Colorful cognitive dioramas.

Looking for a job while experiencing depression illuminates how thick a slice of self-confidence gets hacked off. Just like that. I’m not talking about the run-of-the-mill insecurity, the “normal” kind that reminds us we’re human. The kind that well-meaning friends, family, lovers point to in an effort to bring you some calm, to help you feel not so alone because, “Everyone feels insecure at some point. You’re not the only one who feels this way.” But you feel so desperately alone.

  • Items on bullet-pointed lists of job postings that interest you sum up requirements that seem improbable for you to fulfill.
  • Colleagues you imagine you would work with already dislike you and wonder why you were offered the position.
  • You’ve fallen behind on your task list for a project that you’ve not yet been hired to manage.
  • Your resume is a sheet of neatly organized words spelling out accomplishments and trainings you somehow completed.

Depression is a creative jerk. It creates colorful cognitive dioramas, falsely foreboding failures and fissures. It’s fucked up fantasy. Paralyzing bullshit serum. It’s a snake with three heads. A tiger with tentacled talons. A shade of black too dark for the human eye to see.

***

Screen Shot 2017-04-18 at 1.26.37 AM

Besides feeling that way sometimes — fearful, hesitant, twittered, jittery — I also do the things I enjoy (like record silly raps for potential employers and Vanilla Ice covers) and have meaningful interactions with people. I’m not always depressed or anxious but sometimes I am. Sometimes my mind feels like a cognitive stew with a side salad. Sometimes my mood rides out pretty smooth an entire day; sometimes my body and mind course through multiple moods by noon.

Do you have days when you wake up feeling irritated? Does your mind go blank and your limbs buzz with adrenaline when you hear a loud noise? Do you remember how your stomach felt in the moments just before your first kiss when your lips met hers/theirs/his lips?

We all are affected by our environment. Some peoples’ responses are standard, expected, predictable. Behaviors are conditioned, but for people with mood disorders (e.g. Major Depression, Generalized Anxiety, Bipolar Disorder/rapid cycling, Schizophrenia), their internal and external experiences can be 10x as intense as yours (persons who don’t experience a mood disorder first-hand.) Can you imagine that? I know some people are more “sensitive” or empathic than I am, and their experiences can be 50x as intense. I can only imagine.

 

A salvo of magic into the world.

I’ve been sleeping terribly the last few days.
(or do I feel that way every day?)

I just realized why.
(and it’s a good reason why)

🙂

There are so many creative project ideas in my head.
(thatIwanttothrust a salvo of magic into the world!)

I want to do it all.  (I feel good)
and that makes me happy.

{that’s not a hyperlink, #beeteedubz.
#bluetext
#iwonderhowmanypeopleclickedon”good?”}         anyway

That’s why
I’ve been getting
terrible
sleep.

[HASHTAG]nightynight

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Demons are not yours.

Check out my latest post on my relationship blog, xo, O:

Kevin doesn’t have depression. His knowledge of depression — first, second, or eleventh-hand — is limited. Sixth months into our life together, he’s spent time with depressed O at least half the time. I’ve been struggling with anxiety and depression for about three of the past six months. The struggle I’ve been grappling with and have held onto as a ‘my’ struggle for the better part of my 37 years has, in six months, become a ‘we’ struggle.

Every now and then,  when I emerge from the dark dizzying sticky slumber of depression, I ask Kevin, “Are you sure you want to move forward in this relationship? This is how it’s going to be the rest of our lives. I will always fall into depressive ruts.” I feel like I need to regularly give him an out, let him know that I get it if he decides that it’s too much for him to manage. I would understand if nurturing a relationship with someone who cycles through depression as often as I do is too overwhelming for him, for anyone.

Each time, Kevin squares his shoulders and steadies his eyes to mine as if to convey, if you don’t hear my words, feel the conviction of my presence.  “Yes. I’m sure,” he says. “I want to be with you.”

Continue reading this post here.

This tousled hair for you.

Here again in this dark pit. shit. fucking back again.

All those times. the energy. the feeling free. those weren’t me. yes they were. no, they weren’t. they aren’t. they’re not. they’re not. They’re not?

They are. They’re me. I’m caught. caught in depression’s throat. gurgling complaints of pain on pain on pain and pain. soaked in shame, blame. it’s all the same. the same as it was 20 years ago. the same as it was 10 years ago. 4 years. last year. yesterday.

I’m a circle. i don’t fit. into the box of society’s expectations. my contributions are lacking. why they don’t send me packing, I don’t know. It’s gobsmacking.

Again? this is happening again? she feels down again? Again? Yes! AGAIN. Friends, this is the way of it. the timeless tide. unexpectedly expected. it’s a ride. with a hefty toll – regret.

regret. there’s no time for that. no time to sweat the things remembered; not remembered. I remember all those times. the times in bed. in my head. the dread. of being human. acting human. pretending human. but what’s more human than being in the depths of despair? This tousled hair. I’ve been working on it for days. for you.

for you I’ve fallen down the hole again. it’s unending. I know it won’t end. so much back bending to appear normal. to look ok. to be social. to force interaction. there’s an attraction to this hiding. this pulling away. this get-my-face-out-of-all-that-air-out-there. it isn’t fair. it’s not. but who said anything about that?

***

I’ve been holed up for a few days. mostly sleeping or awake-worrying.

I’ve been living with depression for years. it waxes and wanes. I’m in one of those stages. whichever one goes down.

I’m OK. Really, I am OK. I know this. but I want you to too.

Each time I share this part of me. these scary experiences. when depression strangles my self and life for as long as it does each time. when I feel most judged. most unsure. most shaky and shy in anxiety. I’m nervous. I’m nervous to share these things. to write them is part of my therapy. to share them is too.

I share them with you because it’s important. because sometimes I need to publish my crazy to the public. to make it more real – self-imposing paradoxical intervention.

I share them with you because I’m not the only one hiding and afraid. others have their dark clouds too. when they hover overhead, it can feel unbearable. it feels unbearable.

You may not understand this feeling. this fear. the strength involved in being here. but I hope that my exposure, my self disclosure. I hope it helps. It’s why I do it. It’s why I will continue to. even when I’m most afraid. especially when I’m most afraid. because vulnerability is key. it’s free. vulnerability is humanity.

Our hearts firmly on our sleeves.

While taking a walk with Thomas (a dog I’m looking after for the weekend) this evening, I had a brief chat with a fellow who was walking along the road carrying what looked like a saxophone case. Turns out it was, as he put it, “the briefcase from Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.” It held a Play Station and five games he was hoping to sell. The Play Station was for his sister.

We talked for a few minutes as I rounded the street toward the house I’m staying at for the night. He was going to go straight but he said he’d walk with me. He told me that his AA sponsor lived nearby. He shared that he sometimes has a hard time and has a tendency to drive his friends away every now and then. I understood. At least, I think I did. I was listening. He visited his mom for Easter. He asked how my day was and what did I do for Easter, an egg hunt, perhaps?

“Nothing. I slept in till 2pm…”

“Oh wow, a day off. That sounds nice!”

I shrugged my shoulders, “Nah. I’ve been sleeping a lot the past week, my depression and anxiety are acting up.” I looked at him.

He looked back, “Oh. Yeah. I get that.”

“But we’re both standing and out and about, so that’s good,” I responded.

“Yep.” I knew he appreciated the privilege it is to be out of bed when the depression cloud is looming. As we parted ways, he pointed to a house with a red door, “Is that where you’re going?”

“Nope.”

“That’s my sponsor’s house.”

“Oh.” We exchanged our good evenings. The night was falling as we headed in perpendicular directions. I heard him yell something.

“What?!” I turned but only caught glimpses of him as he walked behind the trees lining the road. He yelled, “You should sleep in till 2pm tomorrow!”

“Oh!” I hollered. “No! I have to go to work!”

I felt a lightness as I unlocked the front door. I wore a slight smile as I removed Thomas’ leash. (After which, Thomas nuzzled his face between my thighs. Something he does at the end of our walks. I giggle every time.) I thought to myself, “What a lovely little connection. That felt good. I’m glad the stars aligned in the way that they did to allow for that interaction.”

We were two strangers sharing a bit about ourselves. The things that came up aren’t usual small talk. We went straight to the rawness of our experiences. Oh, you feel like you sometimes push your friends away, too? I have depression and anxiety. 

Sometimes talking about uncomfortable or socially stigmatized things is easier with a stranger. Sometimes these tiny connections with strangers are intimate in a way that only strangers can create. Wearing our hearts firmly on our sleeves. Sharing little moments of humanity.

Cartwheels across the room.

When I was little, I spent my weekday evenings in my parent’s room while my Dad lay on the bed reading. Usually his face was hiding behind a newspaper or magazine held up between his clutching hands. I tumbled around as he read, doing handstands at the foot of the bed and cartwheels across the room. I said silly things and asked questions every now and then to get his attention. This was how I spent most of my childhood with my Dad, desperately trying to get him to notice me and make a connection with him.

This yearning for his attention continued and has haunted me throughout my adulthood. As a child, I was able to playfully insert myself into his space, and I wasn’t developmentally aware enough to think to myself, “Hey, my dad’s not paying attention to me. That sucks. He’s my dad, he should be doing what parents are suppose to do!” As I grew into my teen years, my playfulness turned into an anger and frustration that my dad was neglectful and non-responsive. My mom was too, in a different way. Neither of my parents reflected back my feelings or asked what I thought or felt about something. Anything. It’s no wonder that, as a young adult, it was difficult to identify my emotions, much less describe or communicate them aloud.

Through years of therapy and learning Buddhist teachings, including mindfulness, I have explored my inner landscape. I have learned the language of emotion and learned to connect emotion to physical sensation and thought. I wonder how different my growth would have been if I had received therapy as a child. What if I had Cognitive Behavioral Therapy treatment? I would have started drawing my thoughts/emotions/physical sensations map at a much earlier age. In this way, I have been grieving my childhood. I developed a rage around what my life could have been.

I could have dealt with my depression and anxiety earlier in my life. I could have avoided the starts and stops in my life. It probably wouldn’t have taken me 10 years to earn my Bachelor’s degree. I would have applied to graduate school in my twenties instead of my thirties. I could have avoided all of those messy and painful relationships.

These are some thoughts that circled in my head for years. I held on to them, as I held on to my anger toward my parents for not connecting with me in the human way that every child needs from a parent or caregiver. Allowing these thoughts is fine, it’s good to let them flow, but, as Epstein (1998) wrote, “Isolated in our heads, we yearn for the kind of connection that our own thinking guards against” (p. 59). It’s the clinging to the thoughts and not working through the associated emotional and physical sensations bit that keeps us stuck in the mud. “This is…the heart of the Buddha’s teaching: that it is possible to cultivate a mind that neither clings nor rejects, and that in so doing we can alter the way in which we experience both time and our selves” (p. 62). This is also true of therapeutic work. By assisting clients with exploring, identifying, and describing their emotional experience, we guide them in literally changing their brain chemistry. We hold a space in which they can unfurl into themselves and feel more grounded in who they are.

This has been my experience. Through the combination of therapy and meditation and mindfulness practice, I have observed and felt my perspectives change. I have witnessed the growth I have made from emotional reactivity to an emotional regulation based on awareness. I have experienced the shift in relationships and how I view, understand, and connect with people, especially my parents.

I don’t talk with my parents very often and when I do, there is a specific purpose behind it, a question that needs to be answered. Also, I’m not a fan of talking on the phone but a couple of weeks ago I had the urge to call them just to say, “hi.” It was perhaps one of the best conversations I have had with them. I felt as though I talked to my parents for the first time as an adult and as myself. I didn’t trudge through the conversation distracted by the disappointment that my dad didn’t ask about me. I listened to him talk about his fishing and tennis playing. I really listened and I responded with curiosity and playfulness. And I interjected to tell him about my internship not because I was looking for a particular response from him or as a passive-aggressive way to tell him that he was a shitty dad for not asking about his daughter’s life. I told him because I was proud of myself. I am proud of myself. I know that I would not have gotten to this point if I had not tapped into and worked through the unpleasantness of my childhood. Getting in touch with that pain was difficult, torturous at times, but it also motivated me to work through it so that I could let it go. My pain was “an invitation to change” (C. Matsu-Pissot, personal communication, August 1, 2015). It’s an open invitation that I will continue to accept, as I know that this work is never done.

On the outside, you see: showered, dressed, freshly brushed teeth.

Here’s the thing. I’ve been stumbling through the past couple of years of grad school in the unpredictable and impervious current of depression. I have managed my way through. I’ve stood upright at least once every day. I take my medication with food. I reach out to friends and family sometimes. sometimes. I see my therapist. On the days I want to hide away and bury my head in my cat’s soft, warm tummy, I push myself to walk the 20 feet to the mailbox across the driveway. Other days I run my 3.2 mile route to Meridian and bounce back on the Interurban Trail. Sometimes I force smiles at passersby. Sometimes the smiles are spontaneous. Surprises. they’re real. Felt.

This dichotomous existence of depressed and ‘un-depressed.’ It’s exhaustive. It’s distracting. Its splindle-y fingers like to play with my hair. and tie knots in my clothes. Some days I stick my tongue at depression. And then. again. I find myself at the edge of its undertow. Grabbing my tongue from choking my throat. Clenching my neck from tearing away. In my head, my mush-of-a-brain swirls and squishes out thoughts. black sticky thoughts that barely convince me that I’m not whole and I can’t be. that I’m broken and bruise easily. that I’m not worth the wait and it’s easier to cut loose. that I’m not meant for this world. and it’s not meant for me. it’s not my oyster. it’s not my playground. it’s not my anything.

And in my head, where these wicked mumblings meander through mush. I tap it on the shoulder. scream in its ear. and I say what I always say, “Shut the fuck up!Shut the fuck up!Shut the fuck up!” “You’re not winning.” We’ve had this conversation before.

This moment more fully.

I’ve been wanting to write about what’s been going on for me for a few weeks now, but have tended to talk myself out of it because (?) Whatever the reason, an unleashing must be unleashed before I can move on to the daunting amount of reading I have to do for school. (Or anything else resembling productivity.)

I’ve hit that point that doctor’s tell you about after you’ve found something that works for you, “Now, the medication may stop working at some point and we’ll have to try something else.”

Ugh. Really?

Wellbutrin has been my magic bean. It has lifted me to life for years. After a while, I started taking Zoloft for anxiety, and the combination was just the potion I needed to manage my depression and anxiety. Over time, the highest dose of Zoloft was no longer effective, so my doctor prescribed Effexor. Voila! It gave me the kick I needed. But. That effect eventually wore away, as well.

Currently, I’m tapering off the Effexor and will slowly introduce Prozac. I have my fingers and toes crossed that this will help me cause this girl needs some relief! I haven’t been feeling terrible. I’m not bed-bound or voraciously eating whatever I can find that is not best for me – two symptoms that are part of my depressive episode experience. I’m functioning. Showering. I wear clean clothes. And ‘outside’ clothes, not just pj’s. I do my homework. And work-work. I read. Post funny things on FB. I play with my cat and call him silly names. I attend social gatherings with friends, sometimes.

I’m not in a melancholic paralysis. I’m not standing in the kitchen, staring at the knives. I’m managing. But I feel like depression’s talons are holding me hostage until I feed it just the right prescriptive concoction. I feel tired. And spacey. My excitement and motivation hit a low ceiling that isn’t there when I feel OK. It’s difficult to focus, to remember, to speak sometimes. Negativity and self-deprecating thoughts squirm in my brain. I question my abilities, my talents. I triple-guess my thoughts, my choices. I worry about my present, my future. Round and round they go:

  • How can I possibly get through school feeling this way?
  • What kind of counselor would I be with these phases rearing their unattractive heads?
  • Why haven’t I completed my poetry project? There’s no point, I suppose.
  • I’ve been so moody. I can be a better partner than this.

Though I know these thoughts are poppycock, they’re rubbish. I still feel them. I know they are farce but they still affect me and my behavior. I’m not riding each day with the curiosity, vigor, and creativity in the way that I know I am capable of. And I know these are symptoms. I know this state is temporary. I know I’ll be OK. I know I am OK. I’m not forlorn about my situation. The joy and vitality will emerge.

But it saddens me, as it does from time-to-time, to know that while in-the-moment, I ‘could’ be appreciating this moment more fully. I could be holistically appreciating and taking advantage of these moments more completely, if it weren’t for depression. I know that depression isn’t a part of me, of who I am. It likes to parade around in costume that looks like me. It likes to mimic my voice, my gestures. Steal my thoughts, emotions. I know I’ll win this round, as I have each previous match.

I must be patient. Keep pushing. Keep waking up, taking showers, wearing clothes, clean clothes, clean ‘outside’ clothes, clothes other than pj’s. Keep reading and working. Stay in touch with friends. Play with my ridiculous cat. Water the plants. I haven’t gone anywhere, I’m here. For now, there’s a wicked snickering monkey on my back.

 

Today, I do not feel sassy.

I sometimes forget how disconnected I felt as a teenager. I listened mostly to my inside voice. My chatty internal dialogue. Questioning. Wondering. Criticizing. It lied to me a lot. And I believed it. I use to wonder – a lot – what a childhood is like with parents who participate. With parents who play. With parents who like to laugh. Parents who laugh with you. None of these images depict a moment of my childhood. I recall silence. Thick air. Thick with fear and tension. And anger. A lot of anger. Multi-directional anger. Every now and then – like today – I feel jilted. Like I stepped onto a different plane than the rest of all the people I see when I got up this morning. The tectonics of me have drifted a part a little bit. But I remember what it feels like to feel whole. What I feel like when I feel sturdy. Stable. Safe. Secure. Sassy. Today, I do not feel sassy.

***

Don’t talk to me today. I’m wearing a dirty filter. A filter that has the potential to fuck things up. Turn people off. Push people away. Turn off my phone. Turn off my brain. Shut my eyes. Cover my feet in socks and sock and sock and sock. And blankets. Blankets blankets. Blankets. Don’t talk to me today. I won’t listen anyway. My fingers are in my ears. In my nose. In my bellybutton. And if you come any closer I’ll have a finger in yours too. Unless you have an outty. If I say something rude. Or insensitive. Don’t take it seriously. It’s not me. I know it will look like me. She sounds like me. And laughs like me. Her smiles crawl up her cheeks like me. But please don’t listen.

Written Friday, November 1, 2013.

The one with the whole cranberries in it.

depression during the holidays is an emotional oxymoron.

there have been plenty of times i’ve spent with my family during a holiday when i attended as faux-dawni. pretend smile and pretend laugh. while the deviant chatter rattled along in my head. “turkey, i’m eating turkey. mmmmm, with gravy. salty, meaty, graaaayyyvveeee…. cranberry sauce. concentrate on the cranberry sauce. look. there are two kinds of cranberry sauce – jelly and the one with whole cranberries in it.” regardless of attempting the attempts to drown out the chatter in forced ‘now’ thoughts. thoughts involving ‘the outside world’. the negative voice of depression carried on. yelled louder. as white noise. incessant.

no.

black noise. an incessant black noise.

looking back at these gloomy christmases and hazy thanksgivings, i wonder how much of the time i spent pretending. how often i faked it. being ok. feeling ok. enjoying family time. inserting utterances into conversations here and there so as to uphold my festive facade. yaaaaaay! christmas cheer. and all that pepperminty good stuff! stockings! …    and things…   ! (!)

it wasn’t until recently that i realized. for how long i had heard the black noise. it began at a much younger age. i didn’t recognize it as something separate from myself. i didn’t know. i was a child. a teen. shy. i hadn’t yet learned the language of emotion. it was an heft that i carried with me. from one school to the next. one country to the next. one peer group. to no peer group. to the next. one growing-up-me to the next. i didn’t know.

i hurt. i felt lonely. i thought it was a part of who i was. my personality. i didn’t know depression. i didn’t know it as a damp and heavy cloak. unforgiving. merciless. heartless, really. depression snuck its way into my life. probably via my ears. depression is stealthy in that way. from there i carried it and its morose minions around. i carried tension in my bones. fear in my muscles. clenched its jagged silence in my teeth.

***

i’ve often wondered what my younger years would have been if we had been introduced – depression and i. what would my adolescent years have been like? if i knew it wasn’t me. but an entity that could be extracted from my experience. that it had a different name than mine. that the load could be lighter. much lighter.

i don’t circle back to these memories and thoughts to wade in them. i don’t do this to wallow. i’m not sending an evite to my pity-party. i surface these thoughts and memories back to support my now. to understand how and when depression first spoke to me. when did i begin to hear the black noise? how has it affected my little me? i want to understand its impact. its tricks. its snarky siren calls. its selfishness. i do it to support my now. i do it to introduce it to my little me. i want my little me to know.