Tag: depression

Of Envy: Comparisons and stress

pexels-photo-477685.jpegThis is going to be another uncomfortable post to write, but I am gonna write it anyway. I’m like the car on the left, in case you’re wondering!

So, in my last therapy session, one of the things I narrowed down as one of the greatest and most consistent stress evoking factors for me was comparing my life to others. I guess I’ve known this for a while now, as whenever I sit down to think about what is upsetting me, I’ve always found that I’ve been sulking over my life, thinking how pathetic it is compared to the lives of the people I know.

Yes, it’s envy. We all feel that pang every now and then. Isn’t it normal for us humans to compare ourselves to others? It certainly isn’t abnormal, yet it can damage us in ways we don’t realize.

My mother always says, if you compare your lives to those who have more than you, you’ll always be sad, but if you look at those who have less than you, you’ll realize how lucky you are. I know there is wisdom in her words but I’m not so wise, yet…

What comparing my life to others does to me is send my thoughts into a negative spiral, thinking of what all I’m missing out on and what all I’ll never have.. I just add on a pity party to the mix and end up feeling miserable. Every time I see one of my college friends getting married (there are only a couple of ’em left btw), every time someone posts their kid’s photo on Facebook or every time I see my friends enjoy a great holiday with their husband and kids, or when one of my cousins bags a great job, I’m like well I’m I the only one who’s left out? The truth is I am. I am thirty years old and I know age is just a number, and I really want to believe that it is,  but still, seeing other thirty year olds sends me into panic mode.

The funny thing is I am not even sure I want all of that stuff. Or may be I do and I don’t want to admit it because if I do, then I have to live with the pain of not having what I want or need or whatever. I live in a society torn between the modern and the traditional. Somewhere between trying to preserve the tradition and embracing the modern, I am stuck, in no man’s land, with no where to go. It’s a curse really. Most of you would think, it’s my own fault that I am not willing to chose one and stick with it. I wish it were that simple. May be it is but I haven’t figured it out yet.

So while I figure out what I want in life, I decided to take out of some of the sources of this stress in my life, no points for guessing – Facebook and Instagram. I figured these things weren’t really adding anything to my life but stress at the moment. I wasn’t very active on Facebook but I had about a hundred friends, yet when I needed to, I had not a single soul I could talk to. So I thought what good is it, watching these people’s happy or happily portrayed lives when I have nothing to do with them. They weren’t really my “friends”. I permanently deleted my Facebook account. Instagram however took more effort because I use it frequently and I love seeing all the great nature photos and book posts, but there are other things that pop up and upset me there too.

Anyway, I am going to focus on my own life and my own journey without being distracted by what others are up to. My life’s curve is different, yes it scares the hell out of me when I see how much different but I’m going to live my life according to its own timeline. I will work on dealing with other people’s successes and happiness in a much healthier way and countering my own negativity, but I am going to need to be away from all that for a while. I cannot let this comparison and its effects add on to my depression. This was one thing I could control in a temporary way to help myself and I am glad I did it.

P.S. I thought of quitting blogging too, considering this is social media, but since I do this anonymously and because it helps me clear my mind and process some of my feelings in a positive manner, I decided against it. This blog is actually turning out to be a great help for me in coping with my depression.

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That flicker of hope…

pexels-photoAs my mood is see-sawing between feeling absolutely pathetic to feeling like I can turn my life around from one moment to the next, I am stuck in a zone between hope and hopelessness.

Hope. They say life is nothing without hope and it is only with hope that one can live. But you see, I have a problem with hope. Hope leads to disappointment and pain. I’ve had to face this disappointment in a lot of areas in my life, multiple times. It’s like one thing after the other. I hope and I hope and nothing. I cannot seem to catch a break. That’s the reason that I have become wary of hope. I no longer see any use of hoping. It seems more logical to give up hope. I’ve become convinced that the things I desire (and I don’t mean material things here) are simply not going to happen. So what’s the point?

There’s also a possibility that I don’t really believe in the hopes I hope. That I actually don’t have any hope or never have had any hope. And maybe because of this, I’ve never really gotten any of my hopes fulfilled. It’s a scary thought, because that would mean that I have accepted defeat or that I actually hope for defeat. It’s twisted. It’s self sabotage.

And here is the dilemma. Despite my conviction of giving up on hope, somewhere deep inside my spirit I still have a flicker of hope burning. I cannot get myself to completely abandon it and embrace hopelessness. I think this is because living with utter hopelessness is not only difficult, it’s impossible and pushes one towards suicide. And yet I can see the futility of keeping such a flicker burning and so whenever I start to feel hopeful, I am tormented. My mind keeps reminding me of how stupid I am to think that my future will hold better things.

It’s not just because of depression. If it was, it would be a relief because then I would know that it’s not really true. Unfortunately, I’ve seen that some people just have bad destinies and no matter what they do, they keep getting hit in the face and falling flat over and over in life. Some lives are just like that, like punishments designed by Ancient Greek Gods for Sisyphus and Prometheus. What if my life was one of these lives?

Funnily enough, I saw the movie Tomorrowland today, and the whole point of that movie is that we can change our destinies by thinking positive and not giving up and hoping for a better future. There’s this dialogue where they say that upon seeing the impending doom of the earth, people, instead of doing something to change it have accepted it and resigned to their fate. And I couldn’t help but think of how I am doing the same thing.

I wish I could say after watching the movie I decided to feed the right wolf, to use the movie’s metaphor, and that I decided to be hopeful and take charge of my own destiny but I can’t. I know I want to choose hope but I am unable to. There’s a constant fight between these two going on inside my head. A flicker of hope that refuses to go out and a hopelessness that refuses to settle in. I am tired. I don’t have any answers.

 

 

 

 

Facing my flaws

pexels-photo-211024.jpegThis hasn’t really ever happened before but today I feel worse after talking to my therapist. I went in feeling fine and came out with so many mixed emotions and ended up feeling shitty about myself.

Like I mentioned here , I wanted to discuss with her what I could do to feel better and a little less crappier when I am very depressed because I haven’t figured it out yet. Anyway, I made a comment about how I was in an “acceptance” phase, trying to accept my fate etc. What I did not realize was that she could see right through my fake acceptance. Because really, I have been just trying to tell myself that whatever has happened in my life has happened and I need to learn to accept it and live with it. This also includes giving up hope of certain things I want in life because clearly life is in no mood to grant those things to me. We discussed all my thought errors and how my coping abilities were below average and how I have unrealistic expectations which lead to my unhappiness. Deep sh*t. And then she made a comment about a recent relationship escapade I had. I can’t get that comment out of my head. F**k ocd! I am so angry at my therapist.

Then there was this whole episode about assertiveness. My psychiatrist had interns and as I walked in, she asked if I was comfortable with students listening in. I hesitated for a moment because I wasn’t sure. I knew I was not comfortable with them, but on the other hand, I have been an intern myself and I remembered how it used to be. So I hesitated and finally she says, be assertive, why don’t you say what you want, you would be the one to lose out if you don’t express your needs firmly. And I explain I have always been like this, and she says well then you must have suffered losses due to this in life and I say I always have.

Sorry about the rant like paragraphs.

I know what all was discussed today was related to who I am with all my faults and defects, and even though we also discussed how to work on identifying and improving these, I still somehow feel offended. It’s so hard to face our own selves, to look at our flaws laid bare, out in the open, for ourselves to see. We are hit by denial, shame, disbelief, but the truth is that deep down we know. We know who we are but we try and ignore it for as long as possible. We try to forget it, for a lifetime, if possible. If reflecting at ourselves is hard, what’s even harder is owning up to what we see. It’s one of the toughest things in the world to do.

I faced myself today, in the words uttered by my therapist. I did not like what I saw. Not that I like myself very much in general but I saw other things, things which I contended myself with believing were good. It was too much for one day, especially after the aftermath of a major depressive episode.

Today I am just angry and irritated. Today, I am filled with hatred. I don’t want to think the right things, I don’t want to do the right thing. Always trying to be nice, always trying to do the right thing is one of my *features*. I will own up to my flaws, but not today. Maybe tomorrow.

Get out of the house to get out of the funk

After spending two weeks sulking in bed, depressed, hating everything, the day came when I had to go visit my therapist and I was terrified of finding myself outside in public. Worse, in the library of the language institute where I studied french, where there are people, teachers and friends, I could potentially run into. But, the appointment had to be kept and I had to spend some time at the library waiting for my parents and so there was no way out.

I did not know how all this would go down. Two things happened which I think helped me get out of the hopeless mood I had been in. First, instead of avoiding meeting one of my friends who works there, I decided to go see her. I talked to her for a good ten minutes. I could not be all sulky in her office setting and talking to a person after two weeks wasn’t that bad. I did, on the contrary, avoid talking to one of my teacher I heard in the corridor. I wasn’t feeling up to talking about what I was up to with my career etc.

Then, I went to the library (which is my favorite place) and started reading a few books here and there. Nothing too seriously, although I should have been looking for research material. Just moving between the shelves and taking out random books seemed to lift my mood. I didn’t meet anyone and had some quite time with the books.

It was lunch time and I did not feel like going into the canteen where there were way too many people, it was noisy and I was not feeling up to it. So instead I did the second thing which helped me a lot. I went into the very beautiful garden which is situated a stone’s throw away from the institute and I walked around. Now, I have been going to this institute for four years and never did I notice that there was an entrance so close by. This short walk in nature seemed to have changed my mood completely. I took in some deep breaths and I started feeling alive again (and I am not overstating, I was feeling like dead person on the inside for days on end). It wasn’t too crowded and the smell of the fresh grass was lovely.

I even took a picture! I mean I actually bothered to open my bag, take out my phone and take a picture.

IMG_20170703_132219-EFFECTS.jpg

The point of my recounting all this is that by staying indoors we tend to stay in the same mindset, doing the same things over and over again (lying in bed mostly) and we lose perspective and we lose sight of a life which can exist outside of our depression. And the more you stay inside the worse it gets. The prospect of going outside becomes a challenge and we avoid going out all together. What going out does is shifts our focus away from ourselves for a while, away from the negative stuff. It’s a welcome change.

What I was fearing as would turn out to be another bad day actually turned out to be a day that made a huge difference in how I was feeling. It redirected me towards hoping for recovery. Since that day, I have started going on evening walks to our neighborhood park and what’s even better, my parents go with me. I actually look forward to going outside as I’ve been inside all day and it makes me feel energetic afterwards despite the heat (it’s near 35 degree Celsius where I live, peak summers). Plus there’s always the satisfaction of doing something good for your health.

Now I do realize that I wouldn’t be going into very social situations which would require too much contact, but rather more solitary kind of things, but that’s the first step. Just getting outside even if it is for a 30 minutes walk on your own. I know it seems difficult and you’re not able to convince yourself, and it just seems too hard, but give it a try. It might just be the thing that kicks out some of the negativity inside our heads.

 

The Lies Depression tells

“I’ll never get better”, “This is hopeless, there is no future”, “Everything will just go wrong”, “I hate myself, I hate my life”, the list can go on and on, forever. When we’re under the hold of depression, all these thoughts seem so accurate, it’s difficult nay almost impossible to see them for what they truly are. LIES. PLAIN WHITE LIES. Lies depression is telling you, twisting your mind into believing these things to be the reality.

The truth however is different. What is needed to decipher it, is realizing that what your mind is conjuring up and trying to get you to accept as the truth is very different from reality. This is one of the first things I learnt in therapy. To recognize the “depression speaking” in my head and then to challenge it. Challenge it by searching for proof against these negative thoughts.

The only problem is that this seems easy to do in hindsight, when your thinking isn’t clouded and you can see things from a different perspective.  To do it while you’re mind is under the deepest, thickest fog is a challenge in itself….forget about challenging your thoughts. The only reason I could admit that these thoughts, especially the one saying “you’ll never come out of this” was a lie is because I am now better. And truth be told, I haven’t got the least idea of how this can be done while you’re suffering. Especially when for some of us, our life’s situation makes it hard for us to deny what our negative thoughts are telling us.

The issue my therapist raised in the last session of me having wiped my mind clean off the facts I learned about my depression and how to deal with it doesn’t seem fair. I was in such a bad state that I simply did not have the ability to reason with my own mind. It wasn’t before the medication kicked in that I began to think otherwise. Even then, I couldn’t just get myself to be up and running. I had no energy and I was still sleeping through all day, feeling okay one day and bad the next (mood swings are one of the symptoms and I should have been aware of them according to my therapist). In fact, the day before my appointment, I did not do anything at all the whole day, I was dreading leaving the house, I tried reading a bit and then suddenly at 7 pm I got up and tidied up my room. I don’t remember how that happened.

Anyway, what I would really like to learn and discuss with my therapist next is how to come out of the negative thoughts while you’re feeling too depressed to even think. Is medication the only hope? I do remember her telling me though that until you learn the techniques and strategies to cope well enough, medication is there to help you just like the training wheels on a bicycle for kids who are learning to balance. That’s a comforting thought. I don’t know why I had forgotten it.

Another truth is that I was judging myself (as usual) and being hard on myself for having wasted all the past therapy sessions and being back at zero again. To make the same mistake again is foolish they say. I have fallen down the ladder again, I accept it, but I am going to climb back again, I am going to rise and I am going to learn my lessons better this time. I want to believe in a better future where things go right for me and not in the desolate place depression wants to send me to.

I cannot express enough of how thankful I am to my family for getting me help. For everyone going through depression, I want to say this: “I know it’s too dark right now to see, to believe, but just remember it will get better, no matter what your mind is saying right now. It will get better. Seek help. Don’t believe the lies depression is telling you. You will get better.”

 

Side effects of “forgetting” your depression

“You’ve rejected your diagnosis at a visceral level. It’s like you are a clean slate. You don’t remember you have episodes of depression. And so every time it hits you, you are taken by surprise and don’t know what to do. Do you remember the strategies that we have talked about in the past of how to manage your depression better?”

Me: Umm…NO

Yeah that was my therapist the other day, at the end of our session. Apparently, during the last year when I was not depressed and happy, yes actually happy for a whole year, I basically forgot I had depression. Well, no I didn’t forget I had depression. I just didn’t think I would have it this bad…again. I got busy with living my life and forgot about what to do when the symptoms hit me. Apparently, that’s a bad thing. Okay, being happy is not, forgetting the lessons from therapy is.

Oh well. I can’t deny it. The lady had a point. I should have been better prepared. She said if you don’t inculcate the coping mechanisms into your life, she and I are going to have to go over this again and again.

I also heard about my ‘drug default’. Yes, I made the grave mistake of stopping medication on my own, as my own decision, without consulting with my psychiatrist. She had advised a lower dose but not told me to stop exactly. I have to admit, it wasn’t an intelligent decision on my part. So if you are reading this, I would strongly recommend you don’t play with your medication and don’t do any experiments with going off or on them without professional opinion. It cost me a lot doing just that.

That said. One of the factors why I “rejected my diagnosis” was the fact that at a deeper level, I also rejected the fact that I need medication to control my symptoms and function normally. I am aware it’s something I have to work on. I can’t deny the fact that the medication helped stop the non-stop relay of negative thoughts (the drug that I am prescribed, fluvoxamine, is for my ocd primarily) in a few days and I am feeling much better.

Coming back to what my therapist said. It’s true, even though I find it hard to believe, that I was surprised and acted like I didn’t know what I was experiencing were symptoms, just like earlier . I did not want to even go see the doctor.

I have to admit, this time my condition really put the “recurring” into my diagnosis of Recurring depressive disorder. I am finally beginning to see that what I have is chronic and I have to be aware of my moods, of things that can trigger my symptoms and most importantly I have to have my coping mechanisms ingrained in me like second nature.

Now that I think about it, we do tend to be adamant in accepting our diagnoses, we want to fight tooth and nail to not be put into labels like that, to not be suffering from x or y. Even if we don’t recognize it consciously, we do it at a subconscious level.

So until my next session, I plan to pull out all the lessons I had learnt during my previous visits and try and create my own strategies manual. I am going to put into clear words all the thought errors I make, all the tendencies I have of taking things the wrong way, what all triggers my downfall, what symptoms I experience, and the things I can do, the things under my control, to help improve my condition.

While I begin to do that, I would really like to know, has anyone else ever “forgotten” their diagnosis like me? Also, I would really appreciate if you could share some of your own strategies you’ve used successfully in the past or do so in the present to reduce the impact of the symptoms on your life.

 

 

Don’t leave me alone when I am depressed: Reaching out

pexels-photo-167964“I just want to say somethings which have been on my mind. I feel I should explain what I need from you sometimes, because I don’t think you necessarily understand. You know if I had been physically ill, you would have asked how I was doing. I was really mentally ill when we met the other day. I was feeling like crap. I was in hell for the next few days. I don’t blame you. I know I isolate myself. I know I become distant when I am depressed. But you need to realize that my depression is an illness and I can’t always control it. I went to the doctor a week ago, I am back on medication and I will be starting therapy again. I know it’s not easy to deal with someone with depression but I don’t want you to leave me alone when I am sick. That’s when I need you the most.”

You want to be left alone yet you don’t want to be left alone.

Depression has a cruel way of making sure we distance ourselves from friends and family. With your mind working against you, choking you with negative thoughts, communication is hard. You don’t feel like talking to anyone. You’re either irritated or angry or simply non responsive. You get set off by the most trivial of things. Or you simply want to go hide in the deepest darkest hole and never see anyone anymore. So it gets impossible to reach out.

We tend to isolate ourselves, and then it’s easy to think that we are forgotten by those we thought cared for us. It hurts that someone doesn’t want to deal with us when we’re like this. The feeling of being abandoned takes over.

Lately, I’ve been feeling this about a certain person in my life. I was angry and disappointed but I love them so then I thought, wait a minute, let me see what it must be like for the other person. Of course, some of them might just not care at all. But maybe they don’t understand what we are going through, or why we are acting distant. May be we need to tell them, if they care to listen, about what’s going on.

I also feel that people are not comfortable talking to someone with mental illness because they don’t know what to say. I think that this stems from not having enough knowledge, and so it’s vital that we put out as much as we can of what’s it like for us living with a mental illness. So people who do care can understand better and help us through our struggles.

My depression is telling me “no body cares”, “they are happily ignoring you”, “they aren’t really your friends”, I will not listen to it. So I texted the above message to the person, and now I wait for a reply. I don’t know how they will react. But at least I made an effort to reach out, it took a lot to do so but I knew I had to for the sake of my relationships.

 

“But alone you must drink life’s gall”

I want to share this poem by Ella Wheeler Wilcox called Solitude. It describes the truth about loneliness and life so perfectly. I always find it comforting to read when I feel isolated because it reminds me that most people will only be by your side when all is well and disappear when things go downhill and that I should not expect too much from people. I find that this is especially true for mental illness.

Laugh, and the world laughs with you; 
Weep, and you weep alone.
For the sad old earth must borrow its mirth,
But has trouble enough of its own.
Sing, and the hills will answer; 
Sigh, it is lost on the air.
The echoes bound to a joyful sound,
But shrink from voicing care.

Rejoice, and men will seek you; 
Grieve, and they turn and go.
They want full measure of all your pleasure,
But they do not need your woe.
Be glad, and your friends are many; 
Be sad, and you lose them all.
There are none to decline your nectared wine,
But alone you must drink life’s gall.

Feast, and your halls are crowded; 
Fast, and the world goes by.
Succeed and give, and it helps you live,
But no man can help you die.
There is room in the halls of pleasure
For a long and lordly train,
But one by one we must all file on
Through the narrow aisles of pain. 

Source: Poemhunter.com

 

Oh! Give me some more time I’m stuck in a vicious cycle

pexels-photo-53918Depression takes a toll on life. It costs to be depressed…and I don’t mean solely in terms of money, but in time. But don’t they say time is money. You lose out on things because depression takes time. It takes time to realize you’re suffering from this malady, it takes time to accept it, it takes time to accept you need help, it takes time to get an appointment, it takes time waiting for your turn, it takes time to find a medication that works, it takes time to go through the therapy sessions and it takes time for the medication and therapy to start working.

Sadly, in today’s fast paced life, we don’t always have that kind of time and while you  go through this process, life can pass you by. Heck, while I was waiting for my turn at the therapist’s office, my friends all got jobs, got married and had kids. And I am still here, waiting.

There is another dimension to this, on a micro level or a daily level. Everyday of depression, when you’re not getting out of bed, when you’re not feeling energetic enough to do anything, when your brain isn’t working all that well, you end up wasting time. This feeling of having wasted precious time hangs over your head, inciting the guilt. The guilt of having wasted days on end, being unproductive, makes it even harder to get up and do something. The cycle repeats itself over and over each day. As the hours and days pile on, the difficulty increases and the anxiety takes over. The anxiety makes everything ten times worse.

You get stuck in this vicious cycle and it seems impossible to get out. You start hating yourself, feeling worthless and think you’ll never achieve anything. That’s the kind of state I find myself in today. It’s freaking me out. The funny thing is, I know this feeling all too well. I’ve been through this cycle before.

I am currently on summer break and I was supposed to do so many things. I am taking a very important exam in a couple of months, an exam vital to my career and I needed to prepare for it. I am starting the third semester of my master’s program in twenty days, and I was supposed to have narrowed down a research topic. I had so many personal goals I had set my mind to. What I did end up doing? Nothing. Zero. Nada. And it’s scary. I don’t want to ruin everything again. I am so close to achieving my goals, I am afraid I’ll wreck it all.

It’s so very hard to pull yourself out of this vicious cycle. I try to force myself to work. I try and I fail. I try to distract myself from this feeling of dread in my chest.

I know the answer. I know how to get out of this roller coaster ride on repeat. It’s setting small goals. Taking baby steps. One step at a time. If only I can take the first. I know if I manage to do one thing, it’ll make me feel better and I can build on it.

I know I need to give myself time to feel better, to heal, to bounce back from this episode. I know the energy and the will to work will come back, but it will take time, oh but…..Time I don’t have.