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.

 

Leave little gifts for you.

My parents are moving into a smaller house so they’ve started the process of going through their things. Things they’ve accumulated over the past 40 years or so. As a lot of children do, I’ve stored things of mine at their place over the years so I’ve started looking through them. Some I’ve packed and unpacked between multiple countries from the time I was in elementary school. One treasured item I thought I’d lost in a house fire almost 10 years ago was in one of the boxes – a leather-bound journal given to me by a friend. I probably hid it away in a box because at the time I’d had it, I made some very poor decisions and treated friends (and myself) terribly. I needed to store it away for a while, to keep the writings at a distance, I suppose.

I am so glad and thankful that I still have it. I read through it quickly last night. Some powerful stuff in there. Painful. Painful and beautiful. I can see my determination to ‘sort things out’ and overcome in the words. I had this journal at a time when I ended up in an ambulance to the hospital because I’d taken an overdose of medication at home alone during a workday. I remember laying on my bed. Staring at the door and imaging my mom finding me there. I cried. And pounded on the mattress a bit, I’m sure. I became frightened as I imagined the strength of my heart beating in my ears weaken and slow. I leapt up to call 911. I didn’t want to die.

Most people who attempt and commit suicide do not want to end their lives. But consequence and impulsiveness oftentimes brings people to kill themselves. It’s an impulsive act. One that happens at a time when a person feels hopeless, overwhelmed, worthless, and perhaps many more terrible things. Or numb. But these, as all emotions on the spectrum, are fleeting. As are impulsive actions. But suicide is irreversible. It’s a permanent decision if succeeded. It’s important that that you or someone you know reaches out when feeling this way. If experiencing suicidal ideation, please please PLEASE reach out. If someone talks about thinking of taking their life, take it seriously. It’s a serious thing regardless of how they tell you. It may seem non-challant. They may bring it up jokingly. Take it seriously. Ask straight up if they have an idea of how they’ll take their life and whether they have the means. Assess their safety. Call 911 if you must to keep them safe and keep them on the line until help arrives. Do the same for yourself. Help someone or yourself get through those horribly painful times.

I’ve shared this video before, a TED talk given by a man, JD Schramm, who attempted suicide and miraculously survived a jump from the Manhattan Bridge. His words are beyond powerful and provide a unique insight. After committing himself to following through and surpassing suicidal ideation to action, he survived. He survived and had the rare opportunity to commit to rebuilding his life. His message to those who may feel suicidal is simple and true, “It gets better. It gets way better.” Take it from him.

I wasn’t planning for this to be a heavy post, but here it is. The unearthing of things. stuff. from years past does that sometimes. You realize that your body and mind have moved past or forgotten the reasons behind the associated sentimentalities. You realize that those difficult times when you felt that your situation wouldn’t get better, or the pain you felt has seeped in to your bones and won’t go away – you realize that those experiences leave little gifts for you. All it takes is getting through. These are some little gifts I found:

why does hair look so beautiful
when it’s carried by the wind.
trees fluttering leaves
like butterfly wings.
I want to go somewhere
naked and pure
that’s never been seen
I want to feel the earth with my toes
close my eyes when the wind blows.
I want to smell it on my skin
when I’ve returned home.
bring that feeling back.
the vision in colors and shapes.
I want to listen to the birds for a while.
share smiles with the sky.

Written Sunday, September 15th, 2002 @ ~12:30pm in Port Townsend on the hammock in my parents’ backyard.
*

you love me
because you want to.
esteem is found in self.
not eyes or kisses.
it makes sense
when you stop looking for things
that you’ve taught yourself to need.
you have to pull those thoughts like weeds.

Written Wednesday, September 18th, 2002 @ ~4:30pm, Metro #105 home.
*

Mom can’t find me
like this
fresh cuts and a belly full of loathing
wine and veggies in a grocery bag
dirty sheets, snowstorm on the t.v.
music playing in the background.
what would she have found?
broken, withered, silent.
sing me a lullaby, momma
sing yourself to sleep.
rubber kisses
icicle fingers and shiny rings.

Written Tuesday, December 24th, 2002 @ ~5:15pm on the Kingston ferry.

Malaise, a la mode.

It’s been a rough week. Of spending too much time with my mattress and comforter.

I’ve been working with my psychiatrist to address my lethargy, a symptom of depression that can be taken care of with medication. However, it can take some time and a few rounds of trial-and-error to determine what works.

A few weeks ago I started the process of taking one of my meds at a different time of day – with the hope that it would do the trick and get my body on a more energetic track. It didn’t. and that’s when it started – the gentle. relentless. pulling of the egyptian cotton undertow.

Then I ran out of my other medication and failed to refill it in a timely manner. I know, I know. I could rattle off excuses as to why with arduous conviction here. But I won’t. It was stupid. and irresponsible. and I know better. Otherwise, THIS. a week of malaise mummification. a dipping down and away from movement. activity. society.      me.

Feeling better can seem a mirage when a significant part of the ‘feeling better’ part comes in the form of a pill. “I’ve been great! SO much better. I don’t think I need these meds anymore.” Thing is. you must take this/these pill(s) to conjure the ‘feeling better’ part. And take the magic beans regularly to continue this oh-so-wonderful and easily-taken-for-granted state of being – the state of feeling OK. Seems simple enough. and it is. But once you allow yourself to slide into the slow ascent, the idiosyncratic task of refilling a prescription becomes a daunting and gargantuan box to check.

Dealing with the systemic repercussions of not complying to a drug prescription regimen is jumping into the maw of quicksand. it’s a slow and steady swallow. and the journey back tends to drag an anvil with it. on which shame and other modes of self-deprecation are forged. by you.

Dear lord. that is not a pretty picture I want to Mary Poppins-jump my way into. I can take better care of myself than that. And I will.

Note to self: I am never *ever* too tired nor busy to REFILL MY RX.

***

This is a song I wrote about mental illness. It seemed apropos to include here. and a shameless opportunity to share with you. one of the things I love to do. When I’m taking care of myself.

Song written, performed, and recorded by o.dawn.i Wednesday, January 9th, 2013.
Photo made by o.dawn.i Monday, May 24th, 2010.

Cutie-patooty succulents.

 

As the LA morning unfurls. I am realizing how much I needed this time away. to allow my body and mind to relax – and untangle.

When I would otherwise be sitting in an office. at a computer. emailing. saving files. editing. composing. reading. printing. Word-wrangling. (etc),

I will be writing
(like.
.with a pen).
in the sun. while my camera battery recharges.

I want to take photos of Alicia‘s plants! She has some cutie-patooty succulents you’d see on the Zoo Borns page if you slapped a pair of googly eyes on ’em. They are adorable.

You’ll see.

Written Sunday, June 23rd, 2013.

 

aliciastomoatos

Showers optional.

I left K’s blanket, that fell from the window by her computer, out in the rain. I sandwiched it between the window frame and windowpane to block the sun as I lay on the couch watching streaming TV in my PJ’s all day. I slept and woke and slept, it rained, I woke and slept. The days have gone. I’m here again. I’d like to blame it on the sudden season change, the jetlag-induced medicinal delay. I’m one day behind. My pill schedule has been erratic.

What is this numbing agent that lives in the Washington air? What is this paralysis that takes me there? To the timeless, lifeless, light-less place?

Tomorrow I walk again, tail between legs, smiling through humiliation and self-induced shame. Welcome, welcome home.

Written Thursday, October 20th, 2011.

***

I wrote the above poem after returning from a trip to China. Where it was hot. dry desert hot. and sticky city hot. There was sun.

At the time I was struggling with inconsistent and sporadic ups-and-downs. I was coming out of a major depressive episode. I was home-bound for months. So it was refreshing (and scary) to return to the outside world. To go back to the normal routine: Up. Shower. Drive. Work. Eat. Drive. Eat. Sleep. Depression’s routine? Sleep. Sleep. Sleep. Eat. Sleep. Sleep. Sleep. Sleep. Showers optional.

It’s been a couple of years and I still experience periodic down-sodes. They’re not as frequent. Or as intense. But they’re there. I’m learning to manage my depression. I’m learning what stressors trigger it. I’ve learned that a huge part of managing depression is accepting what your limitations are because of depression. One of the things to accept is lost time. And losing time. Losing days. Months. Years; the time spent in darkness. Behind closed eyelids. Away. Can lead to more loss: a relationship. enthusiasm. money. trust. respect. a job. It’s not an easy thing to accept. But that’s part of the deal.

“Losses big and small happen to everyone who has depression. The only way to get through them and move on is to accept the reality of what has happened and do all you can to minimize what depression takes away from you in the future.” This is from a book I mentioned in an earlier post. It’s been my depression guidebook, if you will. I cannot recommend it enough.

***

Showers optional.

Photo taken Thursday, March 19th, 2009. University Bridge, Seattle.

Know you will.

The length and frequency of depressive episodes, phases, bouts. Are different for every body. And the nature and course of these episodes, phases, bouts. Change over time. (Just to keep things spicy.)

Of the 15+ years I’ve had depression, I have not experienced the quick and frequent transitions between ‘depressed’ and ‘not depressed’ states as I have over the past year or so (note: just so you know, the experience of depression is not binary, though it may seem that way to the depressed person at times):

2 weeks: OK. 4 days: not OK. in bed. SLEEP. 8 days: Great! showering. brushing teeth. hanging with friends. 2 days: Heavy limbs. heavy eyelids. heavy blinds. dark dark dark. don’t speak. SLEEP… Wash. Rinse. Repeat.

Making these transitions. Adjusting to the social waking life after days of sleep in an isolated cotton sarcophagus. Up/down. Down/up. Physically/mentally/emotionally. Down/up. Down/up. Over and over again.
It’s tiring. It can be disheartening. It’s f*cking frustrating! But it’s doable. And worth it. It’s worth it to keep fighting until you get to a place where – you know you will. and believe you can – always pull through. You put that stronger-then-hope in your pocket. and you keep fighting the good fight.

A couple of my writings to illustrate these f*cking frustrating and worth it experiences.

***

Is this a slow slithery descent toward depression? My feeling tank an empty canister. They’re silo-ed somewhere for my feelings to feel again. Why do they play hide-and-seek with me? I want to play hide-and-seek with the world. I want to keep my mouth shut from words and smiles. When I’m like this, they don’t make sense. They’re phony and lacquered in obvious forcefulness [everyone can see]. What do we do? Among consistently consistent social beings? What do we do in times like these?

Written Wednesday, August 8th, 2012 @ Smith.

***

It’s a good thing that I don’t remember the feeling of waking multiple times throughout the day. To drawn blinds. Sounds of daily life outside. and sheets and clothes dampened by days of sleepy sedentary sweat.
I’m glad for walking sidewalks at night, but especially when I need sunglasses drawn to cut the sun from my daily activity. It’s me. Upright. And walking.
There are point A’s and point B’s. There are deadlines and other sides of conversations to retrieve. There are tasks to knock out or add to the list. check boxes that breath until after my wakeful mind and pen-ready hand lasso them in and grasp them by their boxy necks.

Check. Done. Check.

Written Thursday, September 13th, 2012 @ Smith. 
(Edited 9.20.12 and 11.29.12.)

 ***

There are days.

/ There are days when I feel slightly awkward. / Slightly present. / Slightly ‘blah’. // There are days when I want every step to be a jump. / Every utterance comes from my core. / Each moment is recognized as an opportunity for creativity. /

Written Wednesday, August 22nd, 2012 @ Volunteer Park.

She. and me.

I feel I’ve been forgetting my older self.
The pieces of stability I’ve been Tetris-ing so carefully
have started to stack and pile up up up
– a jumble of colors and shapes.
And so I am trying to keep these things in mind
while remembering the wisdom I’ve attained.  The lessons
from painful situations.
The poignant and powerful therapy conversations.
I play hostess to the younger me.
So we can hash it out.
Try to understand each other.
Come to an agreement.
Or at least entertain a meet & greet .
They get along just fine – she and me.
The challenge is the cacophony their co-existence creates
for the in-the-moment me.
There are consequences and grievances.
Additional time is needed to learn more about the same things.
Don’t get cocky with wisdom.
It will inevitably show you who’s boss.
The cup of learning runeth over.
No matter how fast you drink.

Written Friday, July 27th, 2012 @ Smith.

***

I began last week feeling as though I had forgotten who I was.  I couldn’t completely find the person I’ve become over the course of these thirty-three years. I felt lost. Confused. Unsteady.

Over the past couple of months I’ve been making decisions and acting in ways that I thought I had worked past. I thought I’d ‘become a better person’, as some people will describe it. I made these kinds of mistakes, made poor decisions, and reacted without thinking like this in my 20’s. Haven’t I moved past that?! I thought I had. But reality does that from time-to-time. There are triggers like time bombs waiting to go off, to keep you on your humble toes. Some of these past few days have felt like every step is a ‘click’ on a box in a game of ‘Mindsweep’. (Side note: That game is addictive! It’s hard to say whether the aim is to try to avoid uncovering the bombs, or if it’s about experiencing the tension and fear of the possibility of discovery.)

And so I’ve heard my younger self and my wiser self comparing notes and talking to one another. I listen. Yes. I still make some not-so-good decisions. And, yes. There will be times when I lose control of my composure and logic in stressful and emotional situations. The difference here is these unwanted habitual behaviors, the behaviors I’ve tried to rid myself of, the difference is perspective. The difference is awareness. The difference is – I am doer and observer. The difference is. I listen. I see the choices and opportunities.

***

“Mistakes are inevitable, but they may also give us the wisdom to move forward. Says the Dalai Lama: “When you lose, don’t lose the lesson.””   – From an article written by John McManamy.

Yesterday, today.

It’s come around again: the emptiness.  The vapid moments that sew the day(s) together when the haze moves in.  I’ve lost my footing on the slippery slope that’s been slanted by a lifetime of depression and disorderly moods.  In these times, I’m  swallowed by a lethargy that turns a mattress into a monster, a hungry hungry monster, and I sleep swaddled in sweat-wetted sheets for days.  The length of time that ticks-and-tocks in this textile sarcophagus varies – 2 days, 1 week, 17 days – and can only be measured in hindsight, when I wake to the world again.  I’ll continue to slip and to slide, but I’ll wake to the world over and over again.

***

***

:: Journal entry ::

Only a couple of days ago I had 3 great days.  My mind was clear, my energy up, my motivation was present, my future was left in its place, as it should be.
When does forced, faked confidence melt into something real?

Written Wednesday, February 2, 2011.

***

:: Poem ::

I feel invincible today
yesterday, not so much
yesterday I was wallowing in the absence of embrace
today I feel touched without having to be touched
today I feel love from a thousand different planets
yesterday, not so much
today it felt OK to kick off the sheets
yesterday, I couldn’t get enough
of the comfort of a blanket
warming my bones
to not feel so alone
for the feeling of home
when home can’t be sewn
it sprouts from the experience of a nurtured invisible
like art before it’s created
a seed tossed in soil.

Written Wednesday, August 25, 2004.