NOTE: I wrote this two days ago. The positivism of it isn’t really a thing I am feeling today, but I thought I should post it nonetheless in case there is anything in here that might help someone. I haven’t proofread it, and it might be ridiculous and suck. You’ve been warned.
Excuse me while I have a talk with myself and get my fucking head on straight here.
Today started under the general category of Bad Brain Day but so far has been taking things several steps further down the spiral. It has essentially been a morning and early afternoon of bathrobe wearing, Klonopin taking, caffeinated beverage drinking, and copious crying. Also, cartoons.
Had I created a band this afternoon, its name would be Fumbling for Distress Tolerance.
This is not the sort of depressive episode that only hijacks you cognitively, giving you those hopeless gloomy thoughts. Nor is it the merely the type that demotivates you and leaves you apathetic and paralyzed. No, this is all that and more. This is that New and Improved Different Shit. With this sort of downward spiral, you get the added bonus of that literally physical pain in your very core, the one that feels like the deepest heartache, the most profound, fresh grief. And even if there is not one single negative thought or triggering rumination running through your mind, this feeling can be enough to make you search out the nearest ledge. It can be that painful, that intense.
Throughout today’s joyride through the darkest recesses of my soul, there have been a litany of things running through one part of my brain, this tiny little healthy part that I try to nurture and grow. Because it seems to inexplicably know more than I do. What it’s doing in my brain, I have no idea. But in this one part of my brain are thoughts of different things I might be doing to take my mind off of the panic and the feeling like I’m going to burst out of my skin from this all-encompassing torpor within me. And though I can recognize that these things might be good and distracting, the caveat is that they would be good and distracting for someone who isn’t feeling so absolutely desperate for a relief from this ravaged core feeling they cannot even name.
I understand where the feeling is coming from. I’ve hit a wall. The ‘job’ I do to survive, to be able to pay the light bill and internet, has completely sucked all of the life out of me. I feel utterly empty. When you cannot do your job any better because you have no budget to put into it, when everything you do looks the same and so every time you do it, it’s just this redundant crap over and over again, you feel like a hack. People look at your output and think that is the best you are capable of. But it isn’t. You could do a lot more, if, say, you had a fucking bedroom, for instance. But, pipe dreams, etc. Impossibility exists.
So the thing that feeds my soul – creativity, Art – is now alien to me. It has vacated the premises. I have done everything I can with what I have right here. If there is more that can be done, I can no longer see it, because my retinas are burned out from witnessing the atomic annihilation of my artistic integrity.
It’s not just that, of course. Mental illness does factor in. I am the only person I’ve read about so far that had a psychotic break and was never hospitalized for it. In fact, I never received any counseling for it, either. Of all the many therapists I saw after my break, not one ever said, “So you had a psychotic break, you wanna talk about that?” Not even the cliched, “How does that make you feel?” And there was no time off. It was basically – have psychotic break that lasts for four months until someone finally notices when I become homeless, live in a garage for 1 month with an abusive relative who tries to strangle me and then for 2 months without electricity during a winter it was actually cold in Florida, get put on an anti-psychotic that makes me sleep 15 hours a day and gain at least 50 lbs, finally find an apartment and hit the ground running to survive. No time off to process the experience, or figure out what the fuck happened, or heal/get better. Just break down, then go.
And I think that my brain and my body are finally rebelling against that, 11 years later. I’ve been struggling to figure things out and scrambling just to get by, all the while walking around like this open, weeping wound, consistently reaching up to keep the mask from slipping. The “It’s okay, I’m fine” mask that we mentally ill learn to wear, lest we fatigue those around us and in turn fatigue ourselves when we’re then on the receiving end of well-meaning but wholly unhelpful advice, like, “You should exercise.” Dear Darling Person, if I could do that, my ass would be off of this couch right now doing something productive. The problem is not that I need exercise. The problem is that I’m fucking STUCK, nailed down by hopelessness and anxiety, paralyzed by depression and anhedonia. “You need to think positive thoughts.” Well, see, that’s part of the problem. Telling someone in the throes of a depressive episode to think positively is like telling a diabetic to think their blood sugar to a manageable level, or someone with cancer to just stop having cancer. Wouldn’t it be grand if it really did work that way?
Believe me, I have tried to talk to this disease. I have reasoned with it. I have bought it presents. Shown it flash cards. Given it all the medication under the sun. The last thing helps rein it in a bit, and gives me some time here and there where I can actually breathe without it looming over me like the Sword of Damocles. But, at least at this point in history, there does not appear to be a single cure-all that takes this away from a person. This is a lifelong sort of thing, at least for me. And as such, that means learning to ride the waves of it without getting sucked under and drowning.
If you’re me – which, hey, count your lucky stars – one thing that’s helpful, is to plan ahead. In those flashes of light, those times when you are actually feeling good, you make a fucking plan. You make a list of stuff to stick around for and why. You figure out what things could be good distractions from the tornado making sticks and debris out of your innards. For me, the Cleveland Show sometimes helps, because it’s calming and there is not a single thing in any of the episodes that triggers me into remembering something icky. If there are medications that help bring you down from the ledge, you make sure you have those on hand, and you tell yourself over and over that should the time come, you will make sure to take them in the PROPER AMOUNTS, and you tell yourself this over and over so you make a new groove in your brain, a new little autopilot circuit which will hopefully kick in when everything up there is in chaos and on fire. Maybe you put together a little emergency box full of distracting toys and snacks and – hell, I don’t know, coloring books? – that will bring you some comfort in the dark. (I haven’t actually done that one yet but it doesn’t seem like a bad idea.)
You can also make a list for friends and/or relatives, a “These things are helpful when I am in a bad way” sort of list, that explains what they can say to be helpful, and what they should avoid so as not to accidentally make things worse. You make sure that you have that support system in the first place, someone – or preferably several someones in case the first one isn’t available – that you can call on if you need to talk, or if you’re feeling panicky and need help. You wrack your brain trying to come up with any little thing to trick yourself into hanging on. You think of any fucking thing you can, any tiny little hack, that might – when added to other tiny little hacks – be enough to keep you on this planet until the shit passes.
And you do all of this when you feel GOOD, when you think, “Oh, I will never need any of this shit, because I am FINALLY on the road to recovery.” Because part of recovery is knowing that sometimes it’s two steps forward, one step back, when recovery is a process instead of an endpoint.
And you keep some coffee on hand – Doubleshots are not a bad idea, they can be stored in the fridge so they’re ready to go – because it only takes 1 cup of coffee to keep you from killing yourself, this is what you’ve read, you can’t remember where. You just know it’s true. It works. Only, because Klonopin is your spirit animal during such tough times, you usually have more than just one Doubleshot. Because Klonopin makes you sleepy, and depression does the same thing. And while sleep is sometimes a good escape, you notice that sometimes it just makes you feel worse, because of all the wasted time, because wasted time has suddenly – as time seems to pass more and more quickly – become a big deal.
And when the dark times come, if you can do it – you might not be able to, and that’s understandable, and it’s okay, it’s the nature of the beast – you try like hell to find the humor in things. Because humor makes things so much more survivable.
The thing to TRY to remember is, just because you can see the horizon line, doesn’t mean you can see the whole world. There are things out there you cannot imagine. And so it is with your own life. There are things that lie beyond that metaphorical horizon line of which you cannot conceive, and some of them just may be worth sticking around for. You just can’t know for sure.
This is what I am telling myself, so that I can hang on. I’m telling myself that there is more than what I am able to visualize at the moment. I choose to believe I am correct in this – it is absolutely a conscious decision to be of this opinion, because it is in my best interest. I’ve gone through too much pain to give up now. I’m going to make it worth something. Which is all stuff that was decided during a healthier time, that I branded into my brain over and over, and propped up with gratitude for the good things in my life during the times I am able to feel it.
Surprisingly, there’s enough of an imprint made that I get through, or have, so far, and it passes. The coffee kicks in, the meds help, the storm somehow moves out because the fickle chemicals decide to change their dance steps.
And, because I am Bipolar Type 2, the depression will roar on back at some point or another – probably sooner than later, truthfully, because my job is really killing me, for reasons I have not mentioned here, so I am more susceptible to downward swings. And when it does, I will do my best, and I will tell myself it will pass, and I will more than likely cry my eyes out while fervently believing that actually it will NOT pass, but I will make myself stick around anyway, because that’s what I do now.
I tell myself that it’s gonna be okay – even if I don’t completely believe it – and I white knuckle it, I use whatever hacks I have mapped out, I cry until I can’t breathe through my nose anymore, and I just hang on.