Tag Archives: Depression

Trust

Dear trust,

 

My dear trust, why must you, of all strongholds, play truant? I remember our high school days; you and I were earning each other’s respect. I looked you up in the Oxford English Dictionary and there you were, ready for me to hold a ‘firm belief in the reliability, truth, and ability’ in myself.

But somewhere along the road you abandoned me. You reversed yourself, turned yourself inside out in a macabre show of organs and blood vessels: fickleness, uncertainty, inconstancy.

When you left, I was nothing. My trust in myself evaporated as ‘myself’ became changeable, and unknowable. I had no trust left, no trust in my own being.

How can a person manage without trust in themselves? What happened to the inner world I once inhabited? The landscape was no longer solid. The babble of internal voices on the wind turned frosty. The paths were hidden, and at every twist were liars.

Where once was confidence, now emptiness fogged my thoughts.

Where once was possibility, now doom gonged, low and constant and harrowing.

When fears reigned over my thoughts, there was no firm ground to hold my feet. They changed minute by minute, swerving to avoid collision with each other. Nothing was true, nothing was false, and so nothing was. Unable to manage swimming, daily floating, I could only run, wildly searching every room for the trust I’d lost. Where did you go? Where did you hide? It isn’t funny anymore!

The meds only tricked me into thinking you were there, or that I could get by without you. Now, finally now, I am beginning to find you again. I know you’re gone now, and you aren’t coming back. I have to build you from scratch, just as before, because you’ve always been an automaton that I made. A teddy bear in the night when I miss home.

Because I’ve always only ever had what was here. But I will build you a roost and you will be made again.

 

Yours faithfully,

Christina

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Depression, medicine, and the capitalist notion of self

There are two concepts that still pervade our culture today that Max Weber discussed over a century ago. One is the idea that we are constant beings, with a one true self. The other is the belief that one must work very hard to be a worthy person. The ultimate ideal is to fit the work to the person – to match the job to the personality and pursue your passion, thus fulfilling one’s God given drive in life.

Depression is the complete antithesis of this ideology, neatly combining inability to achieve with a complicated, unhealthy, untrue self.

I started thinking about this while reading Alison Pick’s recent article in the Globe and Mail. She focuses on the way that antidepressant medication is viewed as a mind-warping evil in which even the depressed do not wish to partake. Having been there, I know exactly what she means. Pick quotes Dr. David Goldbloom of CAMH as saying that people fear antidepressants will change them to something that is not themselves, something they do not wish to be. But he’s missing the point. Beyond the worries of ‘will it change me?’ or ‘does this affect my personality?’ is a much deeper concern: Is my depression part of who I am?

With that question comes a rollercoaster of existential emotions, wondering if the depression is a punishment, if it is who I really am, if it is an excuse or, as Pick puts it, “I wonder if I am making the whole thing up.” What are you, Depression? How did you appear and latch on to me? You snuck up on me in such a way that I can’t help but think you were always there, waiting, embedded in my personality, brought into the light as part of the life-long process of self-discovery that is the ultimate journey to True Selfdom that is the imagined pathway that every person in our culture values and believes in. Am I really like This? Is this me?

Mental illnesses are inevitably caught up in questions of the self. Invisible, internal, and primarily affecting what we previously understood to be consistent in our self concept, mental illnesses hold up a mirror two inches from our own noses, stopping us in our tracks. The question remains: is it a funhouse mirror, or is it the mirror of Galadriel?

That puts a big splinter into our Journey to the Self machine, though. It isn’t only that it is new and as hard to fit into our self-concepts as the square cylinder into the round hole of a children’s toy – it’s that we believe it belongs there.

Among all my doubts lurks the thought that the depressed me is the real me – lazy, incompetent, full of excuses, sleeping all the time – notice how it’s all about being unproductive? Depression not only flips my Weberian desire to follow my true self by confusing me, it tips me upside down and backwards trying to show off how much of a burden I am to modern capitalism.

And now that I am separated by years of medicine from the intensity of black thoughts that was my depression back then, I have trouble recalling details. The cloud drifted in so stealthily that I have no idea where to begin looking for the lost threads of who I Maybe Once Was Before Depression. I can only look at pictures and feel that a different person existed on that far side of the gate – a person that I nevertheless have to reconcile as me.

So much clearer in my mind are the weeks during which the medicine was oozed from my body. The incredible mind zaps, bizarre, disconcerting, uncomfortable at the best of times and practically painful at the worst. But as the zaps faded, feelings and senses blossomed: the feeling of being turned on again. The feeling of elation. The feeling of tears. A incomprehensible, intangible something that had changed me from a zombie to a Renaissance human, as full of subtly as the Mona Lisa and as full of colour as a stall of silk in 16th century Florence. Placebo? Reality? Who can say?

But the most cryptic part of these emotional buzzes and tinglings was that I feel alive, but not reborn. I do not feel any closer to that stranger from 2008. Being ill, or being on medicine, who will know, irreparably ripped me from my former self. Now I am (usually) healed, now I am Without meds. I am partly defined not by the presence, but by the lack (and thus by the former presence) of depression and citalopram and buproprion.

Perhaps I am alone in this – only you can tell me, one way or another. But I do not think we will truly be rid of stigma while depression and other mental illnesses challenge our deeply entrenched notions of what it is to lead a good life: to be productive, and to be true to ourselves. When a disease takes these things from you, it is impossible not to feel guilt and shame, and it is impossible for others not to wonder, ridicule, and pity. I repeat, the question remains: is depression a deviation from your true self, or is it part of a changing pathway in a self that was never constant anyway? My experiences lead to me say the latter.

My first time

Spoiler/trigger alert: not that first time. Get your mind out of the gutter.

 

It was cold: February, 2011. I don’t know what happened – an argument, maybe, or some crisis. We’d set me up a desk in the room that wasn’t bright, in the house that wasn’t mine. I was in some reverie of worry, reeling through visions of death and sadness that hadn’t happened but might. Was there an argument? I wanted out. Needed to stew, needed to escape, needed some kind of feeling that wasn’t ‘this’.

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Meds free, two and a half weeks in

I’ve been meds free now for about two weeks. There are a lot of tiny details that have changed.

For starters, thank you so much to those who sent me thoughts of encouragement and support! Thank you thank you thank you! It was so incredibly kind of you to reassure me and I am so glad I’m not alone in this. Thank you.

The brain zaps appear to have stopped. I don’t get sudden shivers anymore, and I don’t feel high.

It’s funny to think back to when I started taking the drugs. After they really kicked in, it felt like waking up. The world was alive again. The air had warmth and action had meaning. Yet I now feel, not reawakened, but unmuted. I had woken but not emerged. I find my thoughts shaking hands with a really quite cheerful enigma, a sincere camp counselor that’s been around enough to know when to be cynical and when to be upbeat.

On the outside, apparently this comes across as – well my dad calls it ‘sharp’. Interrogation has revealed he, and others, think I have become a much larger bird now – a raptor with a freshly honed beak that likes to sit on your arm and be cozy, but you can’t quite shake the impression that it knows something and is secretly grinning with a cocked eyebrow at plans of world domination. More plainly, I talk a lot more, without a filter, and I say some rather mean things.

And I don’t really care. I like it.

I can’t help but like this smiling, mischievous, expansive figure. She has opinions. She has big feet. She has: defiance, a double, twelve-years-aged in an oak barrel, bold and appreciated by true connoisseurs.

So I’m meeting, or re-meeting, and certainly re-introducing, this facet. That’s part of it.

But in the name of anecdotal evidence, what about my other symptoms?

Sleepiness: Largely unchanged. Hard to tell due to being in a different time zone. I’d like to say I’ve noticed less of the head bobbing, but I haven’t read much for work recently, so that could be another factor.

Guilt: Yep, still there. Still pretty darn loud.

Banana indigestion: So far so gone! Haven’t had any on an empty stomach yet.

Anxiety: Worse. Easily irritated, and my overly confident self doesn’t seem to mind taking it out on others. Apparently the tag line, “look I’m not mad at you, I’m just mad and you’re there” isn’t comforting. I get angry more easily, and I’m worry quite a bit. But it isn’t interrupting my work very much.

Sex: This is the bit you’ve all been waiting for. Yes, sex is better!! You know how there are things, and some things turn you on, and then when those turn-on-things happen, it’s almost like additional physical pleasure? Ya, that didn’t used to happen. That happens a lot more now. Which only serves to make me all the more interested in sex, boosting my already better sex drive. Bam.

Depression: I’m not. Wow. Seriously. I am the luckiest person alive. I need to write that on a post-it and stick it on my computer to remind me how lucky I am, not as a guilt-ifying punch to the stomach, but because that kind of reminder actually sounds like a good idea right now.

So that’s the upshot so far. Pretty damn worth it, as you lovely people told me it would be. I’m going to go eat a banana on an empty stomach. Boo yeah.

Lost at home.

I am at home, in Canada. I’m here because my aunt is dying. As my dad would say, “we’re all dying”, but I mean imminently. Pancreatic cancer has done a hit and run like some kind of bioterrorist. She is undergoing chemotherapy to see if her life can be extended a little. I am home to try and eke out a few more hours together before she dies, and while she is still healthy enough for visitors. My trip will end soon. My next trip will not be until late May, which might be too far away.

I’m sitting here today wondering about suffering and stress, selfishly, my own. I’ve been feeling despondent for quite some time now. When I think about it, I think, well it’s just because the financial strain is too much. You want things that you cannot have because of financial inability. But want is just desire, and desire is the root of suffering, according to Buddhism. So all I have to do is stop wanting things. It does not seem like a tall order. Just let it go.

So why do I still feel like shit?

Maybe you are depressed again, my thoughts said.

But it’s spring! The darkness should finally be over. It’s time for productivity and warmth.

Ever since the light has come back, you have been on the verge of panic and destruction. The change in light has increased your anxiety, not alleviated your dark thoughts.

But I’m still on meds.

I know.

You’re welcome.

I do not know how I got there, via what train of thought, but I have returned to ruminating on the question of my PhD. I can’t seem to get anything done on it. I can’t seem to read, or work, or feel interested. But is that depression, or is that dissatisfaction with the topics at hand? I can’t figure it out. Depression causes disinterest and disinterest causes depression. They’re both there, fueling each other, but theoretically, fixing one will fix the other. In fact I have to fix the right one, or it won’t work. If it’s really that I’m disinterested, only altering my topic will fix the problems, as changing meds or changing depressive patterns will only temporarily fix that side of the problem, meanwhile my disinterest will ultimately re-fuel the depression. If it’s depression, fixing the disinterest will only switch my focus, and the depression will smolder on.

None of that even takes into account the issue I have often struggled with of life events vs. disorder. My aunt is dying. I am going through severe financial stress. I spend most of my time right now away from friends and family. These things are life events that are bound to cause rough times. Whether or not those rough times result in the symptoms of depression, should you seek treatment for it when there is a discernible, (probably) temporary cause? When you are going through troubling life events, you are supposed to feel bad. It is part of the experience.

Likewise, when you are disinterested in something, you are supposed to be disinterested. How else would you tell?

This would all sort itself out with time, if only I had time. More time is not permitted on my visa. More time is not permitted in a capitalist, competitive market. More time means more money spent, which I do not have. I have to get productive, and I have to get productive now. The life events can’t be allotted time to run their course.

I guess that answe

The sun is sleeping, and I want to join her

Tonight the streets ricochet with pops and gunshots. It is the 5th of November, Bonfire Night. Young people wander up and down the street, cheerfully taking advantage of the unusually dry evening. Shooting stars keep rising over the roofs. Bangers, fireworks, fizzles, sparklers, Roman candles, bombs, Catherine wheels, bees and Bengal flares, thunderflashes, salvos of stars, salutes of crosettes…They pull out all the stops for pyromania tonight. It’s been going on, actually, for 5 days. And each night it starts at 5:30 or so PM because it’s already dark enough.

The dark is what I came to write about, actually. It’s challenging.

The thing is, I actually have enough time right now to stop working in the evenings. I stop work. I make dinner. We watch TV. And then I get bored. We used to eat at 7pm, although on a theatre shift we’d snack at 5 and then eat something else at midnight when the day was over. Now I’m coming home from an office and making dinner as the sun sets, and we eat by 6. There’s another 4 hours left before I’m thinking of going to bed, but I don’t have to work. I don’t have anyone to hang out with. And it’s dark. Significantly darker than home, too, as the ambient city glow is more of an ember than a twilight. The streetlamps are fewer, and have not yet switched to LEDs. There are no office buildings being cleaned at night, with endless floors of fluorescent humming and custodial silhouettes. I love that there are no spot lit advertisements, to be read by no one. But it’s dark.

I feel like sleeping already. I feel dim and wasted. I’m disinterested. I’m bored.

Signs and symptoms. Warning bells. How long may I hibernate before the sirens ring out, depression?

How does one interpret rain

What makes it invoke one feeling in October and another in June?

It’s raining once again and the street smells of October. The streetlamp near the front door paints the neighbour’s tree orange, and the concrete an industrial fizzle. In my left ear I can hear rain against the back door and windows; it sounds as if there are goblins, only I can’t tell if they’re trying to break in by detonating Pop-Rocks or barbecuing tiny bubblewrap that drips with wet, tummy-rumbling fat.

It doesn’t rain here like it rains in Canada. At home there is rain that rushes in with the wind in clusters and sheets, repeatedly breaking upon your raincoat like a shore. There are drizzles and spitting and hail and drenchings. Here it rains wet, a globular, running nose sort of sound. It rains like crinkled plastic sheets, instead of the roaring of folding tarps. It rains like nursery rhyme rain, and when it isn’t raining it sprays, as if you are standing in the wake of a waterfall. When it rains at home I think about weather. When it rains here I think about wet, and soggy logs, and Paddington Bear’s yellow jacket.

I like to listen to the rain sometimes when I work. This is a great site for that, although after an hour you begin to hear the repetition and you have to turn it off. But it’s calming. It sounds like rain should sound, a higher pitched creature, as if landing on fields of grain, or on glass.

Today is a day that should ring alarm bells for me. I feel melancholy, in case that isn’t obvious. I feel exhausted, without having done a thing. I perk up to eat, but I’m not really hungry, just looking for a distraction. I’m staying up later and sleeping in later. I didn’t shower. I feel gross. My mouth tastes like buttermilk.

These are all Signs. Things could be going Downhill. Probably another sign is that I don’t really care. Bugger all.

Do I shower before bed to try to feel better? But then I won’t have a shower in the morning and that will make me lethargic tomorrow. And goodness forbid I have two showers in less than 12 hours time.

I don’t feel interested in things. I can’t find anything that even distracts me in a cheerful way. It’s all kind of boring.

Oh hell, this is really irritating. Now I have to Bother again to pick myself up. And now I’m whining. And so officially I might be lapsing into a bit of depression right now.

Would you believe I didn’t notice until I sat down to write? I’d best go sort this and have a cold glass of water.