Last week: It takes sixteen years, but finally, I see the light.
Sorry this is a bit late. I was actually WRITING today and I lost track of time. It’s been a very good day 🙂
So that’s what it’s called
I learned a new term last week: Ideation. I didn’t know that those pesky and persistent of self-harm and violence had an actual name attached to them. Specifically, it’s called suicidal ideation.
Thanks to a friend for that.
How I deal with my depression
This week, I just wanted to go over a few of myand the strategies I’ve developed to deal with them. Some issues I still don’t have under control, but I’ll share how I’m working through them and my progress to date.
What I don’t do
I have chosen not to go through extensive therapy and after the Paxil, I chose not to take any other kinds of medication. I know people who struggled for years to find the right medication or combination of them to address their symptoms and in some cases, they still become accustomed to a particular dosage or formulation/combination and have to search for and acclimate to new.
This takes a lot of time that I have decided I can’t afford to take.
Everything that I do, I do on my own, and I know that for some of you, that will make you uncomfortable. It may mean for others that I think I know more than you do. I assure you: I do not. I only know what works for me and share it in the hope that others will be able to benefit from my experience.
Others still may feel that my depression can’t be that bad if I can manage without talk therapy or psychoanalysis, medications, or a combination of all of the above. You are welcome to your opinion, but please do not abuse me for holding to mine.
How I learned
When my father had his breakdown, I was scared to death. I’d heard that depression and other mental illnesses had a genetic component. If nothing else, it might predispose you to developing the disease, or other yourself.
I started to pay attention to my father and to what my mother said about him. I started to pay attention to my friends who had other kinds of mental illness, and the behaviours they exhibited. I started to ask questions about how they dealt with their diseases and to think about whether their strategies would work for me or not.
When I got into my self-help phase, one of the exercises in one of the many books on the subject indicated that you needed to examine your life and the past events that may have contributed to your depression. I did this in detail, repeatedly. The greater part of at least one journal is filled with it.
As life went on and I continued to experience symptoms and the fall-out resulting from them, I continued to adapt and refine my strategies.
Having a mental illness of any kind can seem like having another person inside of you. Have you ever heard one partner say of another, ‘That’s not her talking. It’s the depression.’? It can be very true.
As you might do with any other person, adult or child, you have to treat your illness with respect. You have to take the time to get to know and understand it.
As with anything, mindfulness is the key. Be aware in the moment and hold the lesson of it close in your heart and mind.
I’ll start with this because I already mentioned last week a bit about how I handle these unwelcome thoughts and feelings. First, acknowledge them. If you try to ignore them, they’ll only come back more persistently. Then, accept them. They are a part of you because they are a part of your illness. They are thoughts. You don’t have to act on them and you certainly don’t have to fear them. Fear will give them power. You don’t want that. Finally, thank them. I’m serious. They’ve made you aware of something important about you and the nature of your disease. Once they feel this respect, they will go on their merry way of their own accord.
I am tired all the time. Most days, I feel like I could stay in bed all day. On the occasional bad day, I might. My depression is only one cause of this. Insomnia is another. Hormones are another. My malignant hyperthermia ( ) may be yet another cause. Ultimately, they are likely all connected. MH is a funny condition. I’ve read of some people who show symptoms of what used to be called chronic fatigue syndrome, and others who are largely bed-ridden because of their symptoms. One of my relatives suffers from the much-debated fibromyalgia. I believe that this may be an affect of the MH. Regardless of the cause, several things have helped. Regular sleeping habits. Because of work, I have to get up at a particular time. I find that I wake up about this time whether I’m working or not, and whether I choose to stay in bed or not. I’ve tried sleeping pills for the insomnia and didn’t like their side affects. I’ve always felt nervous using medication to solve a problem. Naps don’t work for me. I used to nap all the time, but if I sleep during the day, I’m more likely to have trouble sleeping at night. I’ve tried herbal remedies, warm milk, keeping the bedroom dark and quiet, but the thing that seems to help the most is going to bed at a set time and waking up at a set time. Exercise. I find that if I’ve exercised, even just walking, at any time during the day, then I’m more likely to fall asleep quickly and sleep through the night. Getting used to it. This may seem a little harsh, but you can function when you’re tired. I do it every day. I’m very aware of my physical state and I can see the signs of when I’m getting too exhausted. This will be an individual thing, but it’s important to know your limits and the difference between functional tired and dysfunctional tired. When I fall into the latter situation, it may well be time for a day off.
In general, I’m a laid back person, so laid back, in fact, that sometimes I don’t react in the way people expect. I never express it, but part of my depression is rage. This is where some people find talk therapy helpful. They can unload all the unpleasant baggage they’ve been carrying around and have someone tell then that it’s alright, that it’s normal to have these feelings. I find this to be similar to ideation, but I substitute my journal for a therapist. Like a therapist, my journal doesn’t judge. It just accepts. I don’t need the reassurance of anyone else. I know that the rage is one of the effects of my depression. Journaling my rage allows me to unload in a healthy way and unlike talk therapy I have an artefact that I can refer to. I can return and examine my thoughts and feelings and see if there’s a pattern. Because I journal about my dreams, creative ideas, and other everyday events, I can often connect trigger events to my written episodes of rage. There was a period of several years where I had a lot of rage to vent. Now, not so much. I think my journaling has helped me immensely in this regard.
This is related to number five, but finds its source more in the friend wars and in the negative experiences I’ve had as a creative person. Since I’m socially awkward, I can get the feeling that nobody likes me, even though I know this isn’t true. I try to keep a few central truths in mind. First, the people in your life are there because they are equipped in some way to handle your shit. This means that they are true friends and accept you even when you act like an idiot or say something strange or unkind. They love you regardless. Trust them. Have faith in them. The opinions of people who don’t ‘get it’ are not worth your time or energy. By and large, I try not to care what people think of me, but I find that, when I look at it objectively, I am generally well-thought-of. Creatively, I keep in mind that I have been published and not just by one source or in one genre. Many of the rejections I get are encouraging ones. I have also claimed my identity as a writer. I’ve been writing since I was a child and I’ll continue to write until I die. It’s who I am. Publication is a wonderful validation, but I don’t need it to feel good about what I do, or to keep doing it every chance I get. Writing is a healthy addiction.
This is the biggie for me and strangely, I’ll spend the fewest words on it. My version of hell is to be confronted with all the things that I’ve said or done that have hurt someone else. At heart, I feel that I’m a terrible person and I don’t have to look far to find confirmation of this. I don’t have to look far to find confirmation of the opposite either. I have few, but intensely loyal friends, a small, but deeply loving family. It may sound bizarre to some of you, but I’ve had a string of wonderful pets in my life that have all taught me what it is to love unconditionally. My self-hatred is born of fear. Striving for self-love is an act of courage. I try to be brave every day.
- Emotional instability
Though my crying-at-the-drop-of-a-hat days are long over, I can still be a basket-case from time to time. Some of this I attribute to hormones. I first noticed when I was younger and on birth control that my emotional instability was at its worst. In the years since, I have occasionally had need to go on the pill again for various reasons, and though I’ve tried a number of different formulations, without fail, I become weepy. Even without artificial hormones, I can still take a maudlin turn at certain points in my cycle. The early years of my relationship to Phil were the worst. The smallest things would send me into an ‘end-of-the-world’ funk for days, sometimes weeks, and Phil has confessed to me since that there were times when he thought we wouldn’t make it as a result. Phil was, in part, my salvation though. His intelligence stimulated and inspired me, his keen and twisted sense of humour, so like my own, has kept me laughing all these years. He can make me laugh until my cheeks and stomach are sore, until my eyes tear up. It’s amazing what a good belly-laugh can do for you. We have several values in common and I trust him implicitly. We are the best of friends. We just happen to be married 😉
Above all, writing has been my best therapist, my best medication, and my best spiritual balm. It was only when I started to write regularly that I really started to get my emotional house in order. Much of my journey feeds into my writing and I continue to explore the themes of my life in the pages of my stories and novels.
There is something of me in every one of my characters and often pieces of the people I’ve known and loved.
Have you been able to turn an illness to your favour? Have you mined your life and experiences for your stories?
This is not the end of the story, though it will be the end of this thread of the tapestry. Next week I will return to my narrative where I had to leave it to discuss my depression in more depth. This has been a story within a story that had to reach its conclusion before I could continue.
I hope these stories have served some purpose and will continue to do so.
Good night and I hope everyone had a happy Easter.