Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The Perfect Storm

In the atmosphere of our fair planet, weather systems move around.  They ebb and flow, bringing rain here, sunshine there, snow over yonder.  Sometimes the weather gets testy and a storm develops.  Sometimes, angry weather systems get on a collision course with each other.  And when they collide, Bad Things(tm) happen.

It is often, but inaccurately, called a "weather bomb".  That's the new term meteorologists made up to have it all sound very menacing.

You may have guessed that I am in the process of using analogy to make a point.'d be right.  Recent posts have alluded to my attempts at staving off a Major Depressive Episode (MDE).  It's been nipping at my heels like a starved wolf, trying to get in.  (Ooh, more analogy!  This post is clearly symbolistically overloaded.) (symbolistically - It is so a word!)

Yesterday the weather bomb dropped.  It almost made an audible SPLAT as it hit me.  It was all a collection of little things, mostly, that all accumulated and slammed into each other.  And me.  A bad day at work.  Finding out that something I did wasn't up to standard.  Finding out that it happened several months ago and a couple of people have had a lesser opinion of me ever since...but yet no one told me, or gave me a chance to make it right.  A friend was hurt by something I said in an offhanded way.. and of course I didn't ever mean to hurt anyone's feelings.  Someone I knew years ago, and am not even close to anymore, de-friended me on Facebook.  Valentine's Day was this week..and as we all know.. I'm a bit lonely these days.  There were a couple of other small items that dropped in the Weather Bomb Mix, and before I knew it I was nose-deep in another MDE.

Then the Bad Thoughts came.  The dark and sinister ideations.  The crazy plans to quit my job.  The plans to move someplace else.  All the instant "running away" urges that are, I know deep down someplace that at the moment seems faint and distant, utterly ridiculous.  These urges must be stopped.  Like many jobs, mine is stressful and tough at times... but it's not THAT tough... I have to remember that.

But it's hard.  When the depression is swirling around me like a tornado, it's easy to fall off course.  The bad ideas come roaring in on the disturbed wind and set up shop in my mind before I can say, "what was that"?

It's hard.  I try to remember the CBT techniques I learned.  "STOP the bad thoughts."  I try to remind myself that I am catastrophizing.  I try and repeat over and over again like some pleading mantra, that I am a Good Person.  I have a Good Life.  I Will Make It Through This Period.  And for a few minutes, it works.  Then it all comes roaring back like some other violent weather-related phenomenon.

Oddly, when I started writing this post, I felt shame.  Embarrassment.  I had come so far with my journaling and blogging and enjoying the moral support of my new blogging friends.  How could I have this bad of a backslide?  (I am not fishing for anything here... just admitting the strange emotions that overtake me)

OK, so it's reality check time.  CBT skills ahoy.

  • I am in a temporary state of crisis.  It will not last.
  • I have been journaling for mental health for less than two months.  To expect instant and permanent and lasting success is unrealistic.  This, like any therapy, takes time and work.
  • Bad things happen to good people.  None of the things that happened are permanent, and I have the power to make them better.
  • No one is going to judge me harshly for falling into the pit again.  Quite the opposite, in fact.  Shame and embarrassment are unnecessary.
  • It's not my fault, but I can make it better.
  • Amazing that all the self-convincing I have been doing pales in comparison to the therapeutic value of writing this down.  
On the real-and-not-catastrophized down side, it is apparent now that my depression is having an effect on my work.  I thought I had it pretty well under control when it came to my professional life.  In fact I had believed, until yesterday, that work was the ONLY part of my life I had under control and functioning properly.  I need to work on that.  Immediately.  The tricky part of that process is: how much is true.. and how much is my mind playing dirty tricks on me.  the truth lies in the middle, I suspect.

It's a long weekend coming up.  I've got to use it to my advantage and relax, decompress, and heal.

This too shall pass.

Monday, February 14, 2011

It's The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year

Actually, no... it's so not that at all.

Lots of people turn up their noses at Valentine's Day.  It's a manufactured holiday, they say.  All a scam to make money for Hallmark.  The chocolate companies are in on the deal too.  It's all manufactured.

First off, it isn't.  Perhaps the way we mark the day is manufactured and invented, but St. Valentine's day is a real day.  There were several Saints named Valentine, and over time, various legends and stories coalesced into a martyr for love.  Long before, I am quite certain, Hallmark was invented.

To tell the truth, the way we mark and celebrate Christmas is pretty far from the original intent and story, but no one thinks Christmas is a scam to sell greeting cards and chocolate.

But, enough historical perspective.  In no way would I want to take away from a day that celebrates love.  A day where people who have found love enjoy each other's company, and celebrate that love.  How can such a day be a bad thing?

For a normal someone, it's not.   For a single person, it might be a reminder that one is alone.

Oh but for a depressed someone who is also lonely, February the 14th is a heavy day indeed.  It's a rough one.  It's not up there with Christmas... but it's heavy.  It's a strong reminder that I am alone.  It's a strong reminder that I don't get to experience romantic love.  It's a strong reminder of the effects of depression on my life.  And yes, there's a small amount of anger.  The anger from before.  Anger at myself for being in this fix.

I want to swat at the anger like one would shoo a buzzing fly.  Get, get away from me, pesky anger!  Pesky depression brought on by a reminder of the state of my life!

Pesky.  I've always liked that word.

Today is probably going to be a rough one.

I've got to start my distraction techniques early in the day.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Once Upon A Time

I have a story to tell.  It's a story I have never told any other human being...ever.

It's a story about the time having trouble typing this sentence...decided to end my life.

I must tell you right off the top, I hereby give you permission to find this story amusing.  Looking back, I certainly do.  Years later I find the complete lunacy of the situation to be laughable.

Oh but now you are confused.  Let's back up.

I was all of nine years old.  That's right, nine.  (You can see how this has the potential to be amusing at the same time as it is troubling.  Also shocking.)

I was not a generally happy child.  Certainly like any kid I had my ups and downs.  However, I know now that I have been living with depression just about all of my life.  I recall vividly the feelings of despair.  The heaviness, the hopelessness that I know oh-so-well today, I recall feeling when I was very young.  It was a heavy burden that no one should ever have to bear... let alone a young child.

Of course at the time, depression wasn't something you talked about, or even mentioned.  The word "depression" didn't really exist. One did not admit to feeling such things, and if one did, one was quickly told to not be "silly".  And to "just get over it".  And all the other things that many of us know now are ridiculous.  I didn't even know at the time I had something with a name.  I just knew I was miserable, and hurting, and sad.

And....nine.  Did I mention I was nine?

Back to our tale.  It was a particularly bad day.  There may have been some family dust up, or some friend who unknowingly said the wrong thing.  Possibly both.  I can't recall correctly.  Either way, I was in my room, despondent.  Then the dark thoughts came.  The mere fact that suicidal thoughts can occur in the brain of a nine year old child underscores how serious this illness can be.

I lived in a small town at the time.  We had two TV channels, as cable hadn't gotten to us just yet.  I was not familiar with most of the rest of the world.  I didn't know the word suicide.  I didn't even know what it was.  All I knew was there were very dark thoughts and a vague idea that the pain and suffering might stop if I just ended my own life.

Isn't that just one of the most disturbing things ever?  I was nine, for cryin' out loud.

Here's where my memory gets crystal clear.  I had this bedside lamp.  It was a sailboat.  Expertly crafted with paper sails, strings for ropes, and fancy wood and brass work.  It really was quite the lamp.  Behind the sails was a 40 watt bulb that lit up the ship.  You could almost imagine the sun shining through the sails as the boat tacked into the wind and set off on some journey to a far off land.

I didn't know about suicide, but I did know from TV that they put bad people in something called the electric chair.  And...a lamp has electricity doesn't it?

Now remember please, that I have given implicit permission for you to find this amusing.  You may chuckle.

As you may have just figured out, my nine year old self unscrewed the 40 watt light bulb and carefully set it aside.  I put my index finger into the light socket.  And with my other hand, flicked on the switch.

It was at that moment that I discovered that 120 volts of electricity really really hurts.  This made no sense at all.  I wanted the pain to end, not to make more!  This whole thing wasn't working out as planned.

I don't recall what happened next.  Likely I just went back to being a nine year old.  Naturally, at the time, I had no idea of the magnitude of what had happened to me.  I went back to being a sad kid, but now somewhat mindful of light sockets.  It wasn't until years later when I realized there was a mental illness afoot, that I looked back on that episode with fresh perspective.  And, after the shock passed, I was able to almost laugh at the fact that I thought it would be a super idea to jam my finger into a light socket.

As an adult, I have had other very dark episodes, where the urge to act has been great.  I have managed to make it through them...although a couple of them, which I can clearly recall as if they were yesterday, were almost overwhelming.  It took one of those episodes for me to begin to ask for help.

Light sockets hurt.  Remember that always.