Monday, August 22, 2016

Something came up...

And that's really why it's been such a challenge to keep up with the blog

So now I have a diagnosis. Wow.
More than a year later, it’s still a little hard to get my head around it. Aren’t I just moody? I feel normal. I mean, I felt normal before, and I still feel normal now, but it’s different now. (No jokes from the family about how I was never normal, please, or I’ll start writing about you!) How is it different? It’s hard to say, but it’s sort of like being more relaxed. It was getting very obsessive inside my brain, in a way that I didn’t like and felt powerless to stop. Not like, I’m getting ready to jump off a bridge, but sort of, I just don’t know how to deal, what’s the matter with me, why is everything so hard, over and over and over. It must be something I’m doing, so maybe I should just go away, and take my misery with me; that way I wouldn’t be trashing out other people. Or if I happened to fall in to the pool, would that be so bad? But feeling miserable is just indulging isn’t it? I should just accept my feelings and go with them, right? And then what? Is everything supposed to turn out fine just because I don’t fight my feelings (cue REO Speedwagon)? Back and forth, over and over and over.

I was mentally and emotionally exhausted, and terrified by the time I went for help. 

Not having those obsessive, intrusive thoughts is a revelation. Space to think. Room to consider. I had said to the doctor that all I wanted was to be able to take 2 breaths between something happening and feeling a desperate need to respond. Now I have plenty of time. I feel like I >can< take the time I need, even if I often don’t because, hey, I’m moving fast though this moment. But when I want to, I can and I do.

Being able to get up and write. Being able to stay on Weight Watchers. (Sometimes).

But the thing is, it felt like this was just how things are. You’re sad? Ok, then, you’re sad. Depressed, well, I’m not depressed, I’m just grieving and maybe I’ll grieve like this for the rest of my life. That’s just the way it is, right? All throughout this time I never had the sense that I was all that different from how I had been for years. This despite my wife (among others) telling me that I had changed. Well, of COURSE I had changed! Shit happened, wouldn’t that change anyone? Etc, etc. But what I wasn’t getting (and to be fair to me, neither was anyone else, including my therapist), was that the changes were accumulating and getting worse.

And you want to know something funny? People who are depressed can hide it like no-one’s business. From almost anyone, including their therapists. And it’s not like it’s something we work on: it’s just that it’s easier to talk about other stuff than the dreary reality of unhappy obsessive thoughts. So many depressed people are thought to be the life of the party, especially if their temperament is naturally extroverted. And yes, extroverts can be depressed, too. And introverts aren’t especially prone to depression. And your Myers-Briggs has nothing to do with it. And no, it’s not just that you need to get out more. Or just do more fun things. Or just do more exercise. Or any of the other stuff that people who have no idea what it’s like in our heads think would help us. Bless them, they’re trying to help. (Often because it makes them SO uncomfortable that we’re not “right”.) But for most people with any of these forms of mood disorders (depression, bipolar spectrum, borderline personality, and some others), what helps more is medication and therapy. 

(Another part of hiding things is that people, usually our therapists and loved ones, want us to DO things: Get out more, try this or that, read this book, look at this video. And we just can't. Not one more thing. I was running on the edge of collapse for a long time, and adding more to that would only hasten my daily dives. So I didn't (and my people with serious mental issues also don't) talk about how I felt. It's a protection thing that also happens to work against us while simultaneously protecting us.)

Now, there certainly are many people who manage their lives without medication and therapy, and my hat is off to them. I couldn’t. And I worked at it (not knowing what the problem was, to be sure) for many years. I wasn’t unaware of the fact that I wasn’t as happy as I had once been, or more easily triggered into upset, or generally more difficult to deal with. But I figured the best thing I could do was to work harder at the things I thought would help: meditation, therapy, exercise, finding a new hobby (once a month, usually, and yes, that was a symptom that we all missed) etc. For years. But because I kept thinking that the cause of all this chaos in my head was due to outside events (like my wife’s cancer, losing 2 kids and my parents, my daughter’s issues, etc.), I kept looking for answers in doing things. It wasn’t until it got so bad, and then stopped, and then started up again, that I got scared enough to overcome my distrust of psychiatric drugs and seek help. 

And now I am the poster child for medication working the way they hope. No unbearable effects (I’ll write about the pernicious use of the term “side-effect” to cover up all sorts of known issues another time), no physical challenges, and within a couple of weeks things had stared to calm down.

So here I am. Trying to wrap my head around this new way of seeing myself, and how things were in the past. What did I do that looks different in the light of new knowledge? What parts of the difficulties in my past were made more difficult by my then unknown and unresolved mood disorder? I don’t want to assign blame or causation for all the crap in my life to it, because not only is it not true, but it leaves me as a victim to it. And it’s not all of my life by any means: that’s the point!

Now i have some years of repairs to do: I forgot, missed, left out, ignored many things, including this blog. If you know me, you know I always have something to say, so I'm going back to that.

1 comment:

  1. I've been overwhelmed with life, and off the blogspaces. But I saw this post earlier, tried to comment from work, and our network scions seemed to not want me to engage. But I've had a moment, stumbled back out here, and I want to tell you that you are a rock star! I remember when my dad was 1 year into chemotherapy, and had a hard time getting out of bed and brushing his teeth. When Mom finally talked to his doc about it, the doc prescribed an antidepressant. And slowly, it was as though the lights came back on for him... and for the next year or so, before his body got away from him, he was engaged, present, and had moments of actual damn joy! Because of Welbutrin.

    Maybe they're overprescribed. Maybe we're all over medicated. But these things do good. And I'm glad you got a diagnosis, and treatment, that is bringing you some relief...