Finding My Safety Raft In An Unexpected Depressive Storm

Disclaimer: Possible triggering ideas in this post, specifically in regards to suicidal ideation and self-harming.

A few weeks ago, I attempted to withdraw from one of my medications. It doesn’t do anything for me now, but it’s a benzo that a horrid doctor gave me over a decade ago, and therefore my body is completely addicted. My psychiatrist and I have thought about weaning off of it for a long time, but wanted to make sure I was stable before endeavoring to mess with my system.

I started by dropping my dosage by .25 mg. I wasn’t naive enough to think there wouldn’t be withdrawal symptoms. I was prepared for tremors, sleepless nights, nausea. I was even prepared for a bit of mind scrambling and an increase in anxiety. What I was not prepared for was the onset of clinical depression. It’s been over a year now since I have found medication to stem the depression, but I knew it was there after about two days. I was exhausted, lethargic, and one day I drove to CVS and I couldn’t get out of the car. Everything became overwhelming and I found myself in corners of rooms rocking myself while crying. Most of my DBT skills went out the window (which is actually funny because it’s really intended to be used when people are really in the thick of things but whatever.) I didn’t have the wherewithal or desire to use them. I stopped going to the gym and my diet became unbalanced. My nightmares became intense and shadowed me all day. Talking, thinking, moving – everything left me feeling like it would take days to recover.

I was terrified. I couldn’t tell: was this the meds or me? Was I exacerbating the withdrawal? Feeding into it and falling down into the ease of depression I have been fighting every day for almost two years?

I gave it eight days. It only got worse. And then I went back up on the meds. But I wasn’t feeling better and panicked again. My doctor assured me it would take a while for my brain chemistry to get back on track. I was scared because all of my habits I have developed over the past year had gone out the window. I think it freaked me out not only because I didn’t know I could get them back, but also how quickly they had stopped. I’m always aware in the back of my mind that my medication might not last forever. As has happened in the past, sometimes meds just stop working. I was so disappointed and frightened at how, when I started to feel depressed again, how quickly everything I use to handle daily life just felt too exhausting to use. The depression had not weakened, it was merely in a medical coma and when it awoke, it was as strong as ever.

But I hoped for the best, and started to notice I was slowly getting a little better each day. Even though I felt like shit, I still made myself leave the house once a day. It didn’t matter if I just ran an errand like going to the bank or picking up mouthwash; I just needed to leave the house. I drove to the gym. I didn’t go in except once, but I still tried to get there. I didn’t miss my appointments.

Two days ago, I just jumped into a spiral of despair. I wouldn’t go to London; I wouldn’t ever get a job; I wouldn’t ever get to a point where I would be comfortable with a man and deal with my assault; I would never be able to find a life with the pieces I believe I want. I got home and put together a kit of everything I might need for the ritual. I was so hesitant to call anyone – especially my family. I didn’t want them to start thinking I was back to my old ways after spending so long trying to earn back the trust I was better and could and would take care of myself.

And then I just stopped for a second. There was something inside of me that knew this wasn’t me and that I didn’t want to, no matter how much my mind was telling me to.

So I called my brother. I told him I needed his help, I was scared, and I couldn’t be alone. He came and listened, and we talked. Something about being with someone who is stable felt normalizing. And I realized that this was different. I got out of the house every day. I made appointments on time. I called my therapist a few times while panicking. And at the end, when I could have made a destabilizing decision, I asked for help.

Yesterday I had a training session in the gym. I was so scared that I had turned into a lump of mush, but after, in my soreness, I felt strong. I embraced my screaming shoulders with happiness. I came home, showered, ate, and watched TV. I still overate later in the night but decided that I would have to figure out in the next few days how to work on getting back to my old routine given my new instructions with my sleep.

I fell into depression this month. I tripped and stumbled down some steps and was facing my irrational demons. I was weakened and at times, fell into old habits. I cried at the terrifying understanding that I can never truly be safe or out of the woods completely. I even had a moment of suicidal ideation that felt, at the time, so deeply right.

But I kept going. I did what I had to do. And I reached out for help. I am still scared and know I’m still not myself. But for now, I feel safe. Weakened but safe. Because I made different choices, even when I didn’t want to, and I saved myself. And I hope to do it today. And that hope, no matter how small it is, doing something today reminds me that I haven’t lost the battle yet.

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Accepting the Good in Life – No ifs, ands, or buts

jabba_the_hutt

Why is it that bad things feel safer? I mean, they hurt like hell and you feel like shit, but it seems less terrifying than a good thing happening. I used to think it was the depression. I imagined depression as Jabba the Hut, feasting on my failures, my failures transforming into fat, pushing down on me harder. (Ugh. I know I chose the image but it’s still vile all the same.)

But I’m starting to think it’s a maladaptive behavior; a habit of safety and control. ‘Cuz if things start to get good, that means they can get bad. If I get something, it could be taken away. Or worse, I could enjoy it, and then it could be taken away or I could ruin it.

I know I have written on this quite a bit already, but I was thinking about it in the context of women recently. I think women are more likely to protect themselves through insults and assumptions of failure to protect against “embarrassment.” This is a generalization, but when my friends are waiting to hear back about something, they spend a lot of time talking about what they will do if they don’t get it or how they know they won’t because there are better people out there. They are already preparing for the worst, and they don’t know why. My male friends don’t seem to be that way. It’s not that they walk around like a sheriff, with their thumbs tucked in their pants, their chests broad like a rooster saying “I’m just kicking it, waiting for what’s mine.” But they don’t seem to spend as much time berating themselves beforehand like women do.

There is an Amy Schumer skit. (NSFW) I don’t actually think the skit is that funny, but I love the point of it. A bunch of women are standing around, and as one compliments the other, her automatic response is to point out something horrible about herself. They go back and forth, dissing themselves each time they get a compliment until one woman approaches. They compliment her and she thanks them, and they proceed to kill themselves. She has, by accepting the compliment, shaken the base of their lives to its’ core.

Are we stuck in a cycle where it’s never enough? Is that what the American Dream is attempting to create? Not a person striving to reach the top, but a person who is constantly told they can be better and therefore in their current state, is not enough. Because we can always be thinner, richer, “happier.” And evidently the fault lies with us, not with sexism, racism, homophobia, religious persecution, ethic-judging, classism, (any form of defeatism).

I suppose that’s why I hate the American Dream. It was created as propaganda to keep utilitarianism alive. But there isn’t really an American Dream. I can’t remember the last time I met someone who was content with where they were in life. I’m not saying you should get to a point of success and just stagnate there and quit. You should always try to challenge your mind, help others, question society. But that’s different than believing you need to be more, have more, want more in order to find this non-existent happiness.

What if the American Dream was rather a list of ideals to live your life by:

*Always respect those around you and treat them the way you want to be treated.
* Never assume to know who someone is, but always assume the best.
* Always help others, in whatever way you can, in whatever ways they need.
* Add value to the world in your actions
* Always analyze, critique and question everything in life
* Never stop learning
* Live your life in a way that makes you proud

(I’m clearly missing a few, so feel free to offer suggestions in the comment section.)

I don’t do religion, though in reading this, I suppose a lot of these fall under the tenets of most of them. I just think if we stopped trying to achieve and rather just tried to experience, live, understand, connect, and question, we might find moments of contentment, even if we can’t find this illusive and non-existent “happiness.”

Oh my goodness, did I really just write this cheesy ode to the world? Did I go hippy dippy on myself without realizing it? I better stop now before I go too deep and resent myself in the morning.