July 14, 2010
I’ve held off on posting this because of the personal subject matter. I always intended to post it, just wasn’t sure when, and, well, since I’m shaking off a virus and am therefore pretty bored, seems like a good time for final edits. I was going to make it one post, but it’s pretty big, so I think I’ll take it in steps.
About 3 months ago:
Fuckety-fuck. I’m not sure if I’ve done the right thing. I told my parents I used to self-harm today.
I’m putting a read-more on these posts because I’ll be talking openly about the appeal that self-harm/cutting had for me at one time. I’m making a massive assumption that anyone will read this and, if they do, that they would be interested in my take on it. Nevertheless… Read the rest of this entry »
April 26, 2010
I like to think I know myself fairly well now. I’m naturally more of a thinker than a doer, and thinking leaves plenty of time to contemplate one’s positive and negative qualities. I should add the caveat that this self-awareness is not to be trusted in any of the extreme mood states. Whatever you think about yourself in an extreme mood is likely to be, at best, a caricature of a personality trait, blown up out of proportion, like
Jessica Rabbit’s tits.
That may have been a little distracting, but if we can move away from Jess’s boobs, I was just going to say something about passive aggressiveness.
I’m passive aggressive sometimes. I veer that way on the scale anyway. It depends on the person, the situation and all that hula, but, in general, I have to admit I don’t take the bull by the horns if someone has upset me.
I’m annoyed/upset/hurt by a friend at the moment. I am feeling quite irritated by him because he’s one of those people who will give you a big speech about how they’ll always be there for you if you ever need them, how they consider you one of their best friends and stuff like that.
Anyway, that’s only tangentially connected to why I’m upset with my friend. It’s mainly that he has been out of contact, I’ve done all the running lately in terms of sending texts etc. He just hasn’t been a very good friend lately, in my opinion.
I could have used a chat the other day and tried to let him know that I wasn’t doing so good and he was more interested in watching the sport. He’s been really good in the past, and it’s a two-way street, because I’ve also gone out of my way to help him when he’s not been on top form. Lately, he’s just been a bit of a crap mate really. That’s how I’m feeling. I think it’s exacerbated by the previous declarations of unstinting support “whenever you need a friend”, and it’s all such bullshit in the cold light of lack of follow through.
The passive aggressiveness comes in because I haven’t had this out with him. I’ve just seethed quietly. I have now started a text-silence (I know, so mature), where before I was trying to keep the communication up.
I had a scenario a few years ago with a female friend, which highlighted again my dislike for confrontations. I felt she’d behaved disrespectfully to some of my friends on a night out – not a huge deal, but enough for me to be annoyed. At the time I was trying out some assertiveness that I’d learned in an assertiveness group. I tried, as diplomatically as I knew how, to express my disappointment and it kind of blew up in my face.
Her response was really defensive. I’d hoped I hadn’t sounded attacking, and I don’t think I did, but I learned a couple of things.
1.) Never use the text format to have a serious conversation.
2.) I’m awful with conflict. I hate the whole thing – the initial “I’m not happy with…” convo and the ramifications (in this case a cooling off of our friendship that lasted several months).
I also realise that I was in my rights to complain about the way she had behaved, which is all the rage in assertiveness training. The thing is though, I hurt myself more in the long run. I was anxious as hell over it all for weeks and I lost a friendship I couldn’t really afford to lose at the time.
Now we’re still good friends: after drifting apart we drifted back together over time. I do understand the need to get grievances in the open and I would prefer to be the sort of person who does that. My take on it is, it depends on my life situation. If I am feeling good in myself, and not reliant on one or two individuals for my social life, then the risk in asserting myself is worth it. If not, well, it’s a risky strategy.
Right now, I’m a conflict dodger.
April 5, 2010
This is the first post I’ve ever written whilst drunk. I’ve written whilst ‘under the influence’ before, but not with this much alcohol in my veins.
My bloody birthday is now over. It’s ten o’clock at night, but I’m done. Day 1, yesterday, involved a relaxing massage/spa day and day 2, today, has been lunch, cocktails, 3-D cinema, dinner, champagne, wine and too much tiramisu.
I know all that sounds like fun. And it was. In parts, at least. But I couldn’t escape the fact that it was all about getting through this fucking birthday that I never wanted to have. It’s a ridiculously self-involved and human paranoia about ageing. There’s no way I can write about it and have it make sense. Rationally, I know all the clichés are true. It’s just numbers etc. There are bigger, more important things to worry about. Yet, when it comes to the crunch, we are all self-contained vessels of emotional neuroses. Some are more level-headed than others, but we all feel the pinch at one time or another. This has been my time. And it has fucking hurt.
I want to send out good vibes to the people who came out with me, who made passing the time easier and less stressful for me. I will thank them in texts and so on. It was just one of those birthdays where I was never going to be cool with it. In many ways it has made me realise that I can not carry on this way. I need to get away. With the birthday over I can maybe focus on how to make that happen.
I stuck my fingers down my throat when I got home tonight. I felt sick with wine and pizza and dessert and the weight of expectations. I wanted it all out of me. I wanted to know that I wasn’t going to just swallow it anymore – this life, this routine, this monotony. Maybe some of this is a drunk girl talking shit. But some of it is real.
So, the plan. Well, tomorrow probably will be quite tired. After that, I’m going to start, little by little, sorting things through – my friend wants to go on holiday next month. I’m wondering if I should go and then just stay away for a while. I’ve no idea if this is mid-life crisis come early, a flash in the pan, or a build-up of dissatisfaction. Whatever its genesis, something has to CHANGE.
March 26, 2009
This was written yesterday.
Making A Big Deal Of Small FryMy mood is still flat today, very much so. It makes it hard to concentrate on writing or reading, so I tend to read blogs with short posts, rather than those that require a higher time and concentration commitment.
My sister is at home today as she has a study day. She asked me:
“Do you want to come to the gym?”
You’d think that was an easy “yes” or “no” answer. Not if I’m depressed. If I feel low and numb it’s a hard bloody question. My brain wanders through dense thicket trying to find the answer, questing for clarity, but getting tied up in knots along the way. All the while my sister looks at me expectantly…
Usually it’s not worth trying to explain why I’m being a dipstick and can’t make the *finger snap* decision. Today I did try to explain.
“What time are you going?” I asked, stalling, trying to give my sludgy brain more thinking time.
She said it so nonchalantly, as if the act of going to the gym was as easy as letting those words trip off her tongue.
I knitted my brow (a purl stitch, should you be interested). ‘Come on, Louise,’ I think to myself, ‘this isn’t that hard. Do you want to go to the gym?’.
At some point a length of time had gone by that was, in my sister’s mind, officially enough time to come up with a response to the question. She realised, I think, that something wasn’t quite right.
“Do you want to go?” she repeated.
This is when I attempted an explanation of my wet-clay thought processing. “I can’t say I want to go,” I began, “because I don’t want to do anything. But my mood is low, so it would probably be better for me to go than stay in the house.”
“Right,” she said breezily, “so do you want to go at 1 then?”
Another long silence. One o’clock was two hours away and in that state of mind I could hardly judge what I wanted to do in the moment, let alone account for my wishes in two hours time. This I tried to explain.
“If we go to the gym now, I might be able to go,” I said, “but I’m probably going to go downhill in mood from here on in, so if you ask me to go in two hours time you may not be able to peel me out of bed.” (Depressed people are known for their positive outlook and cheery disposition. We’re a delight. Really.)
My poor sister, she has to try to wrap her head around the ridiculous workings of my depressed mind and she so often, understandably, looks blank after my attempts to ‘explain’ things. The thing is she wants to help, which is really nice and I think she does now just take what I say as it is, without trying to wrap her head around it. It’s best that way I think for both of us. It is the way it is. It’s always going to sound weird to her.
“So, we go now then?” She looks at me: Surely she’s asked a simple enough question this time?
“Yeeeah, I guess…” I say slowly, after another too-long space of deliberation.
Here’s what it is. I don’t WANT to do anything, I don’t have desire right now. BUT I know that my mood is flat and low and that in these circumstances I SHOULD go to the gym if possible because a) sitting around the house or going back to bed certainly won’t improve the mood and will probably drag it down further, b) I wouldn’t be able to force myself to go on my own, so if my sister is driving it makes it easier for me to think about managing it and c) I know that although there may not be an immediate pay-off, it’s often the case that actions accrue benefits for the next day or some other future point.
The problem was that I just couldn’t know I’d be strong enough to go in an hour or two hours. It had to be there and then or risk not at all.
Depressed People Are Selfish. Yeah, And?…
I am aware that the self-analyzing that goes into depression can easily come off as self-obsession, being difficult or overly caught up in your own woes. Selfish, in other words. This is a tricky one to pick apart, but I’ll have a go.
Firstly, depressed people are self-analytical – their heads are screwed up, thought processes and feelings are askew and they want to know, Why? So they analyze.
Secondly, depressed people are self-obsessed – they know something has gone very wrong in their heads and the pain this causes demands attention. In the same way that someone with a broken leg is obsessed by the pain they feel and getting it to stop, so too a depressed person concentrates on getting the pain to stop.
The kicker with depression is that the things that are supposed to make you feel better don’t feel like they will. These things are: keeping as much routine as possible; exercising and generally trying to do lots of things, none of which you feel like doing and all of which are a gargantuan effort.
Most people with depression would dearly love to concentrate on something other than themselves, and often, looking outwards and helping other people can be an aid to recovery in depression. For instance, I’ve done lots of voluntary work in different capacities over the years when I’ve been well enough to do something, but not well enough to endure part-time hours. At times this has been a lifesaver as it re-admits you into the Constructive Member of Society Club.
However, there’s usually a period before I get to this point when I live a purely selfish life in that all I think about is how I am feeling. It may seem strange for me to say this, but when I say at that point of depression, “I am selfish”, I say it neutrally, without a value judgement attached. I don’t want to be selfish because solely concentrating on the self, especially when that self is effed up, is incredibly painful. At the same time I acknowledge that I cannot be anything but selfish when depression is at its worst.
The tricky part is when you are able to lift your head and you see that you are in a hole and are going to have to climb out. At this stage of depression complete self-absorption becomes unhelpful. I still don’t believe in guilt tripping if you find yourself falling backwards, as that is, unfortunately, the way this cookie crumbles. However, as soon as you get that tiny bit of energy, as soon as you see that tiny ray of light, I think you need to grab it and make what use of it you can. This way hopefully you minimise the length of time you spend in self-obsessed introspection. I believe my personal responsibility begins when I am able to choose between staying in bed all day or dragging myself up for five minutes, the next day ten minutes, or whatever it happens to be (I’m not currently bed-bound).
The View From The Other Side – “Why don’t they just get up and stop moping around?”
When non-depressed people encourage depressed relatives or friends to do the above things, and when the depressed person refuses or says they can’t manage it, they are sometimes seen as being difficult. This reaction to a depressed person’s perceived non-compliance is understandable. It doesn’t take much imagination though to realise that no-one would choose to remain in a deeply depressed state given that that state is one of perpetual self-criticism and non-enjoyment.
I have great sympathy with the view that, on the surface, depressed people seem unwilling to heal themselves and with the frustration this can cause for those around them. I think what a friend said to me about positive and negative snowballs is true. From deep in a rut you won’t be able to see the benefit of exercising, getting dressed, keeping social engagements etc, and the extra energy those things take from a depressed person further inclines them to inaction. AT SOME STAGE if a person with depression feels a SLIGHT elevation in mood and reduction in self-critical thoughts, they might use this chance to do those things that are recommended. If they do something and feel slightly better they can build on that and eventually the positive snowball gains momentum and you no longer need to hold their hand.
I can’t speak for others, but one of the things that I fear most is getting so depressed that I can no longer help myself.
Where Does That Leave Us Then?
So, depressed people are self-obsessed and focus too much on their own lives, but this is symptomatic of the condition, rather than a moral judgement on the person. Their reaction is perfectly logical in that situation. Some depressed people berate themselves for being self-obsessed and for being unable to be happy, given their relatively privileged circumstances (often they compare themselves to people dying in Third World countries through lack of clean water and food). I try (sometimes successfully) to resist this line of thinking. I think the harder you are on yourself and the more you beat yourself up for being depressed, the longer your depression lasts.
Down With Guilt!!
If I can try to go out and do things when I can, but not be self-critical when I can’t, then I believe I’ll be depressed for shorter lengths of time (easier said than done, I know).
I don’t believe guilt is useful to anyone. If I feel guilty about my circumstances in relation to someone poorer than me, my guilt doesn’t make their lives better, it just makes my life worse. However, if I am able to build myself up slowly to a healthier position, then I have a chance of making a positive impact on other people’s lives.
I know this is all sounding very self-help-booky now, but I need to say this to myself. I need to write it down in the hope that I’ll take it on board and in the hope I’ll feel better.
Describe a Flat Mood – Okay, Everyone: ready your adjectives, align your similes and brandish your metaphors
Depression is so serious and also so isolating that anyone who’s felt its tentacles sucker-hold onto them, wet and slimy, will try to describe it. I’m no exception. The thing is language is limited and depression is not, so grabbing hold of the thing is like threading a needle with fine spun sugar. I’m about to describe what’s been described before because I feel compelled to. Apologies for repetition.
Flat moods in depression are woozy things and you can only use so many words to describe them. It does feel like your head is heavy, it does feel like something gelatinous has been poured over your brain and clogged it up. Maybe a bit like those old silicone breast implants that eventually corroded, allowing the jelly-like substance to ooze down into the woman’s organs and cause merry havoc. Also, I don’t know if it’s the case, but I feel if someone looked me in the eyes they’d see nothing behind them. The ‘me’ that is normally behind my eyes has gone on holiday and left its grey shell behind.
Like I say, this stuff has been described a million times before, but somehow I feel the need to say it again because each time it happens it’s still just as distressing and leaves you wondering, Why?
In the end I went to the gym with my sister. She didn’t mind too much what time she went and, given she knew of my likely duvet-diving should we go later rather than sooner, we both got our stuff and went.
In all honesty, it was a chore. I didn’t feel better whilst I was there. Some people would say that sounds negative but it’s actually just stating the case. I explained to my sister on the way out that she shouldn’t take my negative answer to “Do you feel better for having gone then?” as an indictment on the whole excursion.
These are the reasons I gave:
- my mood hasn’t lifted yet, but it hasn’t got worse either and it very well might have done if I’d sat at home all day instead of getting fresh air etc.
- sometimes positive actions work on depression in the same way that SSRI’s do, i.e. you don’t feel the benefit immediately.
I may not be able to feel glad I went out today, but objectively it’s positive and I should get some return for my investment at some stage.
Woaaah there, enough heavy posting.
This has been written over several hours. My mood now is slightly better than before and I’m more able to concentrate on my writing, which is a relief.