Friday, July 31, 2015

Music: The Most Lamentable Tragedy

Titus Andronicus is a band whose singer, Patrick Stickles, suffers from manic depression. Their latest album is all about that reality.

He was asked by The Atlantic if he made this record for people suffering from manic depression, and he replied:
Mostly just for one person that does.
Check out the album. I like I Lost My Mind, and Fatal Flaw.

A difficult evening.

Yesterday wasn't great. I got home and got progressively more depressed as the time passed. I watched the Amazing Race Canada and got upset at certain areas. I found myself pacing and wanting nothing more than to hurt myself physically in order to release some of the tension and pain I was feeling throughout my body. I ended up watching a few episodes of Portlandia until I laughed a bit, then showered and went to bed.

It's difficult talking about how depressed I get, and how dark and painful things are for me, when I'm not in the space any more. Understand that when I am in the space, language doesn't do it any more. Language loses its value. I am unable to really articulate anything, since I'm barely present. It's a dissociative, removed state. Everything is through a great distance. You're talking to me while I'm underwater. I'm looking at you through a thick fog. Part of it is similar to an absurd dream state. You're talking to me with marbles in your mouth. I'm trying to listen to you and process what you're saying but I keep pulling worms out of my ears.

My best friend called. I told her I wasn't doing great. She's been going through a lot of workplace drama, so I asked that she keep me up to date. It was difficult. I love her and wanted to engage her in her story, but I felt so limp and outside of myself. I could hear her talking and felt like I was in someone else's life, and had to do my best not to let it show.

I am grateful for her. It's difficult. I don't know, I'm so tired and this just keeps going, this discomfort. This constant management of myself.

Someone can only ever really understand if they suffer from depression. And if we understand one another, don't we also understand the reluctance to want to share that with someone we love?

You have done well.

This made me laugh. Found over here.

Quotes: Martha Manning in Undercurrents.

All from Undercurrents.

Undercurrents: A Life Beneath the Surface.

I just finished Undercurrents: A Life Beneath the Surface by Martha Manning. I'd seen the book on a few mental-illness themed book lists, I read it in under a week, it's a pretty quick read. It's a memoir written by a woman who by day is a psychologist. A woman in her 30's who slowly becomes increasingly depressed, as expressed in her journal. There are a ton of quotes that I highlighted, so I'm going to write them here, and respond to them.

She talks about the initial conversations she had with friends, and how their attempts at encouragement often alienated her even more.
I love them for caring, but I want to run from it. I have lost their language, their facility with words that convey feelings.
I know language, and the ability to really express what I'm feeling, and what how it feels is something I've struggled with. I kept reading, and I became fascinated by language and learning as much as I could vocabulary wise in order to be able to represent my struggle successfully. But when I'm down, when the depression sinks in, that part of me shuts off.
Some struggles are so solitary that they drown in words.
I often try and use the term guttural. It becomes so deeply basic, so harshly, brutally, pre-human. How do you represent it? Manning references physical pain, and a swollen ankle as something that almost relieved those around her:
It is a preference relief to have a "real," visible hurt. A hurt that people can recognize and understand. They wince in sympathy and know just what to do and what not to do. People can deal with this kind of pain. It all makes sense.
I can relate tot his, tremendously. Sometimes I fantasize about physically hurting myself, in order to have a physical, exterior focus to my pain. I remember as a teenager often pushing things too far when it came to pain toleration to the point where it would disturb my friends. But for me, it came with a kind of satisfaction. I relished it.

Manning also describes her relationship to suicidal ideation that sounds very similar to mine:
I find myself preoccupied with thoughts of death. In some moment of emptiness or pain, an image of dying comes to me: a car accident, a heart attack, a vicious and quick-killing disease. In the psychiatric vernacular these are called "passive thoughts of death." But in my mind these thoughts are quite active. Rather than feeling the revulsion and fear that would have resulted from thinking about these things several months ago, now I find them strangely comforting.

I would never kill myself intentionally. I couldn't do that to my family, my friends... But to have fate step in and give me a shove, that's a different matter. Then I have the exit, without the guilt. I am ashamed of myself for thinking like this. But more than anything, I am frightened that it makes me feel so much better to think about it. Somehow it eases the terror, the sense and I am condemned eternally to this hell.
And she describes how an understanding of suicide isn't necessarily hate and anger based`:
I don't want to die because I hate myself. I want to die because, on some level, I love myself enough to have compassion for this suffering and to want to see it end. Like the spy with the cyanide capsule tucked in a secret pocket, I comfort myself with the thought that is this ordeal gets beyond bearing, there is a release from it all.
This is the quote that initially had me googling her name:
Depression is such a cruel punishment. There are no fevers, no rashes, no blood tests to send people scurrying in concern. Just the slow erosion of the self, as insidious as any cancer. And, like caner, it is essentially a solidarity experience. A room in hell with only your name on the door. I realize that every person, at some point, takes up residence in one or another of these rooms. But that realization offers no great comfort now.
Once you start understanding your depression, coming to terms with it remains a struggle. Sometimes, I feel as if my depression is all that I am.
I think about the difference between having something and being something. They are only words, but I'm stuck by how much they convey about the manner in which the short-hand of mental illness reduces the essence of people in ways that labels for other serious illness do not.
How much of this disease is me? How much of it is my character? Are there any redeeming qualities to the disease?
All the romantic nonsense about depression somehow making one into a creature of unique sensibilities is easy to agree with when I feel good. Then I'm sharper, superior for having weathered something terribly difficult, or just plain pleased at having narrowly gotten away with something once again--like the snow day after the night's homework I didn't do. All of it stands up to the light, but it's bullshit in the shadows. I don't care about unique sensibilities. All I care about is surviving. My goal in life is just to get through the days.
Interesting comment on religion and existential dread:
She tells me that in AA they say that religion is for people who are afraid of going to hell. Spirituality is for people who have already been there.
A truth for me:
... my baseline for awful will never be the same.
The value of quiet. Something I was just talking to Ranjana about. How it isn't necessarily only a coping mechanism, but something that I enjoy.
I find myself growing quieter over time. But I'm so unused to it that I still equal it with being overwhelmed or depressed--a default in the continual cycle of inundation and backing off. And yet the quiet is part of who I am. Not just a result of the circuits blowing and the computer shutting down. It has merit all by itself.
The book definitely has interesting passages that spoke to me. Last weekend while staying with my brother, a friend of my sister-in-law's came over. She was discussing the state of her 20 year-old-son, who doctor's say was pushed into some type of psychosis due to extreme drug use. She said after hospitalization and electro-shock therapy, he is now back at home.

What I knew as electro-shock therapy is now referred to as electroconvulsive therapy or ECT. This was a shock to me, since I didn't know this was still in use. I thought it was out-dated and barbaric, since it's often the way it's represented in books and film that discuss mental-illness-related hospitalization. I've never seen One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest, but I know the seminal electro-shock scene well. Funnily enough, I just saw an article about how much damage was done to the reputation of ECT because of it.

Manning's book also goes into detail about ECT. She was hospitalized (willingly) and underwent five treatments. It seems to be the turning point of her depression. This affected me in a way I didn't expect. It's almost as if it opened a window. Maybe if things continue to be bad, it's an option for me.

It comes with risks. Memory loss. Confusion. But potentially also relief. It has a success rate of about 50%. And it is not a cure, but a treatment.

Historically it also seems to have been a treatment for "hysteria," if you're at all well-versed in feminist literature, you know that hysteria was a catch-all when treating women medically for hundreds of years, and was often used to silence and discredit women, and often hospitalize them against their will.

I'm going to ask my doctor about it when I see him next. It might be a viable option if things get worse.

Maria Bamford.

I've been aware of Maria Bamford for a while. First there aren't that many good female stand-ups (nothing to do with gender, more to do with stand-up, there aren't many good male stand-ups either, but yes, women are under-represented). I like her, but she also stresses me out sometimes.

This piece, however, is fantastic. Bamford is bipolar, and openly plays with themes of depression, anxiety and suicide in her stand-up.

The following is a story-time segment done for Above Average, called Psych Ward Visit.

Warning: this is her telling a story about being arrested and being placed in a psych ward, so it could be triggering.

She's just wholly original and this impresses me to no end. Brilliant.

There's also an interview with her on Modern Comedian. It's more of a personal interview. She talks about "cognitive confusion" that affected her after her new medication was administered, since thinking and speaking are a big part of being a stand-up (and you know, thinking is part of most jobs) she expresses how confusing it is to just accept that loss. Here we are, medicated and feeling incapacitated (to a degree) and needing to figure stuff out.

She references Crazy Meds, a site that helped her research her drugs, and have a laugh while doing so.

I'm also listening to her interview with Marc Maron, which is no longer available on his site (for free) but can be found on youtube. It's a fantastic conversation, there's a lot about mental health, anxiety and depression, and the way in which the neurosis of it all affects relationships, romance and basically our lives, constantly.

2015-08-03 - Update: Also watched Bamford on a public access show on mental health.

Here she is with W. Kamau Bell talking about her new special, which I need to find.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Sad Ghost Club.


I am in love with the Sad Ghost Club. I just ordered their limited edition poster, as well as the comic print whose cost funds workshops on mental health.

I'm obsessed! Love love love!

Sweet, sweet kindness.

Man is this sweet. By Riy whose work you can see over at Darning Socks and I Was Thinking of Starting a Zoo.

Have a cup of tea.

Sometimes, you just need a break. To feel that warmth in you.


don’t forget 2 give urself a break every now n again


made her into a lil gif :)

Gifs by Tuesday Alissia. She has a shop! Check out her website!

Crimes Against Hugh's Manatees.

Fantastic stuff by Hugh over at Crimes Against Hugh's Manatees. He even has a store, you can buy original pieces! Check him out!

On disrupting patterns and déjà-vu.

I had a session with Ranjana yesterday. It was hard. Not because of something necessarily difficult to discuss or move through, but because I'm really tired these days, and yesterday I was a little despondent. She even called me on it. I tried to explain that it was difficult for me to engage her, and that sometimes I get stuck in myself, and that she might need to pull me out. She said she felt she needed to lead the conversations. I agreed.

Oooooof. I just ha a déjà-vu and now I'm nauseous and confused.

That was a nice little pause. I checked out Wikipedia, and it basically goes over a lot of the assumed reasons behind déjà-vu but there doesn't seem to be any real data about it.

For me, I think they're things I've dreamed that I remember / overlap with something as it's happening. Sometimes I'll remember the dream as the déjà-vu is happening, and it's overwhelming and I get nauseous.

All of this, the ways in which we don't understand something that two-thirds of people experience, something routine yet almost metaphysical and magical, is extremely interesting to me. We just know so little about the brain, and it just seems like there is so much left to unlock. Déjà-vu feels like something else. Like something outside of the conscious, left-brain/right-brain experience.

A déjà-vu is such an odd, out of body experience, it's no wonder that in the past it was attributed to be prophetic. Left alone in the woods - I would have accepted it as being something bordering superstition and instinct.


Yesterday's session was good. Ranjana talked to me about patterns of thinking, and ways of talking to myself. For this week, she'd like me to make a point of doing things for myself, out of pleasure and self-care, and not as acts seen through a lens of negativity.

For example, I explained to her how I often self-isolate when I'm feeling overwhelmed. I describe this as a type of quarantine. A quarantine, to me, because during this time I'm despondent, detached, and so internally distraught that I might not be particularly open or pleasant for those around me.

Ranjana re-framed that as maybe just needing some alone time, and just telling yourself, "I'm going to go read for an hour," and it ending there. It being something you're doing for yourself, because in that instance it's what you want for yourself.

We talked about cognitive behavioural therapy, and what I've read on the subject. I said that I read a few books, some being too clinical and difficult for me to really relate to and absorb. That conversation lead to a funny exchange:
R: You're very conscious. You're very bright. You're not like other depressed people. 
K: Well those things and depression aren't mutually exclusive.
R: I know, but with you, it's different.
What does that mean!? Ranjana sometimes says things bluntly, and then when I challenge her on it she explains it. But this was at the end of the session, while she was filling out my receipt. I told her there is a seemingly high depression rate with authors, artists, comedians and creatives of all types. That maybe my being highly sensitive mutated into something darker through trauma. . . . But we didn't talk about it much. Time was up.

She then gave me a piece of writing. Why Habits Are Hard to Change by Dr. Kelly McGonigal, written sometime in 2010. The article discuses a research study that showed participants a tennis match, and gave them a computer program that made default in or out calls. They were to then accept the default call (is the ball in or out) or actively disengage from he default call.
These brain analyses suggest that going against the default in difficult decisions requires some kind of extra motivation or confidence. Otherwise, the decider in our mind is puzzled, and the doer in our mind is paralyzed. 
Knowing this can help explain why changing habits can be so difficult. If you aren't sure why you're changing, don't fully believe you're making the right choice, or question whether what you're doing will work, you're likely to settle back on your automatic behaviors. That's why self-efficacy-the belief that you can make a change and overcome obstacles-is one of the best predictors of successful change. The decider and the doer need a boost of confidence.
All of this makes sense, being depressed comes with an automatic assumption that things will not get better, and that you're doomed and hexed. Ranjana was trying to get me to see how making active choices can lead to changes. She referred to it as "making a dent" which I appreciated. One dent at a time. Let some light in.
So next time you're trying to make a change, figure out what your current default is, and remind yourself exactly why it isn't working. Then look for ways to change your default (clean out your fridge, set up direct deposit) so you don't have to fight the old default as often. And feel free to be your own cheerleader when the going gets rough. Look for the first evidence (a pound lost here, a dwindling credit card statement there) that what you're doing is paying off. The status quo is seductive, and we all need a little encouragement to lift our fingers off the keyboard.
I mean, the concept of "being your own cheerleader" when you're already down or in the midst of a depressive episode is laughable. But I can understand the value in re-setting habits and trying to re-route patterns that are disruptive or painful. But it's so very difficult. If you're in a painful space, the default also represents a tried and true way to self-sooth. Maybe it isn't ideal, but it's known and there's comfort in that.

I don't know where to begin with all this. I can try to make dents, and I have been, but it's a big ask. It's so much work. I'm so tired.

Last Man on Earth.

I really liked Last Man on Earth. I thought the first few episodes, where Will Forte is alone were fantastic. It really makes you ask yourself a bunch of questions, and accept the absurdity of the situation. 

What would you do? Where would you go? What would you wear? What would you steal?

Anyway, the title of the show says it all, though the main character soon makes a friend or two. 

The following exchange is still one of my favourite things ever, even months later. 


I even love the art. I want a print of "Dog Bridge" by Monet and Carole!

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Did you remember to take your meds today?


Simple, accurate.

I can't seem to find source material for this...

Every Single Night.

Fiona gets it.

An okay day.

Today is an average day. Montreal is going through some type of heatwave/humidity party so it's hot as shit everywhere, but other than that it's just an average day.

It's always an odd kind of feeling when I feel okay. I always wonder if this is what the neurologically privileged/neurotypical feel like. Those "normals."

I've been thinking lately about possibly working on something with the people in my life, about how I'm perceived, and my reaction to that. I'm still thinking around it, I would need to think about what my intent is, and where I want to go with it as a piece of writing. I was thinking of it featuring a question/answer format, dispersed between personal stories.

I'm not a writer. but these days I feel my writing has value due to how little I come across from the point of view of someone who is struggling and ill. It's a rarity. It's often written from the point of view of a professional writer, who went through something. It's enclosed. It's a piece in time.

It makes me wonder about what makes a memoir about struggle or stories based in experience interesting. For me, it's usually the prose. That's why I loved Lidia Yuknavitch's The Chronology of Water. She writes beautifully. I also really enjoyed her voice. Her experience. It just spoke to me. Her resolve. Her grit.
If you have ever fucked up in your life, or if the great river of sadness that runs through us all has touched you, then this book is for you. So thank you for the collective energy it takes to write in the face of culture. I can feel you.
It is for me. I can feel her. Granted, I read this book a while ago, but it left an impression, it really moved me. I plan on re-reading it.
You see it is important to understand how damaged people don't always know how to say yes, or to choose the big thing, even when it is right in front of them. It's a shame we carry. The shame of wanting something good. The shame of not believing we deserve to stand in the same room in the same way as all those we admire. Big red A's on our chests.
Shame has been an ongoing discussion with my new talk-therapy person, Ranjana. I have a session with her later today, and she asked that I prepare by thinking about my relationship with shame, and what I think about it, and when it presents itself. It's almost too much. I can barely even begin to think about it and where it comes from and why it lives in me.
This is something I know: damaged women? We don't think we deserve kindness. IN fact, when kindness happens to us, we go a little berserk. It's threatening. Deeply. Because if I have to admit how profoundly I need kindness? I have to admit that I hid the me who deserves it down in a sadness well.
There's also so unsettling about kindness because it's so - alien. And it's a comfort. And there's always that fear that I'll grow attached, and be disappointed. That it'll give me some relief, and sooth me, and be ripped away. So kindness in trickles, in the kindness of strangers and in smiles and nods, is fine. But true loving kindness is terrifying. It just feels like it could be . . . a trap.

it's a trap animated GIF