Random (but not really)

Friday, September 3, 2021

Not OK

I am not OK.

I’m not sure I even remember what OK felt like, it’s been so long.

Intellectually, I know the things I need to be doing.

Intellectually, I know grief is a process and it takes time and there is no wrong way to grieve.

Intellectually, I know I have difficulty dealing with grief.

But in reality? My brain still believes that I should be better by now. That I don’t have a right to feel this way because so many other people have it so much worse. That it’s wrong for me to still be grieving because I don’t deserve to. That other’s feelings and losses are more important than mine. That I’m weak for not being able to just get over this.

I hate this.

And I’m so tired.

I’ve tried to incorporate things that I know help me back into my life: we try to go hiking at least once a week—out in the wilderness where there are no other people. I try to get some exercise, even if it’s only walking on the treadmill while I’m on the computer. I try to remember to eat. I try to remember to drink enough water (or at least tea). And I read.

That helps to get me out of my head, to feel other things.

But it’s so hard to do just that bare minimum, everything else is too much. And it shouldn’t be. I mean, how hard is it to put away the groceries? How hard is it to put things away? Yet I don’t—I can’t—and then I feel guilty for that too,

I’m not cooking.

I’m not cleaning the house.

I haven’t baked since April.

I was already struggling with a lot of things before my dad died—the pandemic and politics obviously, but I’d also been trying to come to terms with things I’ve been ignoring for decades: who I am; how can I accept the parts of me that don’t fit. How can I be me, and not just the expectations of others?

I already didn’t much enjoy being me, living in this body.

I just want things to be better.

I want to listen to the news and not hear horror and misery. I want terrible things to stop happening to my friends. I want the world to be loving and accepting.

I don’t actually have a coda for this. I just needed to get it out. And to make some small attempt at letting people know: I’m not ok.

Written by Michelle at 12:18 pm      Comments (0)  Permalink
Categories: Depression  

Friday, April 9, 2021

Maybe Not Today, But Someday

It’s been years since I talked about mental health, because things had been going ok. I had some struggles, but I was able to change the things that were problems (get a new job) and it got better.

But this past year has been rough. Really rough. Honestly, from 2016 on things were difficult, with so much hate and racism and sexism right out in the open everywhere you looked, but 2020 was just the worst. All the racism, all the sexism, all the hate AND a pandemic.

But I kept going, thinking, “once the election is over, things will get better” or “once we get a vaccine approved, things will get better” and “once we have the inauguration, things will get better.”

Except that all those things happened, and it didn’t get better.

Not really.

So I finally had to admit that my anxiety was out of control, and pushing me into a bout of depression, because all the tools I’ve used for decades to stay healthy were suddenly no longer working.

I’m not sure I can explain how hard it’s been to have a situation beyond my control go on for so long, and about which I can do absolutely nothing.

When I can get out hiking, it’s not bad. But last spring I broke my foot, which meant no hiking–no walking. That took a big chunk out of me, and really started the downward spiral.

I just kept hoping that after event X happened, things would get better. But they never did.

My depression is insidious. I’ve always thought of it as being functionally depressed. Work is never a problem–I’m on time and I get my work done. So from the outside everything looks perfectly normal. Except that work is almost the only thing I can manage to do, and once I’m done for the day, I am incapable of accomplishing anything else.

I can manage to go to the grocery store every week at the normal time, and I put away all the fridge and freezer items, but once the perishable items are away–it’s too much struggle to deal with the rest of it.

I can do wash and try and fold laundry (because I actually find laundry calming). But putting it away? Nope.

Forget making dinner. Or cleaning the house.

It’s a stupid thing. “How hard can it be to (do simple task)?” you ask yourself. Yet it is hard. Things that were once simple to manage become overwhelming. Everything is too much effort, too hard. All tasks are Sisyphean–undertaken as if they were to be done uphill, across an icy terrain, while carrying an awkward heavy package. Any single misstep brings everything crashing back down.

And asking for help is out of the question when things get bad. “It’s just your brain, you can get over it.” “You’re just being lazy; you don’t deserve help.”

These are, of course, things that I know are lies. But that doesn’t make them any less powerful. And fighting those lies is exhausting, which just gives us a nasty little vicious circle. After all, if I don’t want to be around myself, why would I want to subject anyone else to me?

So, that’s where we’ve been.

The future? I’ve got a change in meds–which takes time. And little things to look forward to. Things I am going to hug to myself and cherish. And hopefully one day I’ll realize that I’ve eventually reached the top of the hill, and that the ice has melted and although it’s not necessarily smooth sailing, it’s okay.

For now, I just keep reminding myself that it will, eventually, be okay again. Eventually.

Written by Michelle at 10:35 pm      Comments (0)  Permalink
Categories: Depression  

Sunday, January 3, 2021

The Joys of OCD

Here’s a fun discovery.

Michael just recently started using our desktop computer for gaming, after his gaming laptop aged out of some of the games he likes.

For more than a decade, I have been the primary / only user of the desktop, since there where I do bills, and major photo projects.

With me so far?

Good. Now here’s where my OCD comes in.

On every computer I use, I set up my windows in a specific way. Firefox a specific size and placed here, Excel a specific size and placed here, explorer windows always a specific size and a specific location and cascading. If I need two windows side-by-side to move files, they are temporarily moved and then have to go back to “where they belong.”

It’s both an ease-of-use thing (I always know where to find things when I have multiple screens) and a comfort thing (it soothes my brain to have things where I expect them to be, and if they are somewhere else, it gives me a little jolt of anxiety).

Today I figured out that when Michael logs into his profile and resizes and moves explorer windows, it actually changes the size of those windows on my profile.

This is distressing.

I know it’s not his fault; neither of us knew this was a windows thing. After all, Windows often inexplicably changes and moves things around. But I just figured out this morning that what he did affected the windows on my profile.

I told him, and we laughed about it, but still; it’s not fair that things he does in a supposedly benign environment can actually trigger anxiety for me. Why are computers like this, and more aggravatingly, why is my BRAIN like this?

No answers, just one of those things.

Written by Michelle at 9:56 am      Comments (0)  Permalink
Categories: Computers & Technology,Depression  

Friday, January 31, 2020

Nothing

For me, depression is very much boiling the proverbial frog.

Unless there is some precipitating event, every week is just a little bit more difficult than the previous, but not so much so that I can’t managed basic activities. Instead, my energy is just slowly sapped until extraneous activities become difficult–and then impossible.

Emails sit for weeks, because they’ll take more than a single sentence reply, and I just can’t come up with that many words. Small insignificant tasks–like putting cards in an envelope to send–sit undone.

It’s aggravating as fuck, which only makes me feel worse, but it’s 100% a spoons issue. I have the mental capacity to go to work and get work done, but beyond that? Nope.

This has been sitting in my drafts folder for days, because it needs more, but, well, I can’t come up with anything.

So I’m gonna publish as is, which seems apt.

Written by Michelle at 8:42 am      Comments (0)  Permalink
Categories: Depression  

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Better Living Through Chemisty

Someone on FB linked to an article about the medical management of mental health disorders: What It’s Like to Know You’ll Be on Antidepressants for Life.

The essay starts out noting the following:

The notion that people who take medication for mental illness are weak seems rooted in internalized social stigma. There’s still this strange divide in thinking about mental illness, where much of society seems to dismiss those illnesses as somehow less “real” than ones that are considered “physical.”

That’s unfair, yet true. We’re not supposed to talk about mental health issues. It’s ok to have diabetes or high blood pressure but depression or anxiety are secrets to be kept. Issues to be hidden.

To believe that my mental health issues make me a weaker person than someone who has a physical health issue is absurd. Yet it’s a common belief: depression and anxiety are weakness that can just be overcome by hard work and the correct attitude.

Part of it I suppose is historical: Suicide was a mortal sin that would send you directly to hell, so wouldn’t that make the mental state that made you suicidal a moral failing as well?

Part of it might also have to do with many mental health issues being more common in women than men, and women have historically been seen as weaker, both physically and mentally.

But perhaps a greater part is because mental health issues are less visible. You get a cast with a broken limb. You get scars from surgery. I can show someone my scars and X-Rays from my broken ankle, but what do I have to display for more than 30 years of mental health issues?

(Life insurance rates three times higher than my husband’s because I was honest during my interview about my past aren’t really anything you can display as a wound.)

 
 

After Robin Williams died, I remember being enraged by people who couldn’t understand how he could be so weak as to take his own life.

Weak?

When I broke my ankle I didn’t cry–I wasn’t even certain at first I’d broken my ankle, because I was certain it wasn’t painful enough to be broken bones. Yet I have felt emotional pain that was so harsh it took my breath away. A misery so strong that all I wanted was for it to end because it was unbearable.

I knew I could take medicines for relief from physical pain, and that over time the wounds would heal and the pain would eventually be gone.

Mental anguish is different. When you’re given anti-depressants, you’re told they might take up to a month to work. And that some meds are better for some people than for others so what you’re taking might not make things better. And again it’ll be a month before you know for certain.

Know what? I’ve had meds that not only didn’t work, but actually made things worse. That took more than two months to resolve.

Two months of something that no one could see. Two months of something I was certain was a moral failing: A weakness on my part.

A weakness.

During pre-marriage counseling, one of the questions we were asked was whether we suffered from mental illness.

“Yes,” I said, “depression.” (At this time I hadn’t yet been diagnosed with anxiety or OCD, even though they had been part of the mix since the beginning.)

“Not like that,” the counselor replied, “they’re asking about serious illness.”

 
 

Here’s the thing: I’m lucky in that I’ve always been able to work through my depressive episodes. It may have been a struggle, but I was able to get out of bed and be physically, if not emotionally, present.

I know I will be on meds for the rest of my life. I’m fine with that, because I have a strange quirk where I remember feelings painfully clearly. I remember the angst of being a teenager. I remember the shame of being different and unable to fit in. I remember breathtaking misery of grief. I remember the feelings of all my mistakes and the belief I would never get past them. I remember how it feels to believe I was worthless. That I was unworthy of love. That all I ever have done is cause harm and create misery.

I don’t want to live with that agony in the here and now, so I’m glad to take meds.

 
 

My primary fear is not being able to recognize if the meds start to fail and I begin to slip backwards into the abyss.

My secondary fear is of failing to recognize someone else who is suffering. Of missing the person who thinks they are the only one who feels they way they do: lost and broken and unworthy.

Which is why I share things like this. Because we aren’t alone. These things aren’t moral weaknesses or failures. They’re just physiology, and even if it takes a while, these things can usually be fixed.

Because these issues might be permanent but they don’t have to control me.

Because we are more than our illnesses and because we can live through them and be happy.

Written by Michelle at 6:50 pm      Comments (0)  Permalink
Categories: Depression,Science, Health & Nature  

Sunday, November 5, 2017

If You Have Been Bullied, Harassed, or Assaulted

Just a note to those who have lived through bullying, harassment, or assault: You do not have to watch, listen to, or read the news.

You don’t need the reminders that society often protects the bullies and perpetrators over the victims.

It’s OK to turn off the news and take care of yourself.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255

Written by Michelle at 6:20 pm      Comments (0)  Permalink
Categories: Depression  

Sunday, April 10, 2016

The Tyranny of Clothing

I have several bathrobes, which I wear all the time.

This is partially because I like bathrobes (I have three–a heavy terrycloth robe for winter, and two waffle cotton robes for summer) and partially because we shower in the basement, and it’s a trek to make in the winter.

The softest robe has been causing problems for the past couple months–the overlap has been getting smaller and smaller, and it’s a bit to small to contain… me.

This, of course, made me feel badly about myself.

Until I realized that the loops for the tie were no longer at my waist, but are now just underneath my armpits.

The damned thing has been slowly shrinking, but I was convinced that the change was in me.

Nevermind that all my other clothes fit fine, and I’m still wearing the smaller jeans (I have jeans in two sizes; 10 and 12. I’ve been wearing the 10s) but I was somehow convinced that I was getting bigger.

Brains are stupid.

Also, I’m totally getting another robe to replace this one.

Written by Michelle at 9:54 pm      Comments (0)  Permalink
Categories: Depression,Science, Health & Nature  
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