Taking Stock

It’s a new year and the tendency is to resolve to be better in the year ahead. Three days in, I’ve done that, broken that and become a bit lost. So after a long absence, I thought I might return to blogging, something that has helped me so much in the past in figuring out where I am and where I am going. So here I am.

Major Depression:

Six years post-major depressive breakdown, I really do feel like I’m on the verge of breaking free. There have been several relapses, but they aren’t as bad now. My doctor and I have been lowering my medication over the past year, and I’ve managed to make some progress regaining my career. Low mood, hopelessness or sadness aren’t so much the issues now as anxiety. 

Generalized Anxiety Disorder:

The companion of my depression has been anxiety. This, I think, is my biggest obstacle at the moment, but here too there has been progress. I think for a long time my shame over mental illness fueled my anxiety and made me so afraid of people finding out. But a lot has happened to fight the stigma of mental illness and I think this has helped. I’m comfortable discussing it with some friends, I don’t dread going to see my psychiatrist, and I’m not ashamed to admit my situation to myself. 

But I’m currently not managing my anxiety very well.  I’m struggling a lot financially, the aftermath of my prolonged depression and career issues. I’ve taken significance steps to address this, but until these play out there is a lot of immediate stress in trying to stay afloat. So here is where I try to remind myself that I have taken the steps, that I’m almost at a point where I can balance things. But it’s hard. Not being able to pay for the simplest things, figuring out how I’ll feed myself and get to work until my next pay cheque arrives…it all adds up. My psoriasis has flared up and there are big red sores where I’ve scratched too much. I wake up with my fists clenched and tension up and down my arms. I struggle to sleep at night and yet sleep way too much overall. I’m sleeping in the day to avoid my worries, but this is just perpetuating things. 

I also stress about work. I’m struggling with a project and veer from worry to avoidance. This has affected my recent work and I’m seriously stressed about going in to work this week. I also worry about my work reputation, which compounds other worries. 

Right Now

I feel this post getting more negative as I confront my worries. So I will take a step back and look again at the big picture.

Depression: under control, with the exception of oversleeping

Anxiety: grounded in real stresses that I’m taking steps to manage

Medication: gradually lowering

Work: I’m functional, I have recovered some of the ground lost when I was laid off, and I have found a job and organization that I like

Social: I’m making some efforts to break free of my hermit like ways, though there is still a lot of work to do here

Shame: lessening as I’ve stopped self-stigmatizing and I have opened up to some

So that’s where I am in a nutshell. Thanks for listening 🙂

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6 weeks of blogging

I’ve been feeling for the past few months like I’ve been getting better. That after five years, I’m finally kicking this depression thing.

But I just looked back at the titles of my posts for the past 6 weeks. Of 28 posts, only about 7 were positive. The rest, on the whole, seemed to be about exhaustion and stress.

I wonder, am I fooling myself? Have I put on bandaids and forgotten to tend the deeper wounds?

Or am I being too hard on myself?

I was listening to part of Paul Gilbert’s The Compassionate Mind yesterday. The chapter focuses on the new brain and the old brain. The old brain is our instinctive brain, the part that’s quick to react, feel stress, fight or flight. And the new brain is the cortex, where all of our higher functions come in. The parts that separate us from animals.

The old brain was designed to keep us alive. To react to stress. And Gilbert notes, sometimes stress is a very valid reaction. Stressful circumstances bring stressed feelings.

I’m definitely in stressful circumstances right now, which are mostly beyond my control. Until I find a steady job and financial security, am I bound to stay in this limbo?

Self-Perception

I was at a networking social gathering this morning and was quite shocked: someone described me as bubbly and actually switched spots at the long table just to come listen to me and all the interesting things I had to say. There were other people we were also chatting with, but the individual said repeatedly that they had come over so they could talk with me.

Bubbly? If only you knew how anxious and depressed I’ve been for most of my life. Moments like that stick out and make me stop to think. How is it that some stranger can immediately form an opinion that I have a bubbly and exciting personality, when I myself think that I am dull, apathetic and tired? Is it that I’m someone with brief bright moments amongst the darkness? Or am I overly self-critical and unable to really see myself?

Even online here, a few of you have mentioned that I am so positive…. But I think that I am negative.

I do struggle a lot with self esteem. Particularly when it comes to relationships. I can’t see how any guy would be interested in me, let alone love me. I am so often alone because I think that I am not good enough for other people, that I have a recurring mental illness and who wants to put up with that? I’m also overweight, so I feel ashamed, to the point that I even avoid friends. I think I’m not smart enough, pretty enough, fit enough, etc., etc.

I find it difficult to fit these impressions together. But I’m so tired of being lonely. I need to stop pushing people away because I judge myself to be unworthy.

How do I find a healthy self image? How far along do I need to heal first? They say that you are in a bad place to start a relationship when you are depressed. But how do I know that I’m well enough? Because my perfectionist tendencies think that is such a long long way off. I’m so pessimistic that I think I’ll never be able to find that special someone.

Have you struggled with self image? What have you found to help you build a positive self image?

Adjusting to Circumstances

Well, I had optimistically planned to go swimming today. Or at least to the gym. But with my upset stomach that’s just not wise.

However, it’s not brought me down mentally. I’ve gone out of the house, bought some pepto-bismal, chicken soup and other things to make me feel better. I’ve also started on the cleaning. Now I’m going to rest again.

The fact that spoiled plans and expectations haven’t sent me on a downward slide is a good thing. Another sign that I’m healing, I hope.

Moving Forward

I’m feeling this strange urge to leap forward and start running or something. Like how I used to run half-marathons. I feel I’m ready to move on from depression. Like I’m maybe ready to go back to “normal”.

I just finished watching the finale of Six Feet Under. I’ve been watching the series from beginning to end over the past few weeks on HBO on demand. The final sequence has this car speeding along this road, moving forward through geography, life and time. It keeps speeding ahead. I’ve been stuck for so long but I felt like the road was calling to me. To travel more. To run. To do more. To start living again instead of struggling to exist.

I feel the urge to be active. To lose these 50+ pounds I’ve gained over my five years of major depression. To start doing whatever it is I’m meant to do with this life.

I hope this carries forward into the next few weeks. My job contract will end soon and I’m going to need some momentum to keep moving forward, to find a new challenge, or at least a job to keep a roof over my head in the meantime.

Tomorrow’s goal: to go swimming at my gym.