Monday, August 31, 2015

Don't think about it too much.

Art by Anastasia Tasou.

I'm a blast at parties.

This past Saturday was my buddy E’s birthday. She’s had a rough go of things this year with her divorce from a not-so-nice guy and the emotional and financial fallout from that. Saturday was the first time I've seen her house full of people (he was controlling about friends and social events) and she seemed really happy. 

A highlight of the night for me was when I remarked that when the teacher population was high, all they talked about was school policy, and when the ratio changed and the childhood friends came around, they told old stories of things they did to each other ("You told on me to the teacher! Remember?!"). They then asked me to choose a subject for the conversation and I called their bluff and said “Syria.” I was ignored. They went back to talk about teacher drama.

It was an okay night. I mean, I got progressively more comfortable as the night wore on and the group whittled down. I don’t like large groups. I don’t like strangers. I don’t like people screaming over music to have a conversation. It was just a bit much. 

I also don't really like a segment of E's friends - and she knows this. I also don't drink, so I'm sober to deal with the social awkwardness of it all.

I made an effort because I knew it was important to E.

It’s just such an absurd combination of being both an out of body experience, whilst also never having been so bodied. I'm disconnected and not at ease in the space, the people and the ease with with they socialize being totally alien to me, and then my body is this anchor of which I'm hyper-aware, in that I'm us uncomfortable with the space I occupy. I can't be easy and free. I am not easy and free.

Someone made a fat joke at one point, and I just sat there and did my best to seem unphased. I guess gym teachers have a way of making the chubby kid feel like shit no matter the age or place.

I'm just not a happy, positive, fun person right now. I am able to admit to a good day, and can absolutely understand my being a pleasure to be around on those days. But inviting me to a party when I'm not doing well just seems like a bad idea. I wish it were more acceptable to bow-out due to depression.

I feel like the opposite of an empath. Instead of being able to sense the emotions of others (though I am highly sensitive) I instead radiate my own feelings, bringing everyone around me down. Like if I were to be relegated to some old cabin, all the flowers around me would shrivel and die. And on a good day, sure, they might bloom, but on a bad day you’d stay clear, and even at a distance you could smell the rot.

I hate that it's such an ordeal. Me doing something as innocuous as going to a fucking birthday party. 



Friday, August 28, 2015

I can't sleep on a treadmill.

I'm trying to figure out an exercise routine I can commit to with my schedule / exhaustion. I'm so so tired, thinking about it just seems impossible. I also have to think about budget, location (if it's a class or gym) and where I would go. I understand the need to exercise, and I miss it, I really do. I'm just so tired.

Little animation experiment. All of the pigeons in this city are SO chubby, I am amazed they can fly at all.

This is pretty much me right now. I'm getting sleepy , just thinking about it. I want to rest as much as I can this weekend.

I’ve been feeling a bit MELONcholy lately… heh.

The great gif illustrations are by Sydni Gregg's Comfort Zone. The above one is called melon-choly.

The discomfort of looking forward.

During my last session with Dr. Rishi, he mentioned trying to look forward, something I've not done in nearly a decade. He mentioned trying to plan a trip or a vacation, something that I can look forward to.

So, I officially booked tickets to (and from) Victoria to visit C. I can't technically afford it with money, but to my surprise I was able to trade-in airmiles, which covered about 85% of the cost. So with service charges and insurance, and the missing airmiles (about 300) it'll cost me about 300$ instead of about a grand.

When I told C she seemed super excited, which is nice. I know she's been homesick out there, and it'll be great for her to show me a bit of her life, as well as the area. I'll be there for a solid 7-8 days, so when she's at work I'll be able to walk around Victoria and sit by the water. That'll be nice. I need a break.

I didn't expect the lack of vacation time to affect me so much. I'm tired. I think about running away and sitting in the woods more than I probably should.

These days though, I can't get enough of The Noonday Demon. I've been burning through it. It's as if it was written specifically for me. It's a brick of a book, which initially put me off, since I was worried about my attention span, but it's been a really poignant, fucking spot-on relevant book for me.

I'm currently listening to one of his Ted talks. It touches on some of his work, but it's under 30 minutes long, so it's not as thorough. Here are some highlights for me:
And one of the things that often gets lost in discussions of depression is that you know it's ridiculous.You know it's ridiculous while you're experiencing it. You know that most people manage to listen to their messages and eat lunch and organize themselves to take a shower and go out the front door and that it's not a big deal, and yet you are nonetheless in its grip and you are unable to figure out any way around it.And so I began to feel myself doing less and thinking less and feeling less. It was a kind of nullity.
Nullity is a great word for expressing the sensation of being absent and despondent.
One of the first people I interviewed described depression as a slower way of being dead, and that was a good thing for me to hear early on because it reminded me that that slow way of being dead can lead to actual deadness, that this is a serious business. It's the leading disability worldwide, and people die of it every day.
It is a disability, and I feel so unsupported by the structures of my world.
Depression is so exhausting. It takes up so much of your time and energy, and silence about it, it really does make the depression worse.
This is a big part of this blog, and why I write here. It's my way of voiding my thoughts by letting them all out and purging my brain from these experiences and neurosis.
It's a strange poverty of the English language, and indeed of many other languages, that we use this same word, depression, to describe how a kid feels when it rains on his birthday, and to describe how somebody feels the minute before they commit suicide.
Preach Mr Solomon.
What is the mechanism of resilience? And what I came up with over time was that the people who deny their experience, and say, "I was depressed a long time ago, I never want to think about it again, I'm not going to look at it and I'm just going to get on with my life," ironically, those are the people who are most enslaved by what they have. Shutting out the depression strengthens it. While you hide from it, it grows. And the people who do better are the ones who are able to tolerate the fact that they have this condition. Those who can tolerate their depression are the ones who achieve resilience.
I think this is part of what I'm working with now. This being conscious of my depression, of what it means, of what living my life means, of what it takes from me to get by. I am no longer in denial. I think for years I was in a state of despondent ignorance, and I've moved through that.

Looking forward is very difficult for me. It's just a muscle I haven't used in a very long time. It feels dangerous to look forward, as if I'm tempting fate to expect things to go a certain way. If I'm looking forward it means I'm expecting things to go well, well enough to plan and to move towards that plan with possible excitement and maybe even glee.

With Victoria, I'd be going in February of 2016. So of course this does pick at certain strains of anxiety, namely financial stress and body stress. They're things I'm trying not to focus on. But they do carry with them, some fear and resistance to the idea.

I don't really know how to look forward anymore. I don't know how to be excited about my future. Right now, all it does is make me pre-emptively tired.

Don't give up.

Typography from Cry Baby - whose site cursor icon is their face and it's killing me how cute that is.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Work and disclosure.

I wasn't looking forward to today. I had a meeting with my new supervisor / department head. He's been with us for 3 months. The tone of his e-mail was pretty serious. I knew there was a likelihood of it being a type of informal review.

Look, technically it went well. But he did signal a change in my mood and said I seemed discouraged. I was honest and said I am. No vacation. No raise. Co-workers quit for better jobs. Unclear what my role is now that the team is smaller. My "helping" means me doing work that isn't mine to do. There's also not great work benefits... I'm not psyched. 

But yes, there was positive feedback. But it just wiped me, the effort it took to explain and interpret. 

I am always reminded of what it's like to be unemployed and desperate when I feel I'm complaining too much... It's like the act of complaining about this job musters up a shadow that preaches gratitude and threatens reprisal for not properly counting my blessings aloud.

He asked if there was a health issue since I take a lot of days for doctor appointments. I said there was, but I did not disclose. He didn't push.

I don't feel disclosing the nature of my disorders to him, or to the company helps me in any way. Knowing there's a health issue seems enough...

There's no way of explaining it to my satisfaction.

I am often paranoid and hard on myself anyway. 

It's just unclear. I feel this is a disability but there is no clear way for me to navigate how to work and live through this other than my just coping and pretending as best I can.

There is no subvention for hiring me. Any parience or understanding will no doubt wear thin.

I get these micro moments of existential dread. These little panicked, painful flutters. They leave as quickly as they came. They feel like reminders. I'm to be reminded of how fickle calm is, how fragile I am. 

I can't look to the future. Looking ahead takes too much out of me. I can't inagine my life, it only exhausts me.

Salt in the wound.

Illustration by blood farm.

The stuff is absurd, and sometimes dark, and occasionally disturbing -  it could be triggering.

Some sweetness by Ellie Bee.

Check out Ellie Bee's very cute illustrations.

I also really liked these:

Self-care to-do list.

This seems to be the original source.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Suicide is not selfish.

I was introduced to Feminista Jones through a podcast I listened to featuring her. She's a sex-positive, intersectional feminist and black rights activist, who works in community activism and social support systems.

In her interview she talks about mental health and suicide, and mentions a past article of hers I'd like to link to, and talk about here. Jones mentions a colleague who recently died by suicide, and how disappointed she was to see the online community victim-blame and refer to her suicide as "selfish."

Jones discusses the issue from the perspective of a black woman, and describes the ways in which the culture of being a black woman in America is extremely loaded:
... for Black women, experiences with depression and trauma are often directly related to our being women and being Black and carrying the weight of this duality in a society that “others” both identities. Factor in religious expectations that require "more faith," intraracial expectations of loyalty and secrecy (when experiencing abuse), and the persistent disconnect between Black people and mental health care, there are so many things to consider when a Black woman takes her own life.
Intersectionality is an important part of not only a feminist analysis of the world, but of a considered, logical one. Context exists. It matters. There have been numerous articles and media coverage of PTSD and the black experience over the last few months, especially in relation to state-violence and gun violence. What about gender and sexual violence? What about being a black woman, who experiences both of these things but might also live with a disability, or face homophobia? Everything matters.

Personally, I have a lot of difficulty reading pieces about suicide that are written by people outside of the mental illness community. I don't think suicide is selfish. I think it's a painful result of a really painful time. It's seen as the only out. It's the only solace. I get that. It's turning it all off. Lights out. Peace.

Feminist Jones describes this well, here she's comparing losing someone to suicide as opposed to cancer:
There is something different about a person committing suicide, though, which elicits a different, almost angry feeling of betrayal. Many people think it is selfish to end your life when so many people love you, rely on you, need and want you around, and can’t imagine their lives without you. The angry feelings are often centred on what people need from you… for themselves. Some people make your life, your whole being, and your entire purpose more about what works to make their own lives better. People are concerned more about what they can no longer take from you and less about whether or not you were living your life happily for yourself. When someone takes his/her own life, that person is posthumously blamed for causing so many other people pain with little recognition or empathy for the pain that likely led to the suicide itself.
She goes on to refer to it as an act of "freedom and mercy" for the self, and is critical of how unsympathetic some are when discussing someone dying by suicide.
No one has the right to determine what another person should endure. We don’t get to tell other people that “it will be OK” and they “need to have more faith”. We have no right to tell someone that their pain isn’t as bad as others, thus negating their experiences and isolating them further away from actually getting help that might make things better. We don’t get to make other people’s lives about US and demand that people live for us and our wants and needs. We have no permission to dictate the choices of others and expect that their choices consider our feelings before their own. That is the epitome of selfishness and we need to end that way of thinking.
She ends her peace in a devastatingly poignant statement:
I’ll leave you with this: When I hear “Suicide is selfish,” I think of every Black woman held in bondage, whose body was ravaged daily, whose womb was exploited for profit, whose children were stolen, whose back was lashed for not meeting the requirements of her owner, who was sterilized, and whose mind was irreparably destroyed after years of torture who took the only path of freedom for which her earthly body could not be further punished.
 I can't speak to the black experience. I can only speak to my own variations of pain.

And pain, kills. And wanting to escape that pain, should not be faulted. Especially when the services and the accommodations offered to us to help live with that pain are lacking and in most cases, all-together non-existent.

If you want me to live, help me.

If you can't help me, let me die.

If you can't let me die, try and empathise with why I would want to.

It all brings me back to a quote from Martha Manning's Undercurrents:
I didn't want to die because I hated myself; I wanted to die because I loved myself enough to want this pain to end.
I know that must be really dark and unimaginable for a healthy person to understand, but at least try.

Some cute provided by happy monsters.

Please take good care of yourself! ♡

Some cute bits by happy monsters.

Also, this:

And this:

You understand.

That's what this blog is about BTW. 

Source seems to be hanna's butt! Ha!

For when you can't sleep at night.

Skye Lim has this great Tumblr, For When You Can't Sleep At Night. Just some beautiful stuff. Really successful depictions of depression and mental health struggles.

You know, depression seems for me, linked to my also being highly sensitive. This works well with my art and my creativity, but is also a double-edged sword in terms of self-criticism and over-analysis. There is almost a type of mania to creativity. Good days. Bad days. Days where you can't stop. Days where you can't start.

Again, check out Sky's blog

On knowing your limits.

My buddy V linked to this article on Facebook yesterday on how knowing your limits is part of living with depression and anxiety. Like the author, Therese Borchard, I too am often irritated by overly positive texts pasted over out-of-focus nature landscapes that tell us anything is possible if you believe/let go/work hard. Pinterest lives on that shit. 

It's patronizing for someone who struggles so much more to achieve the most basic of "normal" achievements. Borchard's piece discusses her need to be conscious of her limitations in order to live her best life. Being over-worked triggers her, and she has to accept that. That's something we all need to figure out for ourselves (unfortunately). 
I don’t want to have another breakdown this year. I would very much like not to have to wear a paper robe and eat rubber chicken in a room where a bunch of other paper robes fight over the remote control. I know on some level (even if it’s not conscious) that I have to protect my health with everything I have.

I guess I don’t believe everything is possible anymore. Not for people with chronic depression.
I believe wisdom comes with knowing your limitations and living within them.
It's something I struggle with a lot. What's too much? What's selling myself short? It becomes tantamount to living with your foot on the break, which is exhausting and often irritating. You don't always get very far. Borchard's piece highlights how hard it is to accept her limitations. I think that's a wall most people eventually face, but for people like me, I guess there's first finding the wall and then really working on accepting it. It can be like mourning a loss. 

Live through this.

Live Through This is "a collection of portraits and stories of suicide attempt survivors, as told by those survivors."

Check it out.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Optimism, once removed.

Yesterday I took the day off. I had an appointment with Dr. Rishi, and a dentist appointment. So, all the travelling meant it made more sense to just take the day off. This past weekend I was in Bromont with S, "taking it easy" so it was nice to have the extra day to putz around.

It was a nearly incomprehensible doctor's appointment. As usual, Dr. Rishi was engaged and talkative. We talked about some of the literature I mailed him (legit mailed to him, since his office doesn't work with e-mail). I had sent him a report on ECT (and explained that I like knowing it's an option if things get bad again) and also mentioned my readings on hypersomnia and inflammation.

I talked about my wanting an official diagnosis, because I feel it adds legitimacy to my struggle, and that in the future if there's ever a need for official documentation, I want my struggle to be legitimate. He thinks I suffer from Major Depressive Disorder and Hypersomnia. This is what I would have self-diagnosed as, but it's nice to have a confirmation of my own readings.

The conversation was lightning fast and dense. He asked that I book another appointment for him at the beginning of November, since he's off all of October. We decided to keep me on my current dose of Effexor, and stabilize, to re-assess if an additional increase is necessary. 

The conversation ended with Dr. Rishi focusing on goals. This is still off-putting to me, and kind of shocking since being goal-oriented has not been something I've felt for years. In fact, he used the word ambition and I probably stared at him like:

confused animated GIF

Look, I understand words are important, but so are gifs. They can say things words can't. I mean, it's faster. Whatever. Gifs.

llama animated GIF

Rishi started talking about short-term goals. Since our next session would be in November, he wanted for me to have goals in regards to my physical health. To find ways to exercise. He also wanted me to schedule my trip to Victoria in February to visit C, since he says having something to look forward to would be good for me, and also leaving Montreal for Victoria in February would be a nice mood booster, since it'll be -30 here and spring-like in Victoria.

It's just all so odd. So alien. I have been taking things "one day at a time" and really just managing my life day to day. 

He ended up writing a bunch of stuff down for me, he pretty much said that he's worried things'll get worse for me in the winter, since statistically speaking they do. Seasonal Affective Disorder compacts whatever mental illness we're already living with. So he said I'll have to make an effort to go outside and walk around, to get some daylight in. 

Obviously (to me), I also need to figure out exercise. It's been difficult to commit to anything because of how far I have to go. He'd like to see me have something I can commit too that might be kind of social, like a class. I'm not sure about that, since I don't have much money. I have to figure out what might work for me. It's important that it be regular. Maybe I could just start going to the gym again - but the gyms in my area are such bummers. Douche-nation.

He also said to focus short-term, and to let go of my planning. Basically, try and take steps to cope with the winter as best I can, and then to re-evaluate in the spring. Which technically, is when I'd be looking to move out, anyway. Ideally. 

I always walk out of my appointments with him as if I've been spun around in an office chair. I haven't had a family doctor in over a decade. The doctor experiences I have had have been primarily negative. This is the first time in a really long time I feel handled. 

He's very optimistic about my diagnosis, and my ability to move forward. Sure, the optimism isn't mine, but it's optimism. Just having optimism in my bubble is discombobulating.

Illustrations by Beth Evans.

Great stuff from Beth Evans. Check out her Tumblr.

I also really appreciate this exchange:

Good times. Butt horn.