Timshel

So I thought I’d give this blog thing a go. I’ve thought about it for years and I’ve had this WordPress account for far too long but my recent mental state has inspired me to put pen to paper, or fingers to keys. Does anyone else think that piano keys and keyboard keys should be spelt different? I just think that if someone has just learnt the English language they might think that my thoughts could be translated into a beautiful sonata instead of this word vomit you see before you.

So.
My ‘recent mental state’.
I was diagnosed with depression in about February of 2002; I had gone through my first relationship break up, my parents had separated and divorced, my high school life was awkward and I wasn’t really dealing with it properly. I was put on anti-depressants, saw this lovely counsellor, joined a life changing youth group and I was kinda back on my ‘feet’ in no time. Well, I went back to how I have normally known myself to be. I personally believe that it was at that time in high school where I experienced a major depressive episode but I had major depressive disorder (also known as Dysthymia thanks to the DSM-IV) all along. So after regaining my footing I just fell into the dysthymic rhythm of life, experiencing highs and lows and the extreme lows. I would have extreme lows usually when I’m on my own for a long time, the days following youth group camps and weekends or when just a bunch of things don’t really go right.

But the last couple of months have gone a bit different. This time last year I started experiencing a bit of a social anxiety. I was afraid to make new friends or go out to parties or town and I held tight to the friends and family I already had. I was numb and sick of getting hurt by those I loved the most so I tried to prevent it by avoiding opportunities where it might happen. I stopped organising social events for all of my friendship groups so that pretty much meant that I didn’t go out anymore. I didn’t go to many 21sts or 18ths and I realised it had been a whole year when a good friend of mine had to be let down again when I couldn’t go to his 22nd birthday dinner, and it was his 21st the year before that I let him down the first time. He says it’s okay and he understands – but the point is, is that I don’t understand. Normal situations where I would get just a tiny bit upset I would dwell on for weeks. Problems my friends were going through affected me more than they should. I struggled to communicate my feelings well and it resulted in hurting my friends because I said or did the wrong thing. I was constantly having to explain myself or texting them a day later and apologising for my actions. I was getting insanely jealous or disappointed and things I would usually shake off. I didn’t talk to anyone about these things because, I dunno, they weren’t important? A lot of my friends were busy and it was hard catching up with people regularly. I felt like I had to update people so many times because I didn’t speak to them enough for them to actually be there to help me. And the one friend I did speak to all the time (let’s call him John) was going through his own issues so I stood strong next to him and concentrated on his problems and suppressed my own.

I actually realised things weren’t feeling right when I got a palanca (affirmation) from the birthday guy (let’s call him Fish) on my recent youth group weekend. He said that he was thankful that I’d been a great friend supporting John through his tough times and that he was proud of me and how far I’d come in the past year and I was showing I was stronger. But by reading this I realised I wasn’t stronger at all, I was just hiding it better. With this and a lot of other things boiling up, that I will probably discuss in the future, I fell into a super deep depressive episode that I can only liken to the first time I was diagnosed with depression all those years ago. I could cry in bed all day if life allowed for it and unfortunately sometimes it can. I don’t feel hunger anymore, I haven’t felt it for months. I’ve fainted a few times in the shower because I’m dehydrated from not eating or drinking for so long. Now I just eat so I don’t faint in the sun at uni. I forget to brush my teeth and wash my hair. I keep trying to keep up with my uni studies but I can’t concentrate for long enough to actually do an assignment, and on top of that I’m totally forgetful. I just have no interest in things except for sleeping. I’ve had trouble sleeping, it now takes about four hours to get to sleep, so I’ve been saying a Rosary before I go to sleep to kind of centre myself and relax. Even then I’ve experienced nightmares and have overslept and missed many uni classes. I’ve experienced different kinds of depressive moods where I’ll angry cry, sad cry or just sob quietly in and out of sleep for hours. I’ve experienced physical pain in my chest, stomach and my head from crying, sleeping and not eating that I’ve felt like I was dying. I’ll often hope that I die in my sleep from some dormant illness that only chose to surface now. I have felt so angry and then felt completely nothing within five minutes but then experience a surge of energy that comes out in expletives in a text message or Facebook conversation that I’ll have to apologise for later. In this anger or despair my eyes will dart around my bedroom and fall upon my craft scissors that have fallen under my bed from when I last wrapped a birthday present. I’ll grab them and draw the blades across the skin of my arm, feeling relieved as the tiny crimson dots of blood appear and run. Ill quickly regret it after realising I’ll have to hide it from my family and people will ask about it and give me concerning looks during lectures. How stupid of me. I hate feeling this way and I didn’t choose it and I wish it would stop. I hate the way I speak to people and the thoughts I’ve had of myself. I don’t want to talk to anyone anymore because I know I’ll regret it a moment later. I feel like I’m a sinner for believing I’m not worthy of living and by hating those who love me. I’ve been seeing a psychologist fortnightly and a counsellor at uni monthly, along with taking anti-depressants, but I feel like I’m only just hanging on.

After studying psychology for nearly two years now I’m more intrigued by my mental illness and how I deal with it and also how my friends respond to it. I feel like I’ve lost 80% of my friends in the past two months, they may argue that but it’s just how I feel. It’s been strange to find out who ‘gets it’ and who doesn’t. A lot of my male friends don’t get it but the ones who do have been surprising. One guy is Fish and the other one is my brother. My brother (let’s call him Wolverine) lives in NSW with my mum and was the only one out of my dad, sister and I who weren’t officially diagnosed with depression when shit went down when mum left in 2000. I was telling him a few weeks ago how my sister was having a go at me for not getting help with my depression and that I was being lazy; and Wolverine responded with “that’s the thing with depression, you can’t and don’t want to go out and ask for help, you need someone to just be there and help you”. God dammit Wolverine, well said. Feels like I’m living with the wrong half of the family at the moment. There’s been a lot of females that understand me though, people speaking to me that I wouldn’t expect. They’ve opened up to me and shared their stories and how they want to support me through this. It’s been hard with the friends who don’t understand, they’ve just looked at me blankly or ignored me all together or have tried to solve all my problems. I’m not asking for friends to be perfect or to know exactly what to do, I just want them to be who they normally are. Just the same way if I broke my leg, I don’t want them trying to carry me everywhere or to walk for me; just hold my hand when I walk down the stairs or give me a hug after a big day of walking, you know? This was a great read though, and if it helps anyone’s depressed friends out there, hopefully it’ll help the depressed, too http://www.thedarlingbakers.com/love-someone-with-depression.

I found my diary from 2005ish and I thought it was so amusing to look at the struggles I had then compared with the ones I have now – so I think that by writing this I can look back in a few years and see what I’ve learnt from it and how I will (hopefully) be stronger from it. I hope it helps other people out there with depression too, because the biggest support I will ever receive is to realise that I’m not alone in this, and no one else is either.

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4 thoughts on “Timshel

  1. songtothesirens says:

    I understand exactly how you feel. I was mis-diagnosed at about 16 with major depressive disorder. The depression was so bad I could feel it as a tightening in my chest, and I constantly had a stomach ache. I didn’t speak very much, did not eat much except the bare minimum to keep my blood sugar from plummeting, and spent the majority of my time in my room, alone, with my treasured music and my journals. I am significantly older now with a different diagnosis that actually fits what was really happening: Bipolar disorder and PTSD. The PTSD diagnosis came first because I was hyper-vigilant at all times, I had recurring nightmares, I could sleep or I couldn’t (most of the time I didn’t want to because then the nightmares would come), I was very depressed. I knew why I was experiencing all of this but what I could not explain were the sudden bursts of energy and activity. Then, after being largely depression-free for years, I had a total nuclear meltdown. I missed 11 days of work because I simply could not go. I realized this was different from the depressions I had experienced as a teen. This was a whole new can of worms to deal with. So, I found myself a therapist that my family doctor recommended, and began therapy for what we both thought was simple depression. After about 6 months of weekly visits, my therapist re-diagnosed me as a Bipolar type II then rapidly changed it to Bipolar type I due to the fact that I had experienced a full blown manic episode which according to the DSM qualifies you as a Type I. So, there it was, Bipolar type I with psychotic features (due to my tendency to break with reality) and PTSD with a few other anxiety disorders for good measure. Now, I live in “mixed-episode” world. I am too hyper to sit still and focus for very long and I am too depressed to just get on with things. Nothing I start gets finished, and sometimes, it doesn’t even start.

    I can relate to your problems with friends. I have actually lost friends due to this illness because people just don’t get it, and when manic (or depressed) have said some pretty awful things to people I really care about. Then comes the backpedaling and the apologies. So, no, you are definitely not alone in your battle against depression. After 12+ years of being properly diagnosed, on the right medication, and having become a Buddhist, I have achieved what amounts to a stable madness. I am not all over the charts like I used to be, but rather, live my life feeling like I am on a gently rocking sea with occasional storms.

    You are definitely not alone, and it sounds like you have some pretty good support from at least some of your family and friends. Hold that close.

    • Wow. I definitely didn’t expect a reply like that, thank you so much for sharing that with me. I talk a bit more about awareness in my next post but hearing experiences like yours lets me know that I’m not alone and everyone has their struggles. I think people are amazed and struggle to think why we feel or think certain ways, but I feel the same way about them! Wow to fall asleep and think only how good my life is like they do, what a dream! If only we could control every aspect of our lives.
      Thanks again for your comment, I underestimated the people of WordPress!

      • songtothesirens says:

        You’ll find there is a thriving Bipolar and Depression community of bloggers on WordPress, and on the Internet in general. Generally speaking, once you start to communicate through your posts and comments on other blogs, you’ll find that the other bloggers (not just those who have blogs about Bipolar or Depression) are very supportive of one another both emotionally and of each other’s particular blog be it about art, poetry, photography, etc.

        I am, for the most part, not terribly shy about sharing my story. I have lived a lot of life in my 40 years, and have been a diagnosed and treated Bipolar for about 12 of roughly 25 years. Both of my doctors think based on talking with me that I have actually had Bipolar disorder since my late teens. So, somewhere around 16 to 17, my moods went wonky.

        I used to party a lot, and the docs think that covered it up for a few years, and then, having been a fairly active cyclist since I was a child, I started riding to college and back (parking was a nightmare), to the store, and then everywhere. Then, I discovered mountain biking. So I was riding a hundred to two hundred miles a week. Apparently that level of activity also hid the symptoms of Bipolar disorder. I was constantly pumped full of endorphins which are part of the body’s range of “feel good” chemicals. That’s one reason why they encourage people with mood disorders to exercise; it helps to relieve the symptoms of depression. Of course, getting out there and exercising while severely depressed is near impossible, I have found it works.

        So, nope, you are not alone. 1 to 3% of the population of the world have Bipolar disorder of some form, and the stats for depression are higher, especially among women (although I suspect that they would be higher for men if men were more prone to getting treatment). It would be lovely to be able to control my moods, and be “normal” like other people. But, then I stop, and realize that many people struggle silently without a hint of there being anything wrong. I am just not quiet about it like I used to be. People need to know and understand what living with mental health issues is like so they will stop generalizing and stigmatizing what is essentially a medical problem.

        Keep on writing. You’ll feel better as you can get the negative feelings out in the open and away from you. You can also analyse your feelings better when they are not swirling around in your head 🙂

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