Tag Archives: Depression

The Game

In college, I lived in the nerd dorm (a dorm just for students and professors in my integrated honors program).  We were big on games: chess, Risk, and Dungeons & Dragons were often played in the lobby as well as many video games (mostly MMORPG’s) in the TV lounge and computer lab.  But there was one game that was the ultimate game.  It was simply called The Game, and the only rule of The Game was that when you think about The Game, you have lost.  It was no uncommon to hear someone mutter, “Dammit, I just lost The Game!”  That was inevitably followed by groans of, “Goddammit, you made me lose too!”

The point of this, besides making all of you also lose The Game, is to express how I feel about positive thinking and gratitude in our culture.

There are times when I genuinely feel positive and grateful.  Those are nice experiences, and I relish them.  I also know that gratitude and positive thinking work for a great many people, and that’s awesome.  I’m glad people have found things that work for them and make them happier with their lives.

But my problem is how often people demand that everyone be positive and grateful.  There’s this moral imperative at work, and in a lot of cases it’s used as a way to silence people who aren’t feeling good, who lack things they need, who are pointing out real problems that need to be addressed.  Too often, positive thinking and gratitude are like The Game: if you think of anything negative, you lose, and you will be publicly shamed.

It’s my experience that it’s utterly unhelpful to tell people how they should feel about anything.  Not only is it unhelpful, but it’s often destructive and creates a cycle that makes people feel even worse.  Picture this scenario: I mention to someone that I’m depressed and anxious because I don’t know if I’ll be able to pay my rent, and their response is, “Well, you should just be grateful that you have a roof over your head at all.”  I feel invalidated–he doesn’t think my problems are important because other people’s problems are worse.  I feel anxious–oh god, I can’t say anything about this, and I need to be grateful, why am I not grateful yet, oh god oh god, come on, be grateful right now or he’s going to hate me, come on, what the fuck is wrong with you, it’s not that hard, just be grateful, for fuck’s sake!  I feel guilty–I shouldn’t have bothered anyone with my problems when other people are worse off.  I’m a terrible person, and I should probably just kill myself so no one else has to deal with me.  Now I feel worse, and I’m feeling like I can’t trust anyone to talk to them about what’s worrying me because I might be invalidated again.  Now I’m depressed, anxious, suicidal, and totally isolated.

I’m sure that the people who’ve told me to think positive or be grateful for what I have were trying to help, and I totally get that no one is perfect and always knows the right thing to say to someone in distress.  I know it’s hard to see someone in distress and feel helpless.  We want to fix things, and if there’s nothing material we can do to help, it’s easy to fall into the trap of telling people to just feel differently.  But distress is like The Game: the more you try not to think about it, the more you lose.

I can’t speak for what helps other people, but when I’m in distress, what’s much more useful to me than prescriptive gratitude is having someone just be present with me and validate my experience.  Most of the time, what helps most is, “Yeah, that really does suck.  I’m sorry you’re hurting.  You don’t deserve that.  I’m here, and I care about you.  Is there anything I can do to help?”  What helps most is people remembering that I exist, even when I’m quiet–calling, stopping by, just generally letting me know that they remember me and care about me.  I don’t expect anyone to fix me, and I don’t want to put the burden of making me feel better on anyone.  I just want to feel like I’m not alone and invisible and insignificant.  I want to feel like my feelings are real and invalid and important and allowed, even when they’re not easy ones to experience or witness.  Those things, rather than being told that I should feel grateful, are what make me feel grateful.

If writing gratitude lists or reading self-help books about positive thinking helps you, great.  I’m truly glad you’ve found something that makes you happier–everyone deserves that.  But please don’t assume that that approach will work for me, and please don’t keep beating me over the head with it.  I mean, I often need suppositories and enemas to maintain my health, but you don’t see me shoving things up other people’s butts when they have GI problems just because that’s what works for me.  (Sorry, you know I had to throw a poop joke in there somewhere.)

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Existential Boredom

I’m not as intensely suicidal anymore, but I really just don’t see the point of being alive.

Since the election, I have nothing to do with my time.  Literally all I do is sit in bed all day and waste time on my computer.  There is no point to my existence.

Nothing holds my attention.  I try to knit, to watch Netflix, to read, to write.  Nothing interests me.  I force myself to do it, but that doesn’t work for very long, and there are so many hours to fill.

And I hurt.  I don’t know what it is with the roving joint pains–one joint will hurt badly for weeks or sometimes months, and then for no reason that pain will stop.  Soon it starts back up in a different joint.  Right now it’s my left wrist again.  I have a brace from when I sprained my wrist doing kung fu, and it helps some…but it makes it hard to type or knit.  And my belly hurts.  I think I might be heading into another UC flare, which is awesome, especially since I might have to come off the 6-MP soon.  I’ve spent the last two weeks telling myself it was just PMS-related mini-flare symptoms, but since my period hasn’t happened, I don’t think I can blame PMS.  Oh, and it’s IBD Awareness Week, so clearly my body has impeccable timing and a fucked-up sense of humor.

I barely have an appetite, either.  I mean, I get hungry, but I don’t eat for hours because I just don’t care enough to get food.  C made me a gluten-free vegan cheesecake a week ago.  Ordinarily I’d have eaten the whole thing in about two days (no judging), but I’ve still got some left over.  I’ve got a big container of Thanksgiving leftovers, too.  They’re good, but I haven’t touched them.  Oh, and there’s also lentil soup C made.  It’s not even that I’m too tired/weak to prepare anything–literally all I’d have to do was take them out of the refrigerator and microwave them.  But I just don’t care enough.

I’d fooled myself into thinking the weakness was getting at least a little better, but it turns out I only thought it was better because I didn’t do anything beyond sitting in bed and getting up to use the bathroom.  Yesterday I cleaned my microwave.  It took all of five minutes, and that’s a generous estimate.  But then I couldn’t stand up, collapsed on the kitchen floor, and had to crawl back to my bed.  How am I supposed to have ANY quality of life when I can’t even stand for five minutes?  I’m terrified that whatever’s going on is getting worse.  I still haven’t had any luck reaching my gastroenterologist for a referral to a neurologist.  I might ask C to see if my ex-nurse, S, can make some calls.  Often medical professionals get a much better response than patients–sad but true.

I’m just so tired of existing like this.  There’s no light.  I don’t feel an immediate need to kill myself, but I can’t just keep living like this, either.  I want to feel like there’s some meaning, but I can’t see anything in this fog.

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Holding Pattern

Things are marginally better, I think.

I actually had a nice Thanksgiving.  The outpatient program I used to be part of does a Thanksgiving thing every year, and I went to that with my landlady and her partner.  (My landlady works there.)  I almost didn’t go because I was afraid I’d start crying in the middle of it, but I went and didn’t cry.  Didn’t even want to.  Good food, and some of the leftovers are now in my fridge.  (Thank god, because my food stamps money is out, and the new money won’t come through until December 8.)

I’m looking forward to Christmas with my mom in Florida, so that’s useful.  She mentioned that my Christmas stocking that my grandmother knitted when I was born got lost when she moved, and she doesn’t have a stocking for herself or my stepfather either…so I’m knitting Christmas stockings.  She’s also having trouble finding most of her Christmas ornaments (may have also gotten lost in the move), so if I have time, I’m going to knit her some ornaments, too.  But she’s upset because a lot of the ornaments she’s missing are ones my sisters and I made as kids, and those can’t be replaced.

I’m still massively depressed.  I’m spending most of my time in bed, and a lot of it sleeping.  My sleep cycle is completely fucked up–I sleep for most of the day, get up between 4:00 and 8:00 PM, stay up until 2:00 or 3:00 AM, sleep some more, get up between noon and 3:00 PM…it’s screwed up.  I could probably get back into a semi-normal sleep pattern if I tried, especially if I used my light box, but honestly I just don’t care enough.  Every time I sleep, I have bad dreams and nightmares, but I don’t even really care.  I wake up in a tangle of sweaty sheets with my heart racing, but it’s still easier to be asleep than awake.

I’m not as intensely, imminently suicidal as I have been the last several weeks, but I still just don’t know how long I can keep going like this.  It’s no way to live.  I’ll do okay for food in December because my mother will pay for food for the two weeks I’m there, but I’ll come back to the same financial situation.  And the depression and anhedonia and utter purposelessness…that’ll all still be with me too.  I keep thinking I should ask my psychiatrist for antidepressants or some other drug something to make me okay, but then I remember there is no miracle drug.  I’ve already been on nearly every psych med in the book, and they don’t help.  But it feels like the only option available to me, since support and therapy are basically inaccessible to me.  There’s some part of me that still wants to believe that there’s some solution, even though I know there’s not.

I can keep going for a while, but a life like this is not sustainable.  No one was meant to live like this.

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I’m Still Here

For now, at least.  I’m just tired of talking.  It doesn’t seem to get me anywhere; it just leaves me feeling more alone and hopeless.

Everyone wants to tell me I should live, and honestly, I just can’t take hearing it anymore.  That probably makes me an asshole, but I guess that doesn’t really matter anymore.  Maybe you’re seeing who I really am now, when I can’t keep up appearances anymore.  Maybe you’ll hate me.  Maybe it’ll make you understand why I can’t live.

I’m tired of people trying to fix me and solve my problems.  I’m pretty damn smart, okay?  And I’m pretty damn resourceful.  If there were resources to be found, solutions to be invented, I would’ve figured them out already.  I’m tired of being polite when people suggest the same things over and over.  Yes, I’m on disability and food stamps and Medicare and Medicaid, I’ve applied for energy assistance, I’m on the waiting list for housing, I’ve been to the food banks, I’ve tried the buses, I can’t afford paratransit.  I’ve tried forums and self-help books and support groups and CBT and DBT and EMDR and psychoanalysis and ECT and the Department of Mental Health and Community-Based Flexible Support.  I’ve been to respite, the ER, more psych units than I can count, two trauma units.  I’ve gone to church and prayed and mediated and done yoga and changed my diet.  I’ve been on antidepressants, anxiolytics, mood stabilizers, stimulants, and anti-psychotics.  I’ve taken 5-ASA’s and steroids and chemo and immunosuppressants and biologics.  I’ve consulted psychiatrists and chiropractors and reiki masters and neurosurgeons and physical therapists and acupuncturists and gastroenterologists.

Nothing helps enough to make my life survivable.

You can’t fix me because I’m too many problems to solve.  It’s depression and complex PTSD and DID.  It’s ulcerative colitis and hearing loss and brain surgery and mobility impairment.  It’s disability and isolation and poverty.

And you can’t solve just one because they’re just a big knotted mess.  You can’t untangle one thread from another; they’re all felted together now, and there’s no extricating them.  And nobody can fix the whole big mess.  Not even me.  I did everything I was supposed to do.  I tried so hard for so long, and things just get worse.  Now, I just can’t try anymore.

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Surrealism and Detachment

I talk to my mother on the phone.

Even that’s surreal, after several years of no contact.  She’s changed.  All my life, she expected me and my sisters to meet all her emotional needs.  Now she’s married, and she has someone age-appropriate to meet her needs.  She’s not as crazy anymore, not in the harmful ways she used to be, and I can talk to her without getting sucked into the crazy demands.  I still don’t trust her.  I know she’ll never acknowledge the harm she did to me for most of my life, but I also like feeling like I finally have a mother.  She hasn’t said anything cruel or manipulative in the year or so since we started talking again.  But it’s like she’s both my mother and not my mother simultaneously, on a number of levels, and that’s surreal.

She tells me my uncle, her brother, just sold his computer security company to Raytheon for $420 million.  I literally had to write that down because my brain couldn’t translate how many zeroes that was.  I can’t relate to that amount on money.  Right now, I have $7 to last me the rest of the month.  I only bought four rolls of toilet paper because I couldn’t afford any more than that.  I don’t think I’ll have enough money to pay December’s rent, and my power and heat bills are overdue.

But my uncle just sold his company for $420 million.  That’s $420,000,000, in case any of you also can’t conceptualize that many zeroes without seeing it.

He worked hard, and I don’t begrudge him his success.  But certainly the law of diminishing returns kicks in at some point, right?  I can’t even comprehend what you would do with that much money.  To put it in perspective, that’s more than three times the annual budget for the National Endowment for the Arts.  It’s surreal.  I don’t even really know him anymore, but even if I did, I don’t think I could ask him for it.  But it’s bizarre, realizing that a man with whom I share 21.9% of my DNA (yes, that’s an exact and oddly specific figure) has $420,000,000 and I don’t know how I’m going to pay $400 in rent.  How can that even be real?

My mother keeps saying how much she’s looking forward to seeing me for Christmas.  I tell her I’m excited about the trip too, but I’m detached.  I really don’t believe I’m going to live that long.  Three weeks, but I don’t think I can make it.  I think I will probably kill myself when I can’t pay my rent.  But I tell her I’m looking forward to it because I can’t exactly tell my mother I’m probably going to be dead before then.

Everything feels surreal, and I feel like I have no attachment to anyone or anything, like a helium balloon floating away.

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Sick (of It)

I saw my gastroenterologist today.  I seriously love this guy–he’s the best doctor I’ve ever had.  He listens, he actually cares, and he works hard to find solutions.  I wish I could clone him for various specialties and just see clones of him with different specific knowledge sets.

(Admittedly, I also like him because he rants, so we’re kinda kindred souls there.  Today he ranted, without my even saying anything, about how poorly they treated me in the ER when I was there most recently, the debacle with the antibiotics that left me literally full of shit to the point of severe pain.)

He’s really concerned about the fatigue and weakness too.  I was afraid he was just going to blow me off since my labs all came back normal–god knows I’ve had plenty of doctors do that to me.  But he didn’t!  I cannot even describe the sense of relief there.  He didn’t just think I was a depressed hypochondriac!  I mean, that’s how all doctors should treat their patients, but sadly it’s very, very rare, especially if you have a history of mental illness.

In true House, M.D. fashion, he ruled out lupus and similar autoimmune diseases.  I made the joke, “Come on, Dr. House, it’s never lupus,” and he got it, so more gold stars in my book.  My sed rate and CRP (markers of inflammation) aren’t elevated, so it’s not likely to be another autoimmune disease, although he did say that it’s still possible we’re getting a false negative because I’m on immunosuppressants and steroids.

There are several possibilities he mentioned.  He seems to think there’s a strong chance that the 6-MP is causing this, but he’s not sure.  We lowered my dose the last time I saw him, 6 weeks ago, but I didn’t get any significant improvement.  But he mentioned possibly taking me off it altogether, which makes me nervous.  The combination of Humira and 6-MP is the only thing that’s gotten my UC under any sort of control, and I’m afraid I’ll get really sick again if I have to go off it.  To his credit, though, he totally understands that and is concerned about the same thing.

He also thinks it might be somehow related to my MTHFR polymorphism (aka the motherfucker gene).  For those of you who aren’t familiar with that, I have a genetic mutation that makes my body incapable of breaking down folic acid, which can cause problems from heart defects to depression.  My gastroenterologist was actually familiar with it because it also increases the risk of colon cancer, which is just awesome for me.  He said he’d need to do more research on that.  It’s still relatively unknown, and there’s not a lot out there from valid medical sources.

There’s also a small chance that this is somehow a result of my brain surgery, although that’s highly unlikely.  I was diagnosed with an arteriovenous malformation in the left frontal lobe of my brain when I was 17, after over a year of worsening neurological symptoms that got blown off because I was mentally ill and therefore assumed to be attention-seeking.  (See why I’m excited when doctors don’t blow me off?)  This is unlikely to be the problem since it was surgically corrected when I was 18, and my three-year angiogram (the definitive test for AVM’s) was clear.  There’s a very slim chance that the surgery could’ve left scarring or something, but the frontal lobes are mostly associated with executive function and language skills, not motor skills.  And since they only operated on the left side, any weakness would be on the opposite side of the body; i.e., my right side.  My weakness is bilateral.

The other possibility is something neurological, and since it’s not his area of expertise, my gastroenterologist couldn’t really speculate as to what.  So he’s sending me to a neurologist.  He’s going to talk to my primary care doc and see if they can find someone good for me.

GI Doc: “I want to find a neurologist for you who’s genuinely interested.”
Me: “By that, do you mean not an asshole?”
GI Doc: “Exactly.”

I know I should see this as a chance to maybe get some answers about what’s going on with my body, and maybe even treatment that’ll help.  But mostly I just don’t want to go.  All the tests, the pain the fear…and I’ll probably just find out I have something else incurable.  I just can’t deal with having anything else wrong with me.  I feel way too broken already.

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I feel like the only way to make anyone in power notice how desperate I am and how much I need help is to die.

It won’t help me, of course; I’ll be dead.  But I keep thinking maybe it would be the tipping point so that The Powers That Be would have to notice what their lack of compassion and refusal to help is doing to poor people, disabled people, mentally ill people.  Maybe by dying, I’d finally make them notice and listen to me.  I obviously can’t accomplish anything while I’m alive, so maybe I can finally do something good by dying.  Maybe it’ll make someone listen.

But who am I kidding?  I’m not important enough for anyone in power to notice, let alone listen to.  When I die, I won’t even be a statistic.  I don’t even matter enough for that.

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On Anger and Helplessness

When I talk about my anger, I feel like people see me as someone who goes off on people, physically or verbally.  I don’t do that–mine is all directed internally.  I want to scream at people and pick fights, but I don’t.  It all just turns in on myself and makes me feel worthless and hopeless and suicidal.  If I had a foolproof way of ending it, I would.  But I don’t want to risk screwing it up and being “saved,” only to be abandoned again as soon as they decide I’m “okay.”

I don’t want to get rid of all the anger, either.  It’s the only thing that’s kept me alive this long–it’s a way of marking that a lot of terrible things happened to me, but the fact that they happened doesn’t mean they’re okay or I deserved it.  For a long, long time, I thought I never felt anger.  Nothing beyond mild frustration on occasion.  But I was slowly killing myself with my self-harm and eating disorder, and if that’s not the personification of rage turned inward, I don’t know what is.  I really believe that finally being able to get angry at the people and events that had driven me to believe I needed to annihilate myself was what saved me.  I could finally see that what they’d done to me wasn’t okay, and I could turn around and say, “No, it’s you I’m angry at, not myself.”  I could choose to stop destroying myself because I finally understood.

But now it’s different.  Now it’s not me destroying myself, and I can’t choose to change what’s happening to me.  The decisions and circumstances are, for the most part, out of my hands.  So I can recognize that it’s unfair and wrong, I can see that I don’t deserve to have my needs go unmet…but I can’t change it.  So all I’m left with is rage and the familiar desire to destroy myself.  Only this time I don’t want to do it piecemeal; I just want to get it over with and be done.  I just can’t live like this.  No one can really live like this.

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Angry All the Time

Lately, I’m noticing that I’m angry all the time.  I don’t like it.

I feel like I’m trapped in a life I don’t want and have little control over, no matter how hard I try.  I feel hopeless.  I feel abandoned because I’m not getting the kind of support I need.  I keep trying so hard to make my life work, but it feels like almost everything is beyond my control.

So I’m angry all the time.  I want to lash out at all the people who could be helping me but aren’t.  I want to make other people feel as hurt, powerless, and hopeless as I do.

I feel like a monster.

But the truth is I don’t really want to hurt people.  I want to be helped.  I want to connect.  But I don’t know how anymore because all my efforts have failed, so I end up angry and bitter, wanting to lash out and pick fights and hurt people.

I feel so stuck, and the world around me is just getting darker and darker.  Is there any help for me?

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existential exhaustion

Last night, I dreamed that I was at work on Election Day, and my bosses kept giving me more and more stuff to do, and I just couldn’t keep up with all of it.  A lot of it was stuff I’d never done and didn’t know how to do, and no one would teach me how or help me at all.  Then we lost the election, and they were all angry at me and said it was all my fault.  Then I had to walk home.  It was cold, and I kept falling down because my legs wouldn’t work.  I had to crawl part of the way.  When I finally got home, the power was out, and somebody from the power company was yelling at me for being useless and not paying my bills.

I mean, I also dreamed that I signed Mary Poppins up for a canvass shift, so clearly my brain is kind of nuts.

But the first dream…it’s pretty clear what that’s about.  No need for interpretation there.  It’s how I feel about myself: I’m a failure at everything, my life is falling apart, everybody either already hates me or is going to hate me when they find out what a fuck-up I am, and even my body won’t do what I need it to.  I’m going to be left alone in the dark and the cold because I’m an unlovable failure.

I’m just so tired of fighting so hard and never getting anywhere.  I’m just so tired of everything.  I don’t want to do it anymore.

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