November 27, 2013 § Leave a Comment
I probably should be keeping better track of these things, but as it stands in my brain, I think I’ve been on meds for three weeks now? And seeing my therapist for two weeks. So far I don’t feel any effects of the meds, not even side effects really.
I like my therapist. Things are going much better than they did last time I went to counseling. But so far she’s just told me I’m already doing everything right — I’m already doing cognitive behavioral therapy on my own. Mostly she just validates my feelings and tells me I’m already doing what she would tell me to do. So…….. why am I going to her again? So far I’ve been relatively quiet. I don’t offer things, instead I let her ask me things, so sometimes we just sit there in silence for a few moments until she speaks. For the most part I’m just letting her know that I’m letting her be in control. It’s her space, it’s her job. She’s in charge. She needs to understand that I don’t automatically trust her either. I think she understands that.
I wish the meds would start working. It’s still early, of course, since they are supposed to take up to 4-6 weeks to kick in, but the doc seemed a little worried that I didn’t feel any differently. Dad said Lexapro is an intense anti-depressant so if I don’t start feeling it soon, maybe they’ll up my dosage? No idea. Trying not to think negatively of course, but part of me wonders if all this was false hope about feeling better. Maybe I can’t feel better. Could my body chemistry be that fucked up?
I’ve been feeling pretty bad this week. I thought I would be fine with missing the holidays, with making a point about how things needed to change up on the mountain (i.o.w. the family compound). But I’ve never missed a Thanksgiving or a Christmas before, I don’t think… I’ve certainly never missed a Christmas. Now that it’s getting closer to the days and everyone else is heading home and excited about seeing their families, I’m feeling that pang of loss. It would have been really complicated to coordinate going home for both holidays especially since I’m in such a tight financial situation and don’t have anyone here to watch Asha. But we could have made it work. Now I’m here alone for both holidays as a depressed person.
My therapist calls this period the “dangerous stage” because as I start to feel better (or start to hope that feeling better is going to be a reality for me), I’m starting to feel more angry about the decade I lost to depression and more anxious about relapsing in the future. Can you imagine how much more I would have enjoyed high school and college and grad school had I not been depressed? A decade lost to darkness. A decade of being miserable. A decade of hating myself and hating my life. A decade of living on a hope that one day, if I can hang on long enough, things will somehow get better. I’ve spent my entire life hearing about how much fun everyone else had in college, how people made life-long friends there and had all these experiences that changed their lives and showed them who they really were. I look back on college and see a lot of time spent alone, a lot of time spent working my ass off, a lot of time suffering through insomnia night after night and hours spent in panic attacks. Years spent thinking Alec was cheating on me or was going to leave me or was just stuck with me. College was awful. Grad school wasn’t much better. I’ve spent a decade crying and frustrated and teetering on the edge of suicide.
So I’m a bit angry. I’m a bit sad that I missed out on so much. Since the meds haven’t kicked in, I’m feeling a bit discouraged that that tiny gleam of hope I had is fading. Looks like tonight is turning into a crying night. That’s okay because crying releases stress and I’ve been stressed lately. Crying is okay sometimes. Crying is okay when I’m alone. It’s time for bed anyway.
November 20, 2013 § Leave a Comment
Up until now, I’ve been pretty fiercely independent. I take care of my own shit, I deal with my own problems, and I do my damnedest (wow if *that* doesn’t look like a word) not to be a burden on anyone as much as I can help it. Since I’ve “come out the closet” with my depression, my close friends and family have been very supportive, telling me I have to learn to ask for help and that I can’t do this on my own. Yet, when I actually need to talk, no one has time? Not only that, but they automatically assume that I’m suicidal (Hint: I don’t reach out to talk when I’m suicidal.) which is really off-putting to me and then makes me feel ridiculous for calling in the first place because “No, it isn’t that serious… I just had a bad day.”
I feel so embarrassed when that’s people’s first reaction, like I’m some kind of time bomb or something, instead of a human being who is struggling and would just like someone sympathetic and understanding to talk to. “Any time you need to talk, just let me know. [Unless it's bad for me... or I'm in the middle of something... or I'm not checking my phone even though I know Alexa is trying to get treatment and it's a really rocky time for her so I should probably keep my phone close since I told her I could talk anytime she needed].”
So is this a rational upset? Or is this a depressive anxiety attack? Oh right, my reality is already upside down because I’m depressed and now it’s upside down because I’m on medication. WHO THE FUCK KNOWS WHICH DIRECTION IS UP. and lord knows I gotta figure out on my own because no one who said they would be there is there for me when I need to talk.
To be fair, I’m sure this is tough on everyone. Worrying about sick people is always trying. You assume the worst so quickly. I can understand that. And I can be somewhat unreasonable and cold when I feel embarrassed about my situation and ashamed for wanting people to drop everything to talk to me when I’m upset. That makes it especially hard on other people. I guess it’s like how injured animals lash out at the people trying to help them.
But I’ve been on my own for a while. I’m used to it. It comes naturally. So it’s really hard for me to say “I need to talk. I’m upset.” and to ask for help in that way from someone else. It’s incredibly hard. And that window for when I want to talk to someone else about being upset is verrrry short. I’m not going to want to talk three hours later. It’s not like I’m just being difficult — my depression affects me physically and the more upset I am and the more lonely I feel, the more my head hurts, which makes me increasingly less likely to want to talk. I wanted to talk when I said I needed to and if no one was available, then I’ll just fucking deal with it on my own like I always have.
It’s a lot easier to rely on myself than to try to rely on other people. I don’t know why people keep telling me that I need to learn to ask for help when all I’m learning is that people aren’t there for you when you need them. It’s not fair for me to expect them to keep their phone handy or drop everything because “Oh lord, the crazy girl needs to talk.” but people shouldn’t tell me they’re there for me when they’re not.
I can’t remember what I last posted about, so I should probably give a little update. I started on Lexapro just over a week ago and I started cognitive behavioral therapy this week, so I’m jumping pretty head-first into treatment for my depression. I’ve noticed some negative slight side effects with the Lexapro so far, namely dizziness, nausea, and anxiety related to being medicated which has interfered with the usual efficacy of my sleeping pills. No fluffy, happy, floating on a cloud feelings, though I don’t really know what to expect as far as the positive effects of the medication. Guess I’ll start to feel whatever it is normal people feel like. Obviously, it’s not working yet.
November 11, 2013 § Leave a Comment
I am fucking sick and tired of being yelled at. All I want to do is enjoy the evening in peace, walk my dog outside so she can take a shit, and do it without having to wear a goddamn burqa. Why is that something I have to ask for? Why is that something that is constantly denied me because some douchebags think it’s funny to harass me?
I tend to have three separate types of reactions when this happens.
1. I’ll ignore it because I simply don’t give a fuck what some lowlifes have to do to make life entertaining.
2. I’ll grind my teeth about it but keep my mouth shut because I don’t want them to track me down and do something worse than catcall me from their car window.
3. I yell back at them, usually something along the lines of “Go fuck yourself.” But in my Big Girl voice that tends to echo around the suburbs of my neighborhood.
I found myself seeing red following their laughter when I yelled back at them. I wanted a gun, and I wanted to stand over them, and put it right to their temples and make them fucking apologize. I want them to see me as someone bigger and stronger and more powerful than them. I wanted them to see me as a threat, to no longer feel safe in this world. Because that’s how I feel.
Gun to the head too extreme? Fine. I’d like to shoot out a tire or two as they drive past. You know the type of guy — they’re always the type who loves their big pickup trucks and polished coupes more than anything. Yeah, let’s put a fucking dent in that, watch you cry over your piece of shit car. Maybe you should value something a little more worthwhile.
Okay, I don’t know any cops, but I’d say shooting out someone’s tire might be some kind of assault charge. Illegal Mexican versus little college-educated white girl… wonder who would win that case. But that’s just a continuation of racial inequality that I can’t support even if it’s in my favor and the douchebag deserves to sit in jail for whatever reason I can get him there.
So what about throwing a balloon filled with paint? I’ve got enough of an arm and solid hand-eye coordination. I’d love to fuck up that truck, even temporarily. See them get all pissed off and confused. Oh right, they know where I live.
These are all gut reactions out of anger, out of hate. These responses won’t solve a damn thing. Will they make me feel better? Sure. But only temporarily. Only in a “yeah, I fucked there shit up” kind of way which is fleeting and superficial. That’s not going to fix anything on their end. That’s not going to make anything better for anyone in the long run.
So why isn’t there an anti-sexual harassment program going through these lower-income neighborhoods? The people who most harass me: lower-class black men, lower-class hispanic men, and college-educated white guys. Where are the sex education programs that advocate for women, that teach men that we are people too and should be respected as such? I’ve heard about sex ed programs on college campuses, but I went to college. Hell, I went to two different grad schools and NOWHERE did I see any kind of proper anti-rape, anti-sexual harassment sex education.
That shit should mandatory. Not just for college kids and grad students, but everyone who has ever gotten a job should be made to listen to a sex education program.
Why is this not already the case? Why is this not a fucking law? Why are these programs not well-funded and prevalent throughout this country, the “Land of the Free”? Doesn’t feel like a free place to me. Feels like a goddamn prison because everywhere I turn women are slapped down, women are brutalized, women are threatened or disregarded.
Why is catcalling not an “issue” in the States? Because women are over-reacting. Women don’t have a sense of humor. Women can’t take it as a compliment.
I am so fucking sick and tired of being harassed. At least in the workplace there are protocols. What is the protocol for harassment on the street? And when is it going to be legal for me to threaten someone with a gun because they dared to yell obscene things at me, because they dared to make me feel unsafe in my own neighborhood as I quietly and unobtrusively walk my dog for their own pleasure and entertainment?
How can I continue to advocate for the groups that most harass me? How can I continue to push for racial equality and better, more fair immigration laws, when those are the minority groups who most harass me? How do I deal with that? I was robbed in DC because I didn’t want to report a young black man for “suspicious activity” for fear that I myself was being racist. How does one wrap their head around that? I am bolstering the people who won’t think twice about hurting me. That’s fucked up.
There is no justice. No fairness. No equality. Without proper, prevalent, persistent, and MANDATORY sex education at multiple age levels and professional stages, we are NEVER going to see a world any better than the one we live in where women are constantly and consistently victimized.
Where do we start? Who will listen? How can we accomplish this?
November 4, 2013 § Leave a Comment
While I may make decisions quickly, I do not take them lightly.
My cousin suggested that I move back to Alabama, to get serious about treatment and ensure my success by surrounding myself with people who love me. In true Alexa response, I shut it down immediately. But I’m a percolator, and he’s learned that, so not an hour later, I was opening up to the idea. Now that I’ve slept on it, I feel like it’s my best option for really getting better.
There’s definitely a pro/con list with the biggest con being that it’s Birmingham, Alabama. It’s a small town and has a small town mentality for the most part. People do the same thing every day, every week, every year. The locals always talk about leaving but never do. No big shows or major exhibitions go through there. Birmingham doesn’t even have an H&M or Ikea.
But my family is there. My closest friends are there. The cost of living is incredibly cheap, the neighborhoods are historic, and there are multiple fantastic parks just a short drive away. And I could be happy there, at least for a little while.
If I’m serious about wanting to help people, about wanting to help improve communities and make people’s lives better, doesn’t Alabama top that list? People are suffering in Birmingham. Low-income communities abound, the educational system is a train-wreck, childhood obesity is through the roof. Birmingham, with its bloody history of struggle, deserves help, deserves happiness. What better place for me to start my new career?
Finding a salaried job won’t be easy. Birmingham is small and poor, with most non-profits in a hiring freeze. I’ve got a running list of companies to keep checking in with and I’ve got some people I can call on to ask around for me, to see if anyone is looking to hire an Art History nerd with only museum experience. I’ve got six months to find something, and if all else fails, I can go for AmeriCorps in the ‘ham, though Dad thinks I can do better than that. We’ll see. There’s plenty of time.
I’m feeling anxious about it, even though my gut tells me this is the right thing to do. I hate going backwards. I hate returning to Alabama. Last year I returned because I’d given up on everything else. Quit my job, quit grad school, left Alec. Now I’m returning again because I’ve given up on my museum career and because I’m a suicide risk. How do you explain that to people? “I moved back because I’m undergoing treatment for depression.”
I’m moving back because I’m weak. I’m moving back because I’m afraid to seek help on my own. I’m moving back because I’m afraid that this is the only time in my life that I’ll feel happiness, because my friends and family are all in one place.
I have a slight soft spot for Birmingham, I can admit. The weather is great. It’s easy to get around. The neighborhoods are interesting and there is a lot of great food. The parks are pretty and generally well-maintained. The people are nice for the most part. Birmingham is familiar and nostalgic for me. I can admit that. I’ve got a lot of warm fuzzies from my last year there, where I had an active social life and didn’t live isolated in the country. I could have a life there, a good life, for a little while. And if I could help the community, dammit, I want to.
I won’t stay. I won’t spend more than a few years there. But if I can enjoy my friends, my family, my favorite spots, while they’re all in one place, I’d like to. Where better to commit to treatment, to get better, to learn how to let myself be happy?
Maybe this will work out.
I have hope.
November 3, 2013 § Leave a Comment
I have nights sometimes where I cry at everything. Admittedly, I do start my period tomorrow, so it may just be another symptom of my uterus making my life miserable. I’ve never really tried to track when my crying days occur. Either way, I’m certainly having one tonight. I’ve only got two sleeping pills left and somehow I’m already out of money from my paycheck (thanks, Rent) so I’m trying to ration. Still have a lot of things to pay for before payday like basic groceries, my prescription, three of my bills, and I’m supposed to take Asha to the vet on Friday. Goodbye, savings. It was nice of you to stick around this long.
Anyway. The crying.
I went home last week on something of an impulse. I’m glad I went, but sometimes you let in the bad with the good, sometimes you reopen old wounds when you’re just trying to take the bandaid off. Visiting made me remember how much I’ve lost, how much I gave up, when I moved to Dallas. God, I’m lonely here. I’ve never really had friends before. I’ve never really been in that wonderful middle zone of being able to see my parents on a weekly basis without having to live with them. Those are rare and special things. And I abandoned them. Feeling that love again, feeling that happiness of companionship, made me realize how much I didn’t want to go back to Dallas, where I spend my evenings holed up alone in my apartment because I can’t stand the company of others here. Or when I do go out with them, I so often wish I’d stayed at home. That’s no way to live life. Crying.
I stopped by the museum to see an exhibition (or two… or three…) and one of the security guards ran me down. I thought she just wanted to say “hi,” but she launched into a rapid-fire blend of personal questions mixed with her own insights into a topic I thought was private: me and mark. Something she said keeps running through my mind, she said “I remember he used to look at you and just glow. You could tell he loved you.” Why would she say something like that? I don’t even know her name, and she couldn’t even remember mine, but she had all these observations and opinions about my relationship. You’d think, with her knowledge that it ended and I now live 800 miles away, that she wouldn’t have said anything like that at all, that she would have kept the respectful and polite distance that is so often maintained between coworkers who only know each other’s faces from the hallway. It was really a conversation I could have lived another 25 years without having.
There were some complications with him as well. Conversations that never should have happened yet couldn’t really be avoided. Reopening freshly healed wounds just to roughly staple them shut again. Inevitable, really, walking those same streets, frequenting those same haunts. Unavoidable. The wounds are healing quickly, as I so often return to my “normal” state, but that security guard’s words keep slapping me. Ah, right. It’s just my uterus. Crying.
I’ve been talking rather intermittently with dad about getting treatment. I don’t want to start meds until I move closer to home and I don’t want to go to therapy without meds because it’s pointless. Dad accused me of being weak and scared, making excuses. The truth is, as I just realized tonight in my crying night haze, that I’m afraid. Dad keeps saying that I have to change, that who I am will need to change to get better and that getting better will change who I am. Very few people like me. Even fewer love me. I’m pretty okay with that, I’m certainly used to it by now and have come to expect it, but I’m afraid that if I do change, those people won’t love me anymore. I’m afraid that if I’m not me anymore, they won’t want me around. I don’t know what they see in me, friends or family, to love me, to somehow enjoy my company, to not want me to disappear. I don’t know what they see so I don’t know what’s going to change when I change to get better. I don’t know what they’ll like in me if I’m not me anymore. I’ll be alone. Crying.
Aren’t you alone now, kiddo? Aren’t you crying alone in your empty apartment in a city who doesn’t know you exist? Aren’t you alone already, and by choice?
I opened up my eyes and found myself alone alone alone above a raging sea that stole the only girl I loved and drowned her deep inside of me
November 2, 2013 § Leave a Comment
“Treat every thought and emotion as suspect. Everything you think and feel is filtered through your depression.”
Okay. I am upset. So what do I feel. Hurt. Frustration. Confusion. Anger. Betrayed.
Which of these emotions are real? What do they stem from? What source is “me” and what is the depression?
If every feeling is suspect, I must disregard it as false, as nothing more than a fabrication of my depression that cannot be trusted. So what do I feel instead?
I feel numb when my emotional responses are shut down in turn for being unreliable and presumably irrational, mere pawns in my depression actively trying to increase my pain.
If all of my feelings are suspect, all I have left is numbness, an empty feeling made up of dissatisfaction, self-doubt, and unhappiness.
I think seeking medication as treatment may be a very terrible idea since I am alone. It seems incredibly unwise to risk the potential extremes and worst case scenarios of introducing anti-depressants to my system when I have no one to rely on, no immediate support system, no one to watch for the warning signs.
I’ve heard that some meds take the pain away but leave numbness. I fear numbness more than the pain. I can deal with the pain. I know what it feels like, I know what stays my hand, I know how to manage it. Numbness just makes me feel like nothing matters. In no way is that a benefit to me. I would be gone in an instant if I were overwhelmed by the feeling that nothing matters. Empathy is what keeps me from harming myself. Empathy makes me feel the pain I would cause my loved ones. Pain I understand. Pain I don’t want to cause anyone.
Self-imposed numbness as a result of shutting down depression-driven emotional responses is not the same thing as a medical, chemical-induced numbness. I don’t want that. I cannot risk that.
Now is not the time to seek medication as treatment for my depression.
October 26, 2013 § Leave a Comment
I was going to write a post today about self-defense, about weapons. Asha and I were attacked by a German Shepherd this morning and it reminded me of how long it’s been since I’ve witnessed a dog fight, since I’ve been involved in one. It reminded me of that helpless feeling when your brain is struggling to resolve the situation that feels like it’s in slow motion yet high speed, the brawl that seems never-ending until it’s over and you’re just in shock. I can be so fucking naive sometimes, walking around in that perfect little middle class bubble where I think I’m safe because it would never cross my mind to harm anyone else, so why would anyone ever have the thought to harm me. People attack people, animals attack animals, and almost always, it happens right out of the blue. Your only defense is self-defense, and the fear of those slow motion/high-speed situations is what drives people to purchase guns, to carry knives. The thought of owning a weapon still boggles my mind. But that’s not what this post is going to be about.
Dad keeps telling me that I’m mentally ill, that my depression is filtering everything that I feel, everything that I think, even when I strongly believe it’s rational. I try to buy into that skepticism because I think in a lot of ways it is true, but the core of my depression doesn’t come from some filtered understanding of self, it comes from the harsh reality of mortality. Everything dies. Everyone dies. This has caused me intense grief since I first realized the truth of it as a child and it is has clung to me for more than a decade. Every happy moment I have is haunted by the knowledge that all happiness comes to an end.
Even the best lives, the ones filled with the most love anyone could dream of, still end in grief. Life is nothing without love but the more you love, the more pain you will feel when the person and people you hold in your heart are gone. This is inevitable. This is a fact. There is no fabrication of afterlife that will mediate that sense of loss. The harsh reality is that when you love someone, you sign onto the intense, suffocating, overwhelming grief of losing them.
One of us will die inside these arms.
Iron and Wine lyrics will stick with me til my dying day, I’m sure of it. I listened to a lot of Iron and Wine in high school when my depression began outwardly manifesting itself (something I look back on and see as quite obvious but my parents must have mistook normal teen angst for what was really a deep depression setting in) and I would just lay in bed and cry, so moved by the poetic words that described the exact grief I felt. His words described how all beauty and happiness and love–all the things that make life worth living–will decay and disappear. Such is life. Such is nature. Such is the way things are and should be.
This overwhelming grief, the pain that sucks the air from your chest, leaving something resembling a black hole where your torso used to be, causing you to hyperventilate because you just can’t seem to catch your breath enough to breathe through the pain… that is what I feel. And not because of any singular event or trauma, not because of any particular trigger, but because the fact of life is that you must love to be happy, but you will always suffer because everything ends. I try to be thankful that I have love in my life at all, especially when I go through the most involving experiences of this grief, but that appreciation does little to assuage the intense, sharp pain of loss that I can feel vibrating through every tiny particle of myself.
This loss is normal. This loss is natural. This loss is expected and unavoidable.
This depression is rational. It’s the ultimate rational realization of the temporality of everything, absolutely everything. It is what makes life so beautiful and precious, but it’s also what makes life so incredibly fucking painful. No amount of therapy is going to get me to a point where this truth doesn’t hurt. No amount of drugs will reach the deep part of my heart that knows this truth of life, this truth of love. Love does not exist without the pain of loss and life is worth nothing without love. Medication may distract me from that, but nothing can change it. It is life. It is truth.
I know what it feels like to want to give anything, to give everything, just to hug that lost loved one again. I know how every bone in your body aches to change the situation, to turn back time, to relive every moment that is already slipping away into memory. I know what it feels like to feel totally hollow inside, sobbing on the floor alone, screaming inside your head and begging for things to be different, for somehow things to be better. Begging for one more day with them. Begging for a do-over so you could appreciate every second with them more than you did the first time you lived. That desperation. That pathetic, desperate plea with no one but yourself to make the loss of your loved one just a tiny fraction less consuming.
There isn’t a medication for that. There isn’t a therapist that can make that go away. There isn’t a trauma to rationalize. A good life is full of love; a good life is full of pain. There is no more painful a truth than this. And there is nothing about it that is filtered or twisted by depression. This is reality, and I look it in the eye.
So many people in the world seem paralyzed by the thought of death, not anyone else’s but their own. Non-existence is a fascinating thought to me, no longer existing. We’re so caught up in our inner dialogue, in our own experiences and assumptions of continuation, we forget that one day we will merely cease to exist. In most cases, we won’t be able to plan or predict when this happens and I imagine for most of us, it’s a lot like falling asleep, perhaps quite quickly. There will be no knowledge that this is your death, not really, not truly, because you cease to have knowledge once you die. There’s no looking back and saying “oh, I died.” You’re just gone. Poof.
I haven’t feared my own death in a long time for a comparatively short life. If anything, I look forward to non-existence. No struggle, no worry, no pain, no loss. I’ll simply be gone, I’ll be at peace. I don’t wish immortality on anyone, but I do wish life wasn’t so damn hard. I wish everyone had a peaceful, quiet death after so many years of pain and toil. I wish people didn’t die terribly, in unbearable pain and filled with fear. Such a tragic thing, to think about every good person who has died at the hands of a torturer or a murderer, they were one someone’s child. Their first steps were witnessed by adoring parents who cheered them on. They graduated high school with the excitement and hope of entering the world of adulthood, full of promise and potential. They lived their lives struggling to find happiness while walking a hard path of “Do No Harm.” But their lives came to a bloody end filled with pain and confusion and desperation, and above all fear. God, I hate that. Life is never what it should be. There is no fairness or justice. People live and they suffer.
Depression can’t be responsible for that thought; it feels so true in my heart, in my mind. There is always hope that people will get better, that bad people will make better choices and find redemption, and that good people will die peacefully surrounded by loved ones. But reality says it’s a crap shoot. Reality says you can live your life as a good person and can still die at the hands of a bad one. Reality says you can live life as a good person but your wonderful heart will still be broken every time you must let go of someone you love, every time you have to learn to live without them. People live and they suffer.
That isn’t Depression talking.
That is life.