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 🙂

A new year, mantras and compassion

Wow, it’s been over a month since my last post! My WordPress 2014 Year in Review report shows a definite drop in activity, from posting nearly daily last winter and spring to once month or so in the fall. I’ve missed blogging and this great community so I will try to be more active again. 🙂

With the new year, it is of course time for resolutions. But instead, I heard about another idea that I would like to try: making new year mantras. I like the idea because it’s not so absolute as a resolution — I will always do this or never do that. Instead it’s like regularly reaffirming an intention — much better for my perfectionist self, who avoids anything with the potential for failure. (And who sees the first small mistake as failure…)

I have yet to create my mantras, but it’s something I intend to put my mind to this week. A year or two ago my therapist recommended I do the same, so I think it will be a good step.

Speaking of perfectionism, I’ve been listening to an interesting e-book while doing some boring tasks. It’s called The Compassionate Mind by Paul Gilbert. I’ll write more on this once I’ve finished it, but it looks at the following:

  • the evolution of the human brain
  • how our brains and bodies are programmed to work and their discord with modern life
  • perfectionism and criticism and how they contribute to anxiety and depression
  • what compassion is and how it can be used in daily life
  • how a compassionate approach can help those with depression and anxiety, anger and other issues.

The section on criticism, perfectionism and anxiety made me realize that I focus a lot on my depression, but not so much on the anxiety that (I think) causes it. Most of what he says really resonates and I’m interested in trying out some of the compassion exercises he recommends in order to develop compassion skills. He says it’s all about practice and exercise, just like with building physical fitness. We’ll see if I can teach this old brain some new tricks!

Have any of you read some interesting thoughts on compassion? Do you have a mantra that really works for you?

Lost and Self-Absorbed

I’m going home for Christmas tomorrow. I’m sort of looking forward to it, not because it is Christmas, but to get out of my head.

With the end of my job, my schedule has opened up again and I’m lost in the emptiness. I’ve done nothing this weekend. Not even Christmas shop because I just wasn’t feeling into it.

If nothing else, for the week that I am home I will not be able to stay in bed and isolate myself.

I’m sad because I feel like I have lost most of my friends. I think they must be angry that I didn’t go to the Christmas party, the second gathering in two months that I missed. I sent an email explaining and sending everyone Christmas wishes, but only one person acknowledged the email.

I had all these good intentions of reaching out to friends this month, opening up to some about my depression so that they weren’t left wondering why I was suddenly so flakey. But I didn’t ever get around to Christmas cards. I didn’t even decorate this year, let alone make cookies or otherwise engage. So it is good that I am going home so that I have no choice but to engage.

I worry about New Years though. I wasn’t invited to my friend’s annual party… I don’t know if that means they aren’t having it this year or that they didn’t invite me because I ended up cancelling the past two years.

Anyway, all this to say that while I was doing so much better while working, as soon as I didn’t have that anymore I went off the tracks. What happened to the bubbly person of four days ago? The effects of isolation definitely hit me quickly.

I don’t normally make New Year’s resolutions, but I feel like I need to this year. I’m at a turning point, much better overall, but I keep tripping up because I don’t know how to deal with the fallout of extended depression: how to rebuild the friendships I’ve damaged or regain the active lifestyle I dropped.

I think it is all about attitude. Months ago my therapist suggested that I develop some personal mantras. Maybe that is what I will do: develop mantras rather than resolutions for the year ahead.