Thursday, June 6, 2013

In Which I Don't Know Where I Am But I Am Here

 (content warning: This post goes into some seriously heavy stuff about my recent experience with mental illness, and other not-pretty things. If you're sensitive to any of that stuff, you may want to skip this.)

Hello, Internet.

Stuff has happened.

It's been a long time, Internet, and I feel incredibly guilty about that. The truth is, I have been avoiding this blog, because for some time I have felt that it was taking away from the fiction writing I have been wanting to do. And then I was avoiding this blog because I had no time to write anything ever. And then.

And then, Internet, the bottom sort of fell out of my world. I am currently coming off a four-month depression relapse. I won't bore you with details, but it was bad. Bad enough that there was the all-concerning Plan that doctors, counselors and psychiatrists ask you if you have, during particularly long episodes. Bad enough that I had to move houses and quit my job and am now living on ODSP with no cushion and am scared out of my mind, but I HAD to go, because things were just bad, and they weren't getting any better, and I was going to the Terrible Scary Place more often then I was doing human things like eating and sleeping. Bad enough that for the first time in my life I was eating to SURVIVE, rather than because I was hungry, or because a particular thing looked tasty. I was actually eating a meal a day, purely in order to function, because I could not summon up the emotional energy required to actually ENJOY food. I was hospitalized for a six-hour long dissociative episode. My mother was on suicide watch. I refused to allow the kids to even talk to me on the phone, let alone to visit because I was afraid of the awful things I would say to them, because I could not filter anything, and everything inside me was ugly.

We don't really talk about depression like we should. We are aware, I think, that depression affects many, many people, and that it is not the same thing as sadness, and these things are important to know, but they don't convey what happens, I mean what REALLY happens. For me, depression is like I am a little kid being lost in a supermarket. Five minutes ago, my life was fine, everything was familiar and everyone I loved was right there with me. But now it's not, and they're not, and I'm not sure how to get back to that place, because I never really know what I've done to lose it in the first place. And that's a really awful and scary thing, to know that because of some chemical trick being played on me, sometimes I feel bad for no reason, and sometimes there is a reason, and I never really know which it is, and worse, neither does anyone else. And then, Oh. And then.

I think the hardest part about that kind of depression is the amount of love and support I get. Growing up, my depression and my anxiety were mine to deal with and now, they are mine and my mother's. My brothers and sisters, all of whom struggle with it in some form or another, just aren't available to care. Which may actually be a blessing, because there are times, during that period, where you actually wish you were loved less, so people would stop telling you they know you're going to get better. Because the hardest, the absolute worst thing about depression? Is not the pain you're in. It's when the pain goes away.

For the first few weeks of a depression relapse, I am always in a great deal of pain. It's all very visible, and visceral, and noticeable, I start sleeping 20 hours a day, I either refuse food, or eat whatever is available. I take the dogs on shorter walks because I don't want to be seen by anyone trying to be nice to me. And I cry. Oh my Goddess I cry all the time over everything. And then, slowly, it goes away. It's a funny thing, about depression. There's this idea that even though we know depression is an illness, not a sadness, we still imagine it as being sad. It's not like that. When I am happy, I am aware that I have been sick, I have been depressed, and I remember that that hurt, that it was scary and it was bad and I don't want to go back there. But I don't actually know how it feels. I am wrapped in cotton wool and nothing I feel is real, and I barely feel anything at all most of the time. I am not part of the world. Happiness, however, is a vibrant and alive thing. So while I am depressed, I remember every single second of what it was to be happy, everything I had and lost, and I don't know where it is, or how I lost it, and what if I never get it back? People keep reassuring me it's there, but they are the same people who reassured me that I was so happy, while I was happy, and how could I have been, when this has always been there?

I find it's a common attitude among particularly young writers to sneer at a happy ending as taking the easy way out. I always had a darkly private giggle over that. Having been undiagnosed til I was 17, I can still say with some certainty I have been dealing with some form of depression and/or anxiety from probably eleven years old. I'm always curious as to who and where these people are that their happiness had an easy answer. My own has been so hard-won, and often, much too fleeting. There is, of course, a part of me that understands that conflict makes a story, but there's still something off about the glamorizing of misery that goes on. I don't mean people shouldn't be writing sad books, or making sad movies. I mean the fetishist that says, "I like sad things because they are more real." Sad has never felt like a real thing to me. Most of the time, sad is a trick of my brain chemistry, out of proportion to who I am and how I feel, usually brought on by nothing, and offering nothing in return for what it takes. In real sadness, you pick yourself up, learn from your mistakes, and try not to let it happen again. In depression, you pick yourself up, slowly crawl back to the world, and hope the monsters won't find you again. Another version of this is that I hate the number of people who feel that my disability have made me a stronger person, not because I don't think it has, but because I don't know why I'm supposed to be so strong when so many aren't. Is it just so that I have space inside me to be more unhappy then they do? Why would I need that, if I didn't have the thing that made me so 'strong' in the first place?

After I got out of the hospital, I stopped writing. That was a conscious decision. I had been through a rough patch, was unsure if I wanted to write anymore, at all, and that was scary to think about, because as I have previously discussed, writing has never been about what I do. It's who I am. But I gave it up. For two weeks. Then I wanted to get back to it. I missed it. I had things I wanted to do, and there are things I feel like need to be written, because they should exist, and they don't yet. I sat down to write. And promptly started screaming.

I've had panic attacks while writing before, fear of failure that creeps up without warning, makes it hard to breath, and I have to go sit in the other room AWAY from the computer for a while. This was not that. I stared at the blank doc for twenty minutes, and cried, and then I screamed. I screamed how much I hate myself, how much I hate doing this thing. How it was the only thing I ever had or ever would have. How I didn't even know who I was anymore, and how I hated that everything inside me meant so much, and so little of it was real. How I am never going to be the person I wanted to be, and nobody was even bothered by that, except me, and that meant that I am apparently the only opinion in my own life that doesn't matter. And that went on for another six weeks. Six weeks of being cut off from what mattered most to me, after nearly four months of alienating my entire family.

I don't know what to say about all that now. Things have slowed down. My world has started righting itself, but it has taken on a very different shape from what it was, and, I think, so have I. I don't know if it's a good shape or not. I mentioned above about depression never offering anything for what it takes. Last time I was in this bad a shape, I had a similar moment of suddenly knowing the truth about who I was and what that meant, and how people saw that, and how that mattered. It was not a good moment, for me, but it was an important one. I think this is another of those. I think. I don't know yet. I think the reason writing has made me angry was not, as I guessed, because it too had nothing to offer me, because that could never be true, but because I was angry about having so little to offer it. It is indeed a poor workwoman who blames her tools, isn't it? And Goddess help me, but I think maybe. Just maybe. I can do better. I don't know that, mind you.

But I'm still here. And I'm still doing this thing.

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