Monday, March 07, 2016

Mixed Moods and Metaphors

I've struggled with mental health/illness since I was seventeen or so. That's when I first started taking Paxil or Zoloft I can't remember which one. One of those early 1990's antidepressants. Since then I've taken everything under the psychiatric sun and seen so many therapists and doctors over the years that I'd really have to sit down and rack my brain to the remember them all. Kind of like trying to write down all of the people you've had sex with. A daunting task that will only depress you.

It never goes away is the stupid awesome shitty part. You're on this poorly maintained Ferris Wheel for the rest of your life and you can not get off. There is no cure. As we have chipped away at the stigma of mental illness, depression, bipolar and a cornucopia of other disorders- I think we may have created a misconception that once you get treated or take your pills you're pretty much fixed. Yeah, no. The medications we have right now help a lot but they don't completely fix or cure. They just try to keep you up from the depths of depression where you are in self destructive suicide territory.

Like everyone- mentally ill or not, every single day is a fucking challenge. I'm gonna go out on a limb and say, with mental illness it makes it a tad harder. Not looking for sympathy. I mean, I'll take it if you have some just laying around that you're not using. My therapist mentioned to me that managing mental illness is like having a part time job. That was an eyeopener for me. I chalk that up to not becoming a global superstar which is what I dreamed of as a child. I work in accounting not because I have a passion for it. What I do have a passion for is making it out of bed and not crawling right back into it. I have a passion for keeping a full time job and not having a complete meltdown and sabotaging everything. I've done that countless times. Turns out it's not a great plan for you or anyone around you.

My passion, at least for now, is trying to keep my head barely above water- financially, in my relationship. Sometimes just little things are hard. Showering, wearing deodorant, washing my clothes, doing dishes, feeding the cats. And it's hard to see where depression ends and pure laziness starts. Either way, it pisses people off. I'm left to struggle with that conundrum on my own- Am I depressed or just lazy?  I don't think I'm inherently lazy. I think I just get tired of fighting the demons in my head. And I walk by the dirty dishes because I just can't even. 

Let me use the dirty dishes as a metaphor for the messes in my life. Sometimes, especially when I am on a manic upswing I can fucking clean the kitchen like Joan Crawford. I can literally do the dishes and mop the floor and make sure every speck of filth is off that that damn dirty floor in ten minutes. I can call student loan companies with a "Don't Fuck With Me Fellas!" attitude and scare the shit out of them until I get a reasonable repayment plan. I can call the cable company and get our rates reduced to nothing and free HBO for 6 months. I can create a seasonal decor scheme that will shut down Pinterest. 

But when I'm depressed, as I said, the dirty dishes will sit there and grow and grow until it's impossible, literally impossible to battle them. Sometimes, when I'm dragging myself home from work I repeat to myself that "All I really need to do is feed the cats, feed the cats, feed the cats..." Then I can get in my bed and stare at QVC. My drug of choice. QVC is so gentle, so mindless, and silly- A flameless candle. A Clarisonic face massager. A set of ugly matching dishes. I hate the jewlery shows though.

The bad part, the most frustrating part of this is to watch those around me try to figure out what the hell is wrong with me and me not being able to explain. I have spent twenty years researching on the internet about depression and mental health. Reading books, listening to audiobooks, watching youtube videos trying to understand myself. And I've learned a lot- but a lot of it this info amounts to talking in circles. Like one of my psychiatrist told me, "We don't know why or how these medications work but they seem to help. Sometimes it's like throwing pieces of spaghetti at a wall and seeing which one sticks."

And I'll get angry with myself and people in my life and the world for not understanding. The support, however, that I've received has been like winning the lottery. B and R back in the day picking me up from my parents house and forcing me to get out of my house and basically babysitting me at there apartment. H listening to me talk in circles and vent relentlessly. K making me laugh till I can't breathe. H being my patient Facebook messenger therapist on call and also making me laugh until I can't breathe. And my parents- being superhuman putting up with my shit.

I remember laying in bed when I was in the midst of a very dangerous depression. I was going to go back to my parents house. Something that I would try to do to help me- getting away. But, interestingly, you can't get away from depression. It's not geographically based. You can't see it on Google Maps. Going to my hometown was not going to make me feel better. 

So laying in bed with the radiator heat suffocating me and the window cracked to let in the breath stealing cold air in I layed in agony. A feeling I can not stand to this day. I thought E was over me, I really did. Understadably! Times were real rough. I can be a handful. He said, "Why don't you just come out to play Trivia at the pub." I don't know if he knows but that may have saved me. Because I thought everyone was over me. We went to the pub and I sat on a chair in a medicated drooling stupor and played trivia. Embarresed to be around people, but whatever. I was back in the world for a minute.

And that's how it works for me. I have to keep trying to keep keep trying trying. It is so hard if I can let myself whine. And it's not going to be fixed with a medication, or if I stop drinking Diet Coke, or if I start jogging. Sure if I quit soda and started jogging I may be physically healthier and therefore would feel better physically and blah blah I know. But the highs and lows won't go away. I'm fairly sure I'll be riding this Ferris Wheel my whole life. And sometimes it's fun. There will be pretty lights and laughing kids to make it happier, there might be a dirty but surprisingly sexy carny with 2 teeth to keep me distracted. Sometimes it will be sheer hell and make me nauseous and I'll consider but hold myself back from jumping off. But around around I'll go.

Here Carrie Fisher's brief thoughts on Mania and Depression from "Fresh Air with Terry Gross"

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