One of the many symptoms of summer is upon us: there are flies in my office, in the house, in the air outside the house and all around Salem. The heat hasn't gotten bad yet, there's still occasionally a cool wind. But it seems the insects aren't dead anymore. At least I haven't seen any spiders yet.
I don't want to talk about all the anxiety and stress that built up over the course of my day. There were some very good bits, but it's mostly been pretty awful. One of the most frustrating things, I find, about bad days, is that they're very difficult to talk about. I have a lot of anxiety problems, so what makes a bad day for me can sound silly or trivial to a lot of other people, which makes it very hard to open up and look for help. If I admit that I had a terrible morning, that included a near anxiety attack, because I mis-scheduled an appointment, and the person to whom I'm admitting accuses me of being a drama queen or an attention whore, I have a strong emotional response, which comes in three parts:
- I feel attacked and trivialized, as though my pain isn't valid if it doesn't occur for the reasons someone else can think of off the top of their head,
- I'm annoyed at the sexism implicit in most accusations of overreaction,
- I'm enraged at being forced into a position where I have to either argue, while in emotional pain and being therefore unlikely to make sense, or pretend that I'm fine, setting a dangerous precedent wherein my actual feelings are constantly out-of-step with the mask I'm putting it on, making me unable to form real relationships with the people around me.
One of the awful things about that thought cycle, by the way, is that it happens whether or not there's even anyone around to ask me about it. I can't help it. There's nothing else to think about. It's like when I get anxious, my brain builds a box, and inside that box are my ability to pay attention to things, and hypothetical scenarios involving the people I might encounter within the next two hours.
So, that's how my mind has been treating me today. Philosophy through Film post about Memento coming tomorrow.
I feel like crap today. It has just not been a good day for writing. I've been staring at blank screens all day, and nothing is coming. It's not like it's a good day for taking it easy, either -- I've got to finish a chapter for The Book tonight, write the Pulp Fiction Philosophy through Film post I've been promising for three days, (By the way, motive for this post: It'll be up tonight, but it will be late.) and I've got a few other reasonably significant chunks of schoolwork I should be getting to.
I don't know what's wrong with me. I'm not sick. I just seem to be having an off day. Like, I feel as if I'm slightly too far to the left.
Philosophy post coming later.
Today has not been a good day for motivation. I woke up at about 2pm (well after my classes had already ended,) then visited some friends, getting virtually nothing done. I've got poetry homework I haven't started yet, due tomorrow, and plenty of other work I ought to have got to by now. It's not a good day.
I've been meaning to write better blog posts lately, too -- Jen McCreight and Rebecca Watson have written some great posts about feminism in the last few days, that I'd love to write about, there have been the (possibly coordinated) evictions of Occupy protests across the continent, and congress is currently considering passing SOPA.
But I'm just too damn tired to seriously get into it right now.
Talk to you tomorrow.
I've been going through some depression recently, as readers of my blog will know. I've also been getting a lot of offers from friends to talk it out, help deal with it, try to offer some consolation or insight. I have been consistently turning these offers down, and I fear that may be causing some mixed signals. I feel I owe these people an explanation, but I really can't do it on a case by case basis. So I'm going to take the time to explain now, and redirect future inquiries to this post.
When I talk to people about my problems, they often attempt to find a solution, in the hopes of making it better. This is very generous, and I'm grateful for the thought. It has been helping quite a lot to know that I have friends who care enough about me to want to help me through my struggles.
But the problem right now isn't one big problem. It's a combination of a lot of problems, which I have varying levels of control over, and it doesn't appreciably help to solve any of them. That doesn't mean I'm not working through them, but it does mean that I don't feel a sudden rush of relief when they're solved.
The way this often plays out in conversation comes off as hurtful -- I can seem like I'm trying to make excuses, and hiding the real source of my depression. This is not the case -- it's just that there isn't one 'real source,' and it's probably in large part just my brain chemistry, which I can't do anything about.
Whatever solution my friends might offer, I might have already thought of it, or have thought of something else I already intend to implement, or can't implement the offered solution, for reasons I haven't explained. As I said above, there's too much going on in my head right now to fully explain it to anyone.
This can sound like I'm evading the person I'm talking to, or trying for some reason to keep the problem un-solved. It can make the person I'm talking to frustrated or angry, which I don't want, both because it's stressful to me when my friends are annoyed with me, and I don't want to put my friends through needless emotional distress.
Conversation is emotionally exhausting, especially about the subjects that are distressing me. Because I'm depressed, I'm running on a very, very low emotional budget right now.
It may be that you would be totally understanding if I were to go through this explanation personally with you, but this conversation is not free of emotional cost. It's been taking me serious emotional energy to just get out of bed in the morning, and if I'm out against my more paranoid judgement, I may not have the emotional energy to spare helping you understand -- especially if I've left the house in hopes of finding some way to emotionally recharge.
This can lead me to situations, and has in the past, where I've gotten part way through a conversation with someone about my emotional state, and just can't continue on. I have had to abruptly end conversations with friends, in sometimes hurtful ways, because I simply can't bear the strain of keeping the conversation going.
My blog has been a valuable outlet to me, primarily because I don't have to keep up a conversation about it. It allows me space to air my thoughts without having to field responses immediately. It also gives me the peace of mind that I'm not hiding my problems, so my friends who do care can know where I'm at, and know they don't have to worry, because I'm addressing my depression in my own way.
I can't say enough how glad I am to have friends who care about me. Your offers to help have been a continual comfort, and I am grateful for them. If there comes a time in the future where I feel I am able to talk about what's going on, I will. I promise.
For now, thank you for offering, but I'd rather talk about something else.
So, remember earlier this week when I couldn't bring myself to get out of bed for school? That happened again today, except this time the thing I couldn't convince myself to get out of bed for was Greta Christina's talk at Harvard.
It's weird, and depressing, and a little bit scary, to wake up and lay in bed, feeling paralyzed by the thought of getting out and knowing what you're missing if you don't, when what you're missing is something as big as one of your heroes giving a speech, thirty miles away.
I don't know what more I can say about this. It makes me sad to think about, and to write about.
Talk to you tomorrow.
I overslept today. It's pretty bad when your first daily engagement on a Tuesday is at 12:15 p.m. I woke up at 12:30, and wasn't really able to get out of bed until 2. I'm really glad my medication is being adjusted.
Sometimes I worry about writing posts like this -- because, well, I want to get famous. I tell myself that they'll get buried in the hundreds of posts I'm going to write here, which is true, but they'll still be down there for hypothetical uberfans to dig down and read. (If any future uberfans are reading this far back in the archive of my blog: Hi! Thanks for your support! The first ten of you to email me because of this post can have a signed first edition of my first bestseller. Offer valid once I have a bestseller. Please include the phrase "Fish fingers and custard" at the start of the first paragraph of your email.)
Hopefully tomorrow will suck less. Wish me luck.
Cont'd... I realized, looking over my last post, that I started a line of thought that I forgot to pick back up, or edit out.
That's what depression feels like, too -- I think that's how it differs from normal sadness. It just hurts.
I never really finished explaining that, before I got into the jungle metaphor.
Regular sadness hurts, but it hurts for a reason, usually just one reason. And while "I hate everything" might be a concise way of expressing the way one feels about the world at that instance of depression, it's not quite the same thing as "Everything hurts."
But when you're depressed, everything does hurt. It's like the parts of your mind that sustain you fall out from under you. It's hard to imagine that anything could be better.
Before I wrote this blog tonight, I scrolled through my contacts list, looking for someone I could call to talk about how I felt. And while I know there are at least five people on that list who would tell me that, when I feel like this, I can definitely call them to talk about it, I can't really imagine right now how it could possibly help.
And there's a good chance it would help, too. But I've been depressed plenty of times before, and the thing about calling a friend is that it can sort of go both ways. Maybe I'll hit the train of thought that led me here, and be able to follow the breadcrumbs back out of the forest. (There's that metaphor again.)
Or maybe it'll just feel like I'm trying to justify my sadness to them, and you can't do that, because it's not justifiable. It's just a physiological emotional response to whatever triggered it, significant or banal. Maybe it was subconscious. Maybe it's petty. Maybe it was some huge event in my life I just don't want to face right now. Maybe it's just that I haven't been eating healthy enough lately.
But the thing about that is, if I call a friend and it doesn't help, all I've done is validate the depression in my own mind, which makes it harder to drag myself out of it in just a few days.
Of course, blogging is probably just as bad, but at least it's definitely cathartic in the moment.
So, I suffer from depression. Or bipolar disorder. Or possibly borderline personality disorder or schizoid personality disorder. A number of different possibilities have been raised, and the labels are just descriptions of the territory of problem, anyway. I wrote a blog about headaches, recently. I explained the experience:
There’s something about headaches that seem to make it difficult to think about anything other than how much my head hurts. I think it might be the pain. You know, in my head. Like, whenever I start to think something, there’s PAIN in the way.
That's what depression feels like, too -- I think that's how it differs from normal sadness. It just hurts.
In the past, though not here, I've described thinking as being like cutting one's way through the jungle of one's mind, creating new paths between points. The less you think about something, the more tangled and overgrown the way through is. The more you think about it, the clearer the path gets.
If I might just slightly overdraw that metaphor, depression is like a weed that takes over, and finds the most fertile ground within all the happy dirt. (Bear with me.)
The roads towards pleasant experiences and happy thoughts become tangled, cutting through them is exhausting. But all the paths to misery, depression and nihilistic self-reflection are as clear as they've ever been. Trying to run from any spot in my mind just leads to deeper and darker places.
It becomes paralyzing. I become afraid to think. I find myself sitting in my room, doing nothing, but searching for some way to engage my mind in a positive way. But nothing helps -- the comforting habit of shuffling a deck of cards leads only to focus on the pain in my fingertips and joints. The ritual of shaving just emphasizes the itch in my skin. Watching TV reminds me of unpleasant experiences of stage fright when I've been acting. It's difficult to focus on reading, which is terrifying in its own right, leading me down anxieties about losing my ability to comprehend.
I know there are ways out, because I've been here before, and I've gotten out before. Writing about it helps, I'm starting to realize. Trying to write poems about my depression made it evaporate this past summer, and writing this blog is the least painful thing I've done today -- and I mean least painful in comparison to things like watching TV and playing Tetris.
I expect that this won't last more than a few days, because I'll be back in school on Wednesday and that almost always helps. In the meantime, this blog might be about depression for a few days.
I wanted to write something interesting today. I really did. But I've got a headache again, the sort that pools around the bottom of your brain. The pain is dripping down into my eyes. I'm beginning to wonder whether there's something actually, properly wrong with me.
Real blogging tomorrow.
Those of you who follow me on facebook or twitter may have noticed that I've been suffering from headaches this week. Facebook, Saturday:
My head is doing that thing where it hurts, even though I don't want it to. I'm going to try yelling at it with pills.
My head hurts, and I don't have any pills. This is a NATIONAL TRAGEDY.
There's something about headaches that seem to make it difficult to think about anything other than how much my head hurts. I think it might be the pain. You know, in my head. Like, whenever I start to think something, there's PAIN in the way. So, though I was going to attempt to continue yesterday's (apparently controversial) post about privacy -- addressing the question of transparency among authority figures -- my attention span is, at the moment, far too segmented by hurting.
Anyway, I can't get into anything particularly interesting, because of the pain and all. So here's a really cool video, instead: