Glorious Holidays

Like most people with ongoing depression issues I struggle with the holidays and find this whole time of year overwhelming.

Unlike several members of my intimate circle (friends and family) I like spending the christmas hols with my parents and siblings  -our political differences are not so dramatic as to cause real hurt and we are quite good avoiding ‘issues’ where that seems to be required. Though they often don’t understand my choices we seem to have reached a happy détente and I feel no need to rock the boat so to speak.
Similarly, I am too far removed from office politics to give a shit about who I should kiss when or how I should frame our holiday schedules to make them make sense to monogamous folk.
And yet even having decided to not worry about whether people know about my intimate relationships or not, and whether or not that changes how I have to live my life – I am still stressed.

I am stressed not just because being open is not sufficient protection for the people I care about and they still have to deal with the judgements of others both on the basis of their decisions and mine – and yes some of our more poly sceptical friends our coming round to at least the “well I don’t approve but I can’t see anything obviously wrong with YOUR lives” view but its not quite making up for the “I’m not saying you can’t but you do know you are fucking up x’s life don’t you” camps… There are people I have known for years I just don’t know how to say to – “I get you care but back the fuck off because we are making this work by making our own rules and your constant whining/worrying is making it harder”… yes this makes it hard at this time of year when everyone is all about fucking hetero, mono family values but because actually its not as hard as just being expected to talk to people.

All the fucking parties. Organise this, make sure you have x,y,z together for when you see so-and-so…. leaving the house is a fucking struggle in spring when no one notices and you only have to get to the shops/see Mrs A./ go to your Dr.’s appt once a month or less but in december when everyone has a party and you need to do the shopping and getting a dr’s appt is a miracle, suddenly a week is a stack of unreasonable goals piled on almost impossible imaginary ideals.
And oh gods above they are all so cheery – if I believed what I heard at parties I’d know for sure that their relationships always got better and their jobs got more interesting

But that’s not what I feel as I curl up and battle back the tears before each time I venture outside, each time I wonder how to stop the shaking and hyperventilating to start a new conversation and everytime I want to apologise as someone starts to congratulate me on our new venture.

The desire to tear my skin apart is worse than it has been for nearly a year, my shoulder is hurting a lot again and I feel like a failure before we have even begun. Yay for self-fucking-confidence and all that shit.

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On Anxiety

I never used to think of myself as the anxious sort. As a child, I had a few repetitive  nightmares but nothing that cowed me; I was never terrified of any particular thing – even when I was obsessed with the causes and effects of chemical warfare aged 8… When I was small, I would face any challenge, not undaunted, not without any sense of danger, but with no sense that I would ‘fail’. My parents worked hard to make sure that I never felt I had to conform to fashion or to gender stereotypes – in fact they actively encouraged be to be individual, different, to stand up for myself and to question authority and I was good at all those things. I think it made it harder to admit to being afraid.

When I first began to recognise that I had slipped into the rabbit hole of depression I still didn’t see anxiety – I was reckless with my personal safety and I thought of my inability to face my life as being simply a manifestation of being suicidal… looking back though I see how much the depression was entwined with fear. I thought that I was a failure, and since I was terrified of failing at anything I was tormented almost as much by the fear as by the overwhelming certainty of my own awfulness (& yes I still fight those feelings).

Only now do I see the beginnings of the anxiety that haunts me every day. The protections I put in place to face people each morning were there at 14 even before the idea of them dropping away plunged me into misery. It easy to see how each quick tot calmed the nerves; easy to see that leaving exams to sob and shake on my knees because I could no longer control the hyperventilation were early panic attacks; easy to see how my sense of isolation led to the failed attempts to walk into seminars… I have watched the words dance chaotically across the page in every exam I have taken since I was 15, as I slipped in and out of full consciousness whilst hyperventilating and couldn’t even admit I was afraid.

Sometime in my first few months at uni I realised I wasn’t just “stressed” & a bit “depressed” I was pathologically miserable and terrified of everything around me. I muddled through partly by being more afraid not to and mostly because of a rather wonderful girl. However, I was offered a job by someone I trusted & didn’t want to let down in my 2nd year of uni and I believe it has got me out of the house most weeks since even once he left. All through 2 years of undergrad & 2 years taught masters I had panic attacks on public transport and every time I went into certain shops and more significantly I had panic attacks before I left the house each time I did  and again before going into lectures or seminars, even leaving in the middle to freak out in the toilets whilst trying to contribute (greek translation I’m looking at you especially) but I went to work and played my part because they relied on me to do so and those moments of being forced to fight saw me through university.

So every sodding day I fight

Sometimes the walking out the house isn’t too bad and crowds of people are easy to ignore; sometimes the knots even unwind a little but often it takes me 30 mins to walk out the door just to walk the dog and I never know how to express myself. As well as the physical discomfort of anxiety (racing heart, shortness of breath, insomnia, shaking, sweating, nausea, headaches etc.) there is a sensation of permanently struggling to get one’s head above water, of inadequacy, uncertainty of being permanently scrutinised. I grit my teeth and know when I need to find a quiet space and glass of water to stop the shakes and the stuttering. I don’t have many panic attacks now – I am much better at controlling my breathing  at least – and I have both the CBT and mindfulness techniques for recognising illogical ideas, living in the moment and pushing myself to keep going. But knowing something isn’t true or isn’t harmful is not the same as stopping feeling like it is (logic is not enough to stop the whirring) and it doesn’t go away.

Turns out I’m pathologically anxious after all

Springtime (for Hitler?)

There is something about this time of year that I struggle with.

I love that the world is erupting into blossom, our veg patch is taking shape and small creatures of all varieties are being born (including a brand new ‘monkey’ born to some very good friends who will be suffering the 3 of us as godparents).
I love that W & I have our legal anniversary at this time of year.
I love that this is a time of beginnings and hope.

But its hard.
Its hard in part because the anniversary of mum’s death is coming up (17 years this time around) and its hard in part because the annual beer festival in our area consumes so much of my time and energy.
Its hard because its a time of beginnings and hope for so many people – after the cold, dark, wet of winter I watch people who hadn’t noticed their moods dipping begin to lift and shine, I watch their projects become invigorated and their activity levels rise and I know that isn’t me. Don’t get me wrong the dank, drear days of winter grind heavy for me too but unlike 75% of the population the lift that springtime brings seems to somehow emphasise that my depression is here to stay. It is like the way that the 1st lift of anti-depressants gives some people the energy for suicide that they had been lacking only on a broader scale, and frankly it makes me miserable as hell.

This year I get to be extra mopey about it though. This year real life is having a bit of a dig just to check I’m paying attention. W’s mum has been ill for a long time but its getting very bad and she needs to go and look after her for a bit. We need to sort proper full-time care and benefits and stabilise her condition as much as possible. I have known this was coming for a while and I think we are prepared for the financial implications (though it might put back my hopes to get pregnant in the next year) but I can’t say I’m not cross that ‘fate’ has let it fall over our anniversary, mum’s anniversary and my shoulder op date – quite frankly I expect to win the lottery as compensation.

So if I post over the next month expect whinges about the UK benefits system, my father-in-law and health-care professionals in NI and gushing compliments to my wife’s strength, commitment, care and honesty and to B’s patience and support.

 

What do you Want?

I read a very perceptive blog post recently in which the author commented:
“Wanting something, getting my hopes up, expressing a preference, letting desire creep in–that makes me vulnerable. To deprivation, to loss, to mockery, to pain. Not wanting feels safe. Ultimately, though, all it gets me is preemptive deprivation. There’s a lot of emptiness in not wanting.”

It would be fair to say that I am not very good about wanting stuff for precisely the reasons outlined above and because there is a little bit of my depressive brain that tells me that I do not deserve to want. I have not trained myself into the habit of creating a series of goals from the mundane to the fantastical and I am even more terrified of asking for things. In general I have got away with faking these things for most of my life – pick something that sounds a bit like what everyone else wants and amble towards it without commitment and/or work your life around aiming for the things that those nearest and dearest to you want.

It all falls apart somewhat when the expectations of normal life fall away (in my case through lifestyle and relationship choices) and those nearest and dearest to you are even worse than you are at picking things that they want.
B is actually a little more open about what he desires unless his mood has dipped significantly but whilst he does talk about dreams he is a little more conservative and often unclear about his plans. On the other hand, my dearly beloved wife, W, couldn’t admit to herself wanting even so much as a steak dinner for fear of imploding (and believe me she nearly always wants a steak dinner). Wanting is anathema to her being; it involves a consideration of the self (where only others are acceptable), it suggests a striving against the status quo (which might be non-catholic), it potentially involves conflict with those she has been taught to defer to such as her parents and the social order. In short getting her to admit to wanting to be my wife was a miracle & wanting  a lifestyle or even a holiday is beyond impossible.
I believe there are secret fantasies lurking there in her sub-conscious surrounding grandchildren and cake and deer-stalking but I can’t begin to coax something out of her that I can use to create a life-plan and this means I have to try and work on my own desires.

And what do I want?
A family, a little small-holding and a steady source of income.
I want my family to be happy and I want to help make it that way

Drat!

So apparently depression has properly been biting my backside the last month or so.
Best laid plans have not come to fruition and I haven’t really been able to see where I am going or why. Mostly I have slept, felt tired and complained about how much shoulder hurts (apparently the new physio exercises are very uncomfortable and not making the days easier), and all i have wanted to do is sleep and curl up in the dark.

So.. um. Sorry

 

Unscheduled Absence

So I have started a few posts and failed to finish them recently..
Partly this has been the result of having to fight the depression and anxiety off with a big stick and partly because ya know life..

  • Changing of the guard at work has required shifting patterns & bank holidays take up time
  • Family death and illness has required attention and emotional support
  • My shoulder is giving me hell and wrecking my sleep
  • I have a conference paper and research proposal to write – by the end of the week
  • I’m still finishing up my thesis edits (just pg nos to go!)
  • I have some new things to research for the museum..

So just wanted to say: I’m still here, I’m not doing too badly, I have plenty of projects going on and I have some stuff I want to talk about here. Bear with me.

Demons

Head demons tell us lies.

Brain says pointless, useless, horrible trouble-maker – you ruin the world around you.
Evidence shows nothing.

Mind imposes doubt, worry, insecurity.  Head suggests everything we have ever done was a fraud, every person who ever cared was patronising, pretending and pained by our existence.The world and our lovers offer nothing but compassion and hope.

Why do you suppose it is easier to believe the lies of our own demons?

Not quite enough

I hate feeling like a disappointment  and a burden – I hate knowing that the people I love don’t necessarily feel that way about me but that I can’t shake it.
I hate that despite “knowing” how the cognitive dissonance and logical fallacy works, understanding the tricks my mind plays on itself and being able to follow all of the practical suggestions I still can’t change the way I feel about myself.

I just can’t remember how it feels not to feel like a failure. Everything I do lets someone down- its a good day when its only me who is disapppointed. I fight to feel like I am not just begging for reassurance and demanding attention and not giving people the care that they need and deserve.
I work hard every day to make sure that other people don’t feel I rely on their feelings to get by in my own self-worth. I know that it is hell not to be able to ‘fix’ that sense of inadequacy – I know how hard it is to accept that no matter how much you love someone you can’t make them love themselves and so I try conquer these feelings.

I am sorry I am hard work. I am fighting, even when I am tired
I have too much to do and too many adventures planned not to win the fight… I just want to be the best that I can be.

New Year – New Health Plan

When I logged into my surgery’s online system today it told me it had been 3 months since I last made an appointment..

I haven’t been that long without seeing a Dr in about 5 years. This is the first time I have spent 2 months without painkillers in that time and for a lot of it I was also on various Psych meds. Ironically I am going back because I need to ask for more contraceptives – otherwise I’d stick med free til I crashed..again, but as it is I don’t know what to say.

Despite the cold weather I am currently functionally mobile and haven’t reached for the co-codamol in tears of pain for at least 3 weeks. This either means that not sitting at the laptop typing for my thesis has reduced the pressure on my joints to an acceptable level (i.e. one that won’t cause trouble in the immediate future) or I have become indifferent to the Naproxen and only occasional painkillers (read extra co-codamol as required) were making any difference anyway.
I am trying to do more physio exercises while my motivation/guilt is high and am really hoping that my joints are doing better. I know that I don’t want to ask for more painkillers, I feel like a junkie just asking, and I really want to focus on making the physio work for me and so thats the plan but in my heart of hearts I know its only a matter of time til I beg for them back again cos that grinding sound aint going away.

As for head-pills.
Fuck
I’m ok. In so far as crying everyday and not being able to get out of bed is ok.
Logic says its the weather and the uncertainty of waiting for a viva added to the sense of pressure about getting a job and finally being a worthwhile financially contributing member of your family that is making you anxious. Logic says sunshine and flowers and exercise and hard work is gonna get you out of this idiocy babe. Logic says eat healthily, get fresh air, exercise, think positively….
Head says – keep doin stuff dammit, wash the dishes and the clothes, walk the dog, do the exercises, write the applications and the articles – you’ll get thereHeart says – I don’t wanna face the world today, hold me and dont let go, please dont die on me, for fucks sake pretty please tell me you want to be with me and you wont kill yourself, just one cut to make the world a little less chaotic, please let me sleep …
But will January blues fade away? Should I go back to citalopram the most successful nothing-in-particular of the past? Is sertraline or something else beckoning? Is it in fact not such a big deal and rather worth skipping over in favour of worrying about it later?

Decisions to be made. Least of which is my wife doesn’t want to be a mother yet.

Words on Living with Pain

A Fragment.
(Not a definitive description. Not even a drop in the ocean of the different experiences of just one person.)

In my head an awareness of pain sits like static from across the room. It hums at me, irksome and untouchable, just off kilter enough to make me feel irritable. But I am used to this and concentration on other things allows me to forget it is there. Stopping reminds me, getting tired reminds me, I remind me.
Sometimes the buzz of static grows bluebottles. Extra whining buzzes on top of the dull hum. They swoop closer or settle silent only to be raised up by something unexpected. I cannot see the cause of the bluebottles, I don’t know why the short bursts of extra pain appear or settle down again. I cannot open the window for them or squash them, I must be quiet and hope they fall asleep or find their own way out and leave just me and the static.

Bad days are when the white noise of pain that makes it so hard to concentrate gets so loud I can barely hear people’s words or complete simple tasks. Bad days are when I can’t decide if I need utter isolation to practice breathing or to do everything at once to try and shut it out until I am so exhausted I can sleep. Bad days are snappy, weepy, untouchable, unpredictable, pacing-the-floor, staring-at-the walls days.
But Good days, well I like good days. On good days painkillers work, on good days birdsong is more distracting than the static, on good days I am strong enough.

[Incidentally this description is equally valid for Chronic physical pain and for the mental pain of depression]