all go into our life with our past, our weaknesses, our strengths, our doubts. Everyone spends every day of their life jumping into an ocean of unknown outcomes and consequences.

I guess I’m just really scared that if I jump, I’m going to drown.

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Pillow Talk: Can You Fail at Becoming Yourself?

Tonight, as I got prepped in bed to battle the anti-sleep demon, I began to think about London. Ever since I got in to graduate school again, and basically made the decision that I have to go, I think about it several times a day. And really, London is really just an analogy for decision-making in general.

I hate to harp on this, but I can’t seem to find a sense of peace with it – making decisions without losing my mind. And tonight, I really did. I turned off the lights and London popped into my head. I started thinking about the feeling of being lost, stupid and clueless, which will inevitably be a constant for the first month at least. I get lost a lot – even in places I know. I actually don’t mind it so much, especially if I have time and shoes that don’t give me blisters – but I know I’m going to have to ask someone where the hell to go. And with my American accent, well my fear of judgement rolls over me like this giant wave, and I feel like I can’t breathe. I detest being a tourist – it drives me mad with embarrassment.

And then just for a moment, I thought about leaving completely. If I was gone, I wouldn’t have to make all these decisions. I wouldn’t have to know if I was right or wrong or deal with the fear and anxiety before the decision has been made. I wouldn’t have to hear people telling me different things and not knowing who to trust. I wouldn’t have to feel so fucking lost in knowing who I am. All of this fear would be gone.

And I would be an unknown. Still young, without a career, partner, or lifestyle, people could only imagine the person I would have been. You hear it when people talk about those they’ve lost too soon: “She would have made such a difference” “if only she had more time.” People would just fill in the answer of who I might have been for themselves.

I cannot believe I thought this. I’m so frightened of myself. I know I’m not going to do anything, and this thought has drifted in my head a few times over the year, usually as a passing thought of why I had wanted it when I was clinically depressed. But it’s not fair. I don’t want my fear to overtake me so violently that it makes me want to vanish from all the questions life provides. ‘Cuz that’s what life is, right? Exploring questions and choosing answers that eventually form who you are.

Isn’t this why I spent years trying to get better? Why I left my life and moved home? Why I did ECT? Why I’ve spent two years trying medications and exercising and challenging myself to leave the house every day?

I’m okay now. I know that the thought I had was basically a flight response to another fear of something that isn’t happening until September. I know it has something to do with my first DBT class tomorrow, and meeting new people, and how much I really do not like mental health groups. I have so many fears in my head, big and small, though they all seem to carry the same weight of anxiety.

I’m here. I get that. Maybe I’ll figure this out. Maybe I’ll have a breakdown. Hopefully it will be a mix of something in between. I’m just so exhausted of being so terribly frightened of life. I worry that my failures of simple decisions might be indicative of larger decisions to come. I never really thought much of the future because I never thought I’d have one. And now there is a prospect of perhaps having one, and I’m terrified of wasting it.

Can you waste something that is undefined? Can you do something that is only within you, incorrectly? Can you fail at becoming yourself? Can someone please invent a worthy sleeping pill, for fuck’s sake.

Hanging Pictures: The Power of Objects, Memories, and Emotions

My sibling came to visit my apartment the other day. She noticed I had nothing on my walls and joked it looked like I just moved in when I’ve almost been here a year now. I told her when I first moved in, I didn’t know I would stay; then I thought I might go to London for school so there was no point in setting up shop; and since then, I’ve just been busy. So, true to her expedient fashion, she had me pull out my previous art/frames/etc and decide what to put up and where.

I was hesitant. I told her maybe I had outgrown them. She asked if I still liked them, and I said yes. So we hung it. We put up my two large framed pieces of art, and then she had to go.

I felt uneasy all night. Sitting there in my living room, I kept looking at the art, trying to understand why it was making me feel uncomfortable. It is beautiful art, but I missed my white walls. I generally take an unusual amount of time processing change – yes, even something as simple as art on a wall – so I assumed it was just me trying to accept I might be living here for longer than I expected and why and what that might mean.

I realized walking into the room this morning what it was. It’s lovely art. Very much the style I like. I bought both of these in the first few years I left college and was living in Washington, DC – including the one I lived in before my breakdown. And last I had them up, was the year I was suicidal  in my studio apartment in Berkeley. During those years, I spent many nights and days lying in bed, looking at these paintings. Turned on my side, tears slipping over the ridge of my nose, wondering if I had the energy to take the next breath. I often sat at the bottom my bed, looking across from these paintings, rocking myself, consumed with a hatred that made my stomach ache.

This is a little out there for me, so take it with a grain of salt, but somewhere in their essence, the feeling of my pain still exists. My memories trapped within the paintings still slowly leak out and I remember the emotional, physical and mental anguish I barely survived. Sadly, there aren’t just paintings anymore – they are a past that is constantly breathing on my neck, threatening to consume me again.

Pretty fucking intense for a painting, right? But it does explain why I haven’t put up any pictures of my friends, my family, or poems that friends sent during the past five years to uplift my spirit. Seeing pictures of people I have lost touch with, people I miss, me smiling while knowing what I was experiencing at the time – it’s tainted. I assume over time, when I see these paintings or pictures, I will not forget, but the emotion attached to it will fade and it will just be a fact connected to the painting or picture in my timeline.

So as for the paintings, I figure I have a few options. I can wait a few days and see if the memories fade and it just becomes art again. Take them down and sell them. Maybe look for new art that I can appreciate with my new lens.

But I think maybe I’ll take them down and I won’t put anything up in their place. I’ll just continue to keep my walls white. There is a calm comfort in knowing I don’t have to define myself yet. Acknowledging I am still living in a slightly off-white, unknown. This apartment is a safe space, and I am grateful for it; but it’s a place of transition, at least right now. Maybe some think it feels empty, prison-like, un-lived in. But I guess for me, it’s more of a state of possibility – a literal blank slate.

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.