Tag Archives: depression

40


So I hit the big four-oh recently.  40.  I know it’s just an arbitrary chronological marker, like 20 or 30, but you remember how seriously you took those particularly markers, don’t you?  Crossing 20 was like the loss of your youth.  Only one year away from legally drinking, your days of clandestine partying were just about over.  Crossing 30 was like the loss of the rest of your youth.  You could no longer be irresponsible and head out for the weekend on rock climbing or motorcycling adventures.  Or so your psyche told you, anyway.

40 is much the same way.  It’s telling me about all of the things that I’ve lost, about all of the things that I’m not “allowed” to do anymore, and all of the things that I “should” do now.  And I’m having an incredibly difficult time with all of those “shoulds” and “alloweds” and everything that goes along with it.  So what does being 40 years old really mean?

On the surface, it means just that: I have achieved 40 revolutions around the Sun, and no more.  In my case, that’s a fine accomplishment.  I should have been killed either by someone else’s hand or my own by now.  The chances of being killed by someone else dropped considerably long ago when I didn’t live with either of my parents anymore.  The chances of being killed by myself?  Not as low, I admit.  It’s times like those I’m glad I have such a loving husband, magickal daughter, spectacular friends, and a print of Vincent van Gogh’s “Starry Night” hanging over my desk.  If Vincent could look through the bars of his sanitarium window and create that, then I have no room for complaint.  So 40 revolutions around the Sun aren’t such a meager accomplishment for me, or for any of us, I’m guessing.

It also means coming face to face with some old baggage.  I’ve had this weird notion since my 20s that there was a “wall” of sorts at 40.  I could ‘see’ past my 20s and into my 30s and guess pretty well what I’d be doing, but I couldn’t see past 40.  I still can’t.  That’s terrifying and heartening at the same time.  What am I going to be doing?  Will I finally publish that book of mine?  Will I simply keep trudging through the domestic life of Mom?  A life that, I hate to admit, is not very satisfying.  Culture tells me I’m supposed to feel guilty about that, but I don’t.  A much smaller cultural template tells me that it’s just goddman fine to want to have a life of my own while I simultaneously walk the path of Mom.  Maybe it’s right, though at the moment I lack other voices to hear and hands to hold to help me along that path.  And I have a horrible fear of “doing the wrong thing”.  Don’t we all?

If I kept along the path of Mom and nothing else, what comes after that?  Nothing happy, I fear.  If I keep along the path of “Hey, I can do both!”, what comes after that?  Happiness?  Unhappiness?  Fulfillment?  A happy daughter?  An angry one?  That’s really the crux of all this.  I am raising a daughter, who is nearly 9.  She wants to listen to pop music, and she wants her clothes to be just right, and boys make her feel “all melty”.  I’m not sure if I’m ready for all that yet.  I know the time of separation is coming sometime soon.  The day when she will not run across the schoolyard with a belly-crunching hug and an “I love you” for me, because that will just not be cool.  Or maybe it will and that’s just my fear speaking.

Speaking?  My fear screams these days.  It shouts from the rafters and tries to convince me that it will all be the same as when I grew up, and I shout back at it that it’s wrong and has no idea what it’s talking about because it’s never seen the things that I hope for.  Hope’s in there too.  Lovely Hope.  Her voice is quieter, and I wish it were louder so that she could drown out all of the other voices that plague my mind.

That is what 40 means for me.  Many veils to pass through, many doors to walk through, none of which I am familiar with because I have previously walked through a very different set of veils and doors that led to horrible places with angry faces and treacherous lessons.  Now is when the last fetters of childhood are ripped asunder, and it’s going to smart.  People keep telling me that the 40s are better than the 30s.  I look at them with more than a bit of disbelief, but maybe they’re right, because I certainly don’t need any of the things that I hope to strip away or ignore.  It’s just not going to be any fun at all, not for a while anyway.

Wind and Fire


Praise Buddha, the heat wave has finally broken.  Not before we matched our hottest temperature ever: 112F.  Y’know, if I wanted to live in the fuckin’ desert, I would have moved to Las Vegas.  Now it’s a much more normal 90F-ish, but we traded almost living on the surface on the Sun to actually being there: wind and fire.  Tropical Storm Lee stirred up what lay dormant all summer with fierce winds, setting ablaze to places very close to home.  Many people have lost their homes over the last few days, and one of the closest state parks has been all but decimated.  The air is filled with the smell of the world’s largest campfire, and the sky is white with smoke.  My little girl is afraid that fires are going to sweep our city, and I’m having a hard time convincing her otherwise.

I know everything will be okay, but it’s hard to tell myself that when virtually every square inch of the city and areas surrounding are the color of toast.  The combination of one of the worst droughts in history and one of the worst heat waves in history has done very, very bad things to Texas.  I was brought to tears in recent weeks as I wondered when the heat would end.  I am still brought to tears occasionally as I wonder when it will rain again.  I swear that when it does, I may very well strip naked and raise my hands to the sky in gratitude and supplication to whatever deity has sought to bring us water.

In the personal meantime, my exercise routine has gone to complete and utter shit.  I can’t imagine why.  I mean, who wants to go jogging when it’s 105F or more outside?  The heat completely sapped my energy and I have been waiting and waiting for Hell to leave what is usually our little slice of Heaven here in Central Texas.  And it finally has!  The temperature dropped to the 60s at night and mere 90s in the day.  I never thought I’d be grateful for 93F.  It feels heavenly.  My little girl requested a sweater this morning!

And so it is time for me to get my shit together again.  I have returned to karate class, where I have finally gotten a couple of my kata right after weeks of working on them.  I haven’t returned to running or the gym yet, but I’ll get there.  You might wonder why I couldn’t get myself to an air-conditioned gym, but then again you’ve probably never experienced heat like we have.  It changes everything.  All you want to do is curl up on the couch.  No more, though.  I actually feel like doing something again, so I will.

Headmeat-wise, I’m still not entirely happy, and I realize I may not be for many more months.  It takes more than a year for some people to stabilize and get their particular cocktail of drugs just right.  Mostly I’m dealing with a lot of resentment, and sometimes it spills over into the rest of my life.  I’m approaching my 40th birthday, and I’m not happy about it at all.  I feel I have absolutely nothing to show for all of these years trodding about on Planet Earth, with the exception of my daughter and husband.  My henna art business is shot, I can’t afford to go to school, I can’t afford to go anywhere, jeez, I can’t even afford to replace the light on my fishtank right now.  And I’m dealing with some of the same problems that dogged my parents.  I feel like a complete and utter failure.

Then again, I look outside and see the smoke rising from the nearest large town and think that I’m being selfish for thinking that way.  Many people now have nothing, and would probably be very happy to have what I do.

That’s me: always able to find a way to flog myself.

I have the sensation that the Universe is removing various things from my life to make room for others, and when it’s done, it will start filling it up again.  I also think I should focus on what I do have and enjoy.  Family.  Cats.  An approaching birthday that will be filled with friends.  A job where I am well and truly appreciated.  A mostly healthy body that is very strong.  An outstanding mind.  Good health practitioners that are taking good care of me.  Doctor Who.  😀

The fires of my mind and the fires of my homeland will go out soon.  As I reminded my friends on Facebook with a picture of our city from just last February in which our fair town was blanketed in snow, it will end.  Money won’t always be the bane of our existence, my brain won’t always be the bane of MY existence, I’ll get that fishtank light replaced, and it will rain.  By Goddess, it will rain, and I’ll sit on the porch and watch it come down.  Though I probably won’t be naked.  🙂

Hot Hot Hot


“I tried not to think about the words SEARING.FLESH.” – Fight Club

It has been blazingly hot lately.  On Tuesday, I measured a temperature of 110F on my back porch.  Some people get SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder)  in the winter.  I get it in the summer.  After all, there’s not much going outside.  Not if you don’t want to spontaneously burst into flames.  And it’s depressing.  Everything is dead and brown.  I hate it.

Seriously though, I have taken up jogging with my friends.  We don’t go until the sun is nearly down, but I’m going.  This is remarkable for someone who used to laugh at joggers and runners for doing so without being chased.  And it does somehow make the heat more bearable, because it’s not going to rain for another month at least.  *cries*

On the plus side, my headmeat seems to have stabilized, but not until after a really unpleasant episode a couple of months ago during which I learned I really can’t fuck with my sleep.  That’s the trouble with having bipolar.  The only way to know your meds aren’t working is to feel like shit.  Ah well.  I have a small army of pharmacy bottles to take from each day, and a basket full of vitamins and supplements to counteract the side effects (mostly muscle twitches).  Two mood stabilizers, one antidepressant, one sleep aid, two antianxiety agents, and one thyroid med to counteract what one of the mood stabilizers does.

A calcium-magnesium-potassium supplement is crucial to stave off the muscle twitches, which aren’t nearly as bad as the ones trazodone gave me.  I don’t take that anymore, thank the gods: akathisia really, really sucks.  B-vitamins, fish oil, and a host of others.  Obviously, I found a headmeat doc (nurse, really) that does me a lot of good and is on tap via smartphone virtually any time.  Plus, he’s really funny.

Everything else I have allowed to sliiiiiiide.  I haven’t been to the Buddhist center in two months.  I haven’t done yoga in quite some time.  The only thing I’ve done is karate, which I will probably do more now that I know I don’t need that many more classes to get my next ranking.  I’ve gone to the gym more, though.  I have to adjust my diet, though, or those 20 pounds are never going to come off.

Obviously due to the heat wave, I’ve done no gardening.  It’s crispy out there.  I allowed my community garden plot to slide: who wants to put in community hours when it’s over 100 outside?  I hate the politics anyway.

Some things are good though, or at least better.  I’m enjoying things a little bit more.  I got the henna out for a friend last week and I was very pleased I haven’t lost my touch.  I haven’t had to lie to anyone about how I’m feeling, which also pleased me.  My memory is for shit, though, which my headmeat caretaker assures me will improve the happier I get.  I haven’t taken care of all that death paperwork to collect my grandmother’s ancient life insurance policy, but I actually want to, along with some remaining boxes that her friends in California were interested in.  I mean, it’s only been three years.  *sigh*

Other ways I know I’m better: I’m not murderously angry about the non-stop machinery I can hear from my house for the last, oh, year and a half?  I don’t feel like killing every asshat driver in South Austin (trust me, that’s remarkable, we have a high asshat density down here).  I’m a bit annoyed about the massive fence the neighbor behind us put up, but I haven’t thrown anything at it.  😀

There are other things that still need improving, but I’m hoping that they improve with more sleep and exercise and with an abatement of the heat.  It’s like a freakin’ blast furnace out there.

Anhedonia


Cover of "The Wall"
Cover of The Wall

From the Greek ‘an-‘ meaning against or not, and ‘-hedone’, meaning pleasure.  Therefore, a lack of pleasure.  One of the hallmarks of depression.  Not to mention something I’ve been suffering from to one degree or another for months (years?) now.  Really, I can’t tell how long anymore.  When was the last time I was truly happy and enjoying my life?  I don’t know.

I define happiness as an overall contentment that makes a person pleased when they wake up in the morning and eager to get out of bed to meet the day’s challenges, whatever they may be.  Those challenges are not met with anxiety but with fervor and gusto.  Episodes of unhappiness or down feelings are fleeting and do not last long, unless something big like a death has occurred.  A happy person has things that they work on that make them feel fulfilled, whether it’s their job or their home or doing the New York Times crossword puzzle for the day.  It doesn’t matter what it is.

I’m missing these things, and I can’t tell anymore if it’s because of my brain chemistry or because the inherent elements of my life are no longer fulfilling or pleasing.  Worse, it’s entirely possible that my brain chemistry causes me to think that the inherent elements of my life are no longer fulfilling or pleasing.  Like a horrible trick is being played on me from inside my head.

Then the shoulds come marching in, like Pink Floyd’s hammers in The Wall.  I understand that double-album so intimately now, from end to end.  I get it in a way I really wish I didn’t.  But there they are, those hammer-like shoulds.  You should be happy because you have a beautiful family.  You should be happy because you live in a great city.  You should be happy because you have great friends.  You should be happy because you have so much freedom.  You should be happy because your husband takes such good care of you and makes sure you have what you need.  You should be happy for a billion reasons that you must be ignoring or else you’d be happy, and therefore you should feel bad because you are not happy.

The shoulds spiral around in an ever-tightening circle that inevitably leads back to me, laying the blame of everything in my life that should make me happy but doesn’t at my weary mental feet.  Guilt, shame, and blame: the staunch guardians left over from a childhood of watching the hammers beat down the other people surrounding me.

I would give anything to want to get up in the morning and to greet the day with enthusiasm about what it may bring, rather than weariness or fear.
I would give anything to go through my day with ease and contentment, addressing each task in a relaxed way that did not tense my body and mind.
I would give anything to deal with my family with a serenity that did not treat every problem as though it may be earth-shattering.
I would give anything to lay my head upon my pillow each night feeling good about the day, knowing that there was another one on the other side of my dreams.

I would give anything to be freed of this demon that has followed me for so many years and has only relented when I’ve been able to travel, have been in school, or have been in a position to have goals, dreams, and hopes bigger than myself.  Perhaps I have these things and I just can’t see them for whatever reason, and need to clean those shit-colored glasses I seem to find myself wearing so often.  Is this one of those places where it’s difficult to tell where I stop and where my illness begins?  If so, I truly hope the answer is found soon, as my tolerance for the medication dance is already wearing thin.  “Nope, that didn’t work, let’s try another one!”  This can go on for years for some people.  I’m not sure if I have the stamina for that.

In the meantime, I wait and tell the appropriate people when I’m feeling particular ways and try not to do too much damage along the way, to myself or anyone else.  And hope that I am bigger, stronger, and more patient than anhedonia.

Slide


“To let that which does not matter, truly slide.” – Jack, Fight Club

I keep way too many tabs open in my browser.  At the moment, I have 27.  O_O  Most of them represent good intentions.  Things I want to read.  Things I feel I should read.  So on and so forth.  Some of them, though, are things that really do matter or make me happy.  The National Weather Service, because that’s just how this geeky girl rolls (yesterday’s spate of severe thunderstorm warnings made me very excited).  My Google calendar.  My to-do lists, Toodledo and Joe’s Goals, which I notice with concern I have not used in over two months.  Stuff like that.  Unfortunately, I’ve paid less and less attention to the things that matter lately.  I just don’t give a shit (“My givashit, have you seen it?  I seem to have lost it.”)  Which of course begs the question, do these things really matter?  After all, “This is [my] life, and it’s ending one minute at a time.”

With apologies to those who have not seen Fight Club, it really does have a lot of wisdom in it, if you can get around the grisly fight scenes.  These days I really do feel like Jack much of the time, as he wonders why he just doesn’t care about certain things anymore.  I keep asking myself, “Why does that matter?  Why do I care about this?  Should I care about this?  What would happen if I stopped caring about it?”  Anything that wasn’t already getting 100% of my attention has indeed slid by the wayside.  I’m not so sure if that’s a good thing.  From a Buddhist perspective, it certainly is, because I’m getting down to the core of just Me.  What about a family perspective?  Or a job perspective?  Or just a resident of the Western world perspective?

I think part of the issue is what I wrote about in my last post, “Be Here Now“.  I’m guessing that being here now is not an instant process.  It’s slow and painful.  At least it is for me.  I have to slowly pick through each and every aspect of my life, kind of like a giant stack of mail, and decide what goes to the recycling pile, what gets kept, and what gets outright trashed.  This process is fraught with the word “should”, and I wish I could just program my brain into forgetting that word.  Sort of like how a good hypnotist can make someone forget a number (“Okay, count on your fingers: 1,2,3,4,6,7,8,9,10, WTF?!”).  In my efforts to forget “should”, I find myself in the either dangerous or desirous position of wanting to throw it ALL away.  (“Fukitol! For those days when you don’t give a shit if you find your givashit!  :D”)

I have responsibilities, though.  I have a husband, and a daughter, and a job, and other myriad things that life demands of me that it just wouldn’t be appropriate to “fukitol”.  In this process I’m discovering that there are things that do matter and are important that I still just don’t givashit about.  And that bothers me.  A lot.  Not necessarily because they’re things that I can’t do without, but because I’m a little frightened of what my life would look like without those things, or with those things transformed.  Would I be a “bad person” without them?  Or with them changed?  I don’t want to get rid of my family life or my house or my job, but there are duties attached to those things that my “givashit” has long been unattached to and when I have to take care of them, it grates on my soul.  Is this truly some sort of existential crisis, or am I merely depressed?  Is there a difference?  I could drive myself crazy with the possibilities.  Maybe I already have.  Maybe I’m not anymore and I’m not used to it.  *shrugs*

“You met me at a very strange time in my life.” – Tyler Durden

Fear, Doubt, Letting Go


I’ve been keeping to myself lately, from a virtual blogging aspect anyway.  Almost a month ago, I became gripped by a deep doubt about almost everything.  In particular, my writings here as well as my semi-private journal.  It was akin to suddenly feeling like the Emperor in his new clothes, as though I had been engaged in a massive and very public overshare.

I only barely managed to keep myself from outright deleting a number of posts, thanks to the urging of friends.  I still made several of them private, though.  I still can’t say exactly why, though I imagine it’s the same mindset that grips anyone who creates as a major part of their life.  Like a painter who suddenly decides something looks terrible and paints over the canvas.

I’m willing to bet it’s related to my still-faltering self-confidence and self-esteem, both of which took a major nose dive around the same time I decided that everything I had written for the last two months was utter and complete crap. When combined with the sense of nakedness and subsequent embarrassment at my self-perceived overshare, it’s unsurprising that I was so suddenly taken with the desire to virtually set my writing on fire.

However, the horses, as they say, have long ago left the barn.  While I shouldn’t really care what other people think of me in the first place, I should be comforted rather than fearful of the fact that, with a single exception, not a single person has removed themselves from my life nor have they said anything disparaging about my writing.  In fact, I’ve gotten a lot of very positive feedback and encouragement.  If a massive display of TMI was really something I had to worry about, I would have learned of it weeks ago.

Still, the feeling hasn’t gone away yet.  I wish I knew how to dispel these notions, because they’re keeping me from completing other major projects that have the potential to lift me out of the overall sense of uselessness I feel about my life.  Which is yet another attitude that should be filed under “patently absurd”, but I’ve yet to figure out how to truly convince myself of more positive things.

Part of the problem is having bipolar illness.  I’m still cycling, in the vernacular, and often whatever mental gains I make when I’m feeling up are completely undone while I’m feeling down, which is unfortunately the greater percentage of the two.  At least when I’m up, the most annoying things I have to deal with are insomnia and a greater than normal enthusiasm.  I’ll spare you the list of things I deal with when I’m down.

I’m trying hard to be patient, though I often feel that I’m failing at it.  It can take months or more than a year for someone to truly stabilize and achieve some sense of emotional equilibrium, and sometimes I just don’t feel that I’m up to the task.  At nearly 40 years of age, I feel a bit like Bilbo at the beginning of The Fellowship of the Ring: “….thin, like butter scraped over too much toast.”  A great part of me is like, “Really? *sigh* After everything else, do I really have to deal with this too?”

A great part of me is also very angry about the “everything else”, and it’s entitled.  Regrettably, there’s no one left to be angry at, and so in a very real sense I’m suffering the ill effects of a Buddhist parable – being angry at someone is like holding a hot coal with the intention of hurting them: you’re the one who gets burned.  Along with being patient, I’m also trying to cultivate “letting go”, even though it isn’t fair and I still bristle at some of the injustices in my life, mostly because I was never really given an opportunity to have my feelings be known.

I’ve never been someone who prayed, mostly because I didn’t feel I had anything to pray to, but that’s changing as I get a bit older.  Even if my prayers aren’t TO anyone or anything in particular, that doesn’t mean that sending out that energy and thought out into the Universe doesn’t do some good, even if it’s only inside me.  So my prayers of late have been that I might be better at letting go, better at acknowledging the good things that others see in me, and better at forgiveness.  I also pray for inner peace and an accepting, quiet mind.  Please, just a mind that will STFU every now and then.

the things that we’re concealing
will never let us grow
time will do its healing
you’ve got to let it go

Rush – Open Secrets on “Hold Your Fire”

I Get It Now


I haven’t had a whole lot to say since my last post about being oversaturated, understandably.  Plus, I’ve just been busy.  I proudly work at my karate dojo and have been trying to catch up on the hours I lost last month to my various doctor appointments and medication adjustment issues.  I can easily say my karate family has been a very important part of me being as healthy as possible lately, and I don’t just mean physically.  Unrelatedly but not unappreciatively, I was rewarded with a new (to me) computer to work on, which always rocks.  🙂

It’s also prime gardening time here in Central Texas.  If there’s a rush hour of gardening in these parts, it’s now.  Particularly if you like tomatoes.  They have to be started indoors and then put in the ground as soon as the last freeze passes.  Any later and you risk not having any at all because the summer heat kills the blossoms (mind you, summer starts in May around these parts some years).  Consequently, every nursery and garden is a flurry of activity right now.

I guess you could say I’ve been doing the “chop wood, carry water” bit and just going about my life.  In fact, it’s felt a bit plain.  As I was thinking about it earlier, it struck me that this may be some of the “flatness” that a lot of people with bipolar illness complain about.  It’s a dangerous flatness, one that makes people go off their meds.  That way, as they say, lies madness.

This gives me a great deal of pause, because I don’t like the flatness.  And as soon as I talk to my new psychiatric nurse, I’m going to tell him that, because I’d rather not be one of those bipolar patients.  The ones who go off their meds only to flip out and have to go back on them.  Sometimes forcibly.  I really, really, really don’t want to be one of  those people (if for no reason other than the age old “dear Lord don’t let me be like my mother” baggage so many women have, bipolar or not).

I get it now.  I so totally and completely understand why some people decide to throw the meds in the trash so their life can be the kaleidoscopic landscape of mental color that it can be sometimes.  It’s intoxicating and makes you completely forget the times you’re in a hole so black no light gets in, or are so agitated you really can’t control yourself even if you want to.  Life on meds, in comparison to the near delirium and incredibly creativity and productivity of a hypomanic or manic state, can seem lifeless and dull, almost unbearably so, ironically.  It’s this sort of attitude that is probably what often causes people around us to get a little disgusted.  After all, it’s really just regular life that you’re disparaging as being pedantic or boring or useless or just too goddamned slow.  It’s all yet another reminder that you don’t think like everyone else does.

As much as I dislike the flatness (which may in fact have some remedies), I dislike more the extremes in mood fluctuation.  I still have them, though not as severely.  Really, the height of each peak and the depth of each trough are progressively lower and higher, respectively, the more time goes on.  Which is not to say I am not still occasionally gripped by a frustrated agitation that makes me cycle between murderous rage, pathetic weeping, suicidal despair, and exhausted melancholia.  I prefer the latter state of mind, really, because it means whatever cycle I’m in is over, for the moment anyway.

Until that happens, though, my thoughts in these cycles often frighten me, and I am struck with the horrible irony that in my parents’ suicides, I learned firsthand the aftermath that follows such a terrible thing, and as such seem to be blocked by my own personal morals from even contemplating my own end beyond natural causes in far old age.  I know there are many friends who are worried about me, so I try not to go too long between posts.  Thanks to the internet though, I’m never too far away.

I still hold out hope for that magic place between dark despair, crazed productivity, agitated madness, and flat apathy.  Truly, there has to be a place that allows for balance.  If there isn’t, and I have to choose a bit of moodiness by altering or removing meds to avoid that flatness, then that’s my choice, but only to a point of course.  I’d rather have more color in my life, even if they’re awash in darkness on occasion, than live in a world of emotional taupe.

For now, though, my job is still to try to wrangle as much stability out of my schedule as possible and to fall into healthier patterns of living.  I can’t tell you how frustrating this process is.  Sometimes all I can do is simply track my moods and behaviors from day to day, which has its usefulness in that the more time goes on, the more I can predict how I might be feeling from day to day.  That’s actually extremely valuable, because if I know it’s going to be a shitty day, I can try to avoid stressors.  Someday I hope to have as little fluctuation as possible while still feeling like a “colorful” person.  Until then, I am still my own experiment and as such, I am still collecting data.

I get it now, though.  I get a lot.  And I don’t like a lot of it.